roadway in front of airport at sunset

Harnessing Existing Airport Data to Improve Landside Multimodal Traffic Systems

Inside the Innovative Multimodal Demand Analysis Tool that Helps Airports Manage Growth and Traffic Development

By Tony Wang, P.E., PTOE, PTP

Airports already collect huge amounts of traffic data every day, using it to optimize current traffic conditions and inform capital planning. But there is an opportunity to do much, much more with that data, allowing it to provide benefits to a wide range of areas.

HDR has created a new tool, the Airport Landside Multimodal Demand Analysis Tool, allowing airports to extract greater value from the wealth of traffic data they already collected.

By providing the ability to quickly analyse potential traffic system improvements, this tool enables airport planners and executives to evaluate the impact of proposed changes and prioritise upgrades in accordance with their scheduling, budgetary and operational requirements.

The tool is particularly valuable due to its capacity to integrate multiple travel modes, allowing airports to quickly model how improvements for passenger cars would impact buses, for-hire cars or other travel options, or vice versa. As airports prepare for emerging modes such as automated vehicles or electric vehicles, ongoing multimodal demand analysis is crucial to identifying the most effective approaches to maintain smooth traveller flow through airport facilities and minimise congestion.

This tool offers airports an opportunity to optimise current traffic conditions while enhancing their capital planning for fast-changing landside traffic systems. Consequently, the Airport Landside Multimodal Demand Analysis Took has the potential to revolutionise airport traffic management and provide smoother, safer and more efficient traveller journeys to and from airports.

Insights Built on Data Already Being Collected

The tool analyses a range of existing traffic data, including traffic volume profiles, turning movement counts, automated traffic counts, flight schedules, video classification counts, parking entry and exit data, airport bus shuttle services, and incorporates roadway and transit network. It then processes all this information into a custom demand matrix manager developed by HDR.

The result: an integrated and automated model reflecting all of an airport’s traffic data, providing a comprehensive and tailored view of the entirety of the airport’s landside traffic operations.

illustration of data moving through tool, resulting in multiple analyses

The tool is built in PTV’s VISUM software, an industry standard travel demand and transit planning tool that many airport facility teams are already familiar with.

With this tool, the integrated landside model and its information can be used for high-level traffic reviews, exported for further curbside simulation or for a variety of other purposes including airport shuttle scheduling, parking supply planning, as well as non-aeronautical development impact analysis. The estimated traffic volumes from this integrated multimodal tool can be used to support various detailed analyses, including terminal frontage analysis, intersection analysis, roadway segment analysis and weaving segment analysis. These can be computed on a macro or micro level depending on the inputs and desired measurement of effectiveness, such as level of service, queue length, density or curb utilisation.

One significant feature of the integrated landside model with this tool is to serve as a basis for testing proposed scenarios for airports. Those scenarios include new traffic control strategies, maintenance of traffic plans during construction, predicting changes of travel pattern and mode shares, and more. In the past, testing scenarios in this way used data that was segmented or limited to individual modes of transportation, providing an incomplete picture of the outcome of a potential landside traffic change. However, the landside multimodal demand analysis tool automatically integrates all modes of traffic and data into a single, flexible and responsive platform, providing a comprehensive picture of potential outcomes.

Overall, the Airport Landside Multimodal Demand Analysis Tool represents a game-changing improvement in airport traffic management, offering a holistic view of traffic operations and enabling airport executives to make informed decisions regarding prioritising upgrades and improving traveller journeys.

overhead view of traffic network at airport
Example of a traffic network modeled at a large metropolitan airport, including frontage roads, regional interstate, airport access and circulation road network.

Saving Time and Money for Airports

The tool has already been applied at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, resulting in streamlined data analysis and standardised development of alternatives. Work that previously would have required months was instead completed in weeks.

JFK’s multimodal system includes the JFK AirTrain (automated people mover), public transportation, access roads, parking, cargo areas and ancillary facilities near the airport perimeter. The 24‑hour model developed through the multimodal demand analysis tool can provide hourly traffic volumes, estimated origin/destination tables and high-level volume to capacity ratio assessment. This model has enabled the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to accelerate traffic reviews, helping to stay on schedule with a complex project list. It has also led to large budget savings by rightsizing the planning for parking structures and curbside operations investments. This airport-wide demand analysis tool also helps planners and operators understand traffic interrelationship of airside activities with landside multimodal demand, evaluate impacts of new technology such as autonomous vehicles, and inform the PANYNJ’s Maintenance of Traffic Playbook and support the traffic monitoring thresholds.

Other airports could see similar benefits. By using this tool, facilities can:

  • Reduce Environmental Assessment documentation development time for Federal Aviation Administration approval
  • Streamline project development
  • Visually compare the traffic performance of mitigation scenarios
  • Easily coordinate with stakeholders using a consistent airport-wide traffic model
  • Quickly create analyses for roadway construction staging

Flexible as technologies or needs change, the integrated modeling can analyse construction staging, evaluate future air travel demand changes and assess emerging transportation technology including autonomous vehicles, mobility as a service and even landside congestion pricing. Built to work for any airport, the analysis is also scalable depending on airport size or available data.

Increasing Traffic Calls for Improved System Understanding

New transportation options are changing the way passengers and employees travel to, from and within airports. Rideshare services, connected vehicles, micro-mobility, automated people movers and more are quickly gaining popularity as a complement to traditional transportation modes.

At the same time, aviation traffic is quickly growing. The Federal Aviation Administration forecasts passenger numbers will more than double in the next 20 years. U.S. airline system revenue passenger miles will grow at an average rate of 5.7% a year from 2022 through 2042, the FAA expects.

Together, these two trends highlight the need for improved landside systems that can handle a growing influx of arriving and departing travellers. To design and build these integrated traffic systems, airports need an improved understanding of their traffic needs and a better method for weighing different solutions. HDR’s Airport Landside Multimodal Demand Analysis Tool makes that goal easier for airports to achieve, providing an improved understanding of their traffic demand and more quickly test scenarios for adjusting infrastructure or traffic management plans. This tool enables better mobility for airport users and improved planning for airport leaders.

For more information about the Airport Landside Multimodal Demand Analysis Tool and its applications for airport design and planning, contact bill.peduzzi [at] (subject: Info%20on%20Landside%20Multimodal%20Traffic%20Analysis%20Tool) (Aviation Director Bill Peduzzi).