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178 Ground Access to Major Airports by Public Transportation How U.S. Airport Websites Cover Ground Access Details about public transportation modes to the airport are not necessarily the highest priority element in an airport's website and thus, some level of navigation through some hier- archy of website structure is required. A currently favored format is to provide flight status information, as well as security updates and constraints, on the home page of the website. A tab is often presented for several categories of information, one of which usually describes ground transportation services. Thus, ground transportation is usually created in a second tier of information. In a commonly used format, the user must select which mode of transportation is of interest. After the selection of that mode, the user is provided a page that gives a summary of the services of that mode and paths of navigation to get to more detail. The following sections will review this approach and document how different approaches are now being developed in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Ground Access Information on the San Francisco Airport Website San Francisco can be used as a case study in the provision of airport ground access informa- tion because of the high quality of traveler information available: · The San Francisco airport website is well managed and has traditionally been a good example of airport ground access information. In previous years, the San Francisco airport website directly provided schedule information from private and public carriers. As discussed later in this chapter, the website now uses hyperlinks for most carrier service descriptions. · The dominant single-mode operator, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, has traditionally been a leader in the task of giving out passenger information about the rail options. · A dominant multimodal information program managed at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland provides regional traveler information about all public transporta- tion modes and services. As can be seen in this case, the challenges associated with good multimodal information do not come from a lack of well-managed information; the challenges come in the manner in which it is assembled and presented to the public. Passenger Information Provided by the Airport The navigation hierarchy of the San Francisco airport website structures ground access infor- mation, first, by mode and, second, by geography of the destination. First, the user selects the mode; then, the user specifies a geographic area for the destination. Third, the user is presented with the selected modal services for the selected geographic area. The user may select a mode from the following list: · Limousines · Taxis · Door-to-door vans · Pre-arranged vans · Public transit · Airporters · Charter operations At this point, the user must have some understanding of the meaning and relevance of each of the categories. Once a category is chosen, the user is presented with a regional map with four general sub-regions defined. Under the category of public transit, the user is provided with a
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Getting Ground Access Information to the Traveler 179 thumbnail description of the rail service or bus route numbers, and then offered a quick hyper- link to the actual carrier, where the information-seeking process starts again. For example, a user selecting the mode "airporter" must then select the portion of the region where he/she wishes to go, for example, the East Bay. Only at that moment will the user learn if the airporter even goes to the East Bay. In theory, there are some potential inefficiencies in this hierarchy. For example, if the user selects airporters, as opposed to vans or public transportation, and then specifies the city of San Francisco, he/she is informed that there are no airporters to San Francisco. Thus, the user must start the process again. In short, the user has to make a choice of mode before knowing anything about that mode. Optimally, the system would be designed to interactively help the user know what his/her reasonable options are as he/she navigates through the hierarchy of screens and information. Passenger Information Provided by Other Agencies Part of the information about ground access services is best maintained, managed, and pro- vided by agencies other than the airport management. The airport website needs to include navigation that offers these connections to users that need them. Under the category "Public Transit," the user is offered a direct link to the BART system, which goes directly to a feature called "Quick Planner." At the "Quick Planner," user interface, the user is offered a drop-down menu of origins, including every BART station name, one of which is "San Francisco Interna- tional Airport." In addition, the BART page may offer the opportunity to click on the words "Air- port Service." Here the user chooses between an information page for Oakland International Airport or for San Francisco International Airport. After that selection is made, an excellent sum- mary of information and issues about access to the selected airport is presented to the user. Thus, the BART managers have created a summary description of information needed by users of San Francisco International Airport, but the user must employ some navigational skill to find it when starting on the San Francisco International Airport website. In theory, the airport website could offer a direct hyperlink to this informative BART web page. The San Francisco Bay Area is also home to one of the most comprehensive multimodal trip planning programs in the United States, called simply "511.org." The San Francisco Interna- tional Airport's website offers a near seamless integration with the ambitious multiagency, multi- modal trip itinerary planning capability. On the "Ground Transportation" opening page of the San Francisco International Airport website, a hyperlink is offered to 511.org. This link takes the user directly to a "popular destination" page, shown here as Figure 9-1, specifically designed to help airport users. At this page, the user can navigate to any service provided by 511.org, while most information is designed to help provide information about the San Francisco International Airport. As shown on Figure 9-1, a "Plan a Trip" feature is offered with a button that specifies "from this Destination." Because of the careful design of this program, the next screen has already filled in San Francisco International Airport as the origin of the trip itinerary planning query. The multimodal system can recommend a trip from an airport using rapid transit provided by one agency, which connects to a local bus from another agency, which services the requested destination. In the navigation from the airport website to this screen, the needs of the airport were handled in an efficient "seamless" manner. The program also offers a chance to plan a return trip, to alter the trip optimization assumptions, or to continue from the requested desti- nation to yet another segment. To summarize, the San Francisco International Airport website essentially offers two alter- native paths of navigation for the air traveler who wants to plan a public transportation trip.
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180 Ground Access to Major Airports by Public Transportation SOURCE: "511.org," Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Oakland, CA. Figure 9-1. The regional information system provides an airport specific first page. For the public transportation network as a whole, the traveler can transfer seamlessly to the regional traveler information system and plan any trip by traditional public transportation modes. By staying within the airport website, the user can navigate to learn about airport specific services. The challenge comes for trips that might fall under both categories. A high-quality airporter, whose tickets are available to the general public, operates non-stop between the airport and the terminal in Marin County. The 511.org transit trip recommendation, however, was through a local bus line to downtown--a bus line that specifically bars riders from carrying luggage on the bus. Briefly stated, the regional multimodal transit routing service does not, and does not pre- tend to, present a summary of services specifically designed for airport users. What results is the need for two separate paths of information. If the air traveler had followed the standard navigation to "Airporter" first, to North Bay second, and then clicked on Marin Airporter, a full description of these services would be provided. Integration with Real-Time Flight Information The San Francisco International Airport website is pioneering the concept of providing ground service information tied to the timing and location of specific flights, both arriving and departing. The service, called "SFOnroute," currently provides highly detailed walking path information for those passengers or meeter/greeters who arrive by automobile; basic hyperlinks are offered to the website's descriptions of public transportation options. The program is com- pared later in this chapter with a more integrated ground access trip planning program now being tested with Narita International Airport.