A hierarchical typology of intermodal air-rail connections at large airports in the United States.
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A hierarchical typology of intermodal air-rail connections at large airports in the United States.

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  • Abstract:
    In July 2005, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report discussing

    intermodal transportation strategies in developing airport intermodal capabilities (USGAO 2005). In this

    report, the GAO identified those airports that had a direct rail or bus connection, to either nationwide or

    local systems, among the largest 72 US airports. GAO found 13 airports directly connected to

    nationwide rail (the Amtrak system), and 27 airports directly connected to local or regional rail systems

    (see Figure 1). The GAO “considered a direct connection to consist of a transfer point (such as a bus

    stop or rail station) that is accessible from airport terminals either by walking, an automated people

    mover, or direct shuttle” (USGAO 2005, p. 7).

    Unfortunately, the GAO definition of a “direct” intermodal connection did not distinguish among

    numerous important characteristics that define the quality of an intermodal air-rail linkage. For

    example, there is a huge difference between service provided at an on-airport rail station that is

    accessible by walking as opposed to having to take a shuttle to an off-airport rail station. There are

    differences in the type and length of shuttle services between airports and rail stations. Likewise, rail service at an airport that connects to a national rail system is different from service that is only local or

    regional. Also, airport rail service that is more frequent and connected to a large rail system is much

    different from rail service that is infrequent and may only feature one line of service with limited

    connectivity. All of these factors must be considered when assessing the quality of air-rail connections.

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