Amenities are a must
Berlin and the German Federal Train system are able to decorate the Airport Express cars because they are dedicated to the Schoenefeld Airport line. Having exclusive Airport train cars allows for other amenities as well. The R1 uses a dedicated stock of train cars for its Airport lines as well.
A major concern for air passengers and a contributing reason the automobile is such a popular means of transportation is people’s desire to tote their luggage as little as possible. Cars on airport lines should have adequate luggage space for folks with large or multiple bags. Overhead racks may not be optimal for grandparents traveling with clothing for two weeks of vacation. SEPTA has removed the first and last seats in their airport cars to make space for passenger luggage.
Why take your bags at all though? For a small fee, airports in Geneva, Zurich, and Hong Kong allow off-site baggage check in up to 24 hours in advance from major train stations. And with the growing popularity of online check-in for passengers taking only carry-on luggage, universal or complete-trip check in at train stations, or even on trains is becoming standard in automated terminals in some Asian and European countries. Air France and British Airways both offer package tickets including taxi, rail, and air fare. Now that’s convenience that can compete with driving or bugging a friend for a ride. Connectivity counts
Of course, ultimately it all comes down to getting people where they want to go in a comparable amount of time and at a competitive price. SEPTA’s connections to the regional rail network are excellent and well traveled. No one needs precedents to say that a faster and more frequent line is more attractive to travelers. That twenty minute wait for the next train steers many folks to the fifteen minute cab ride, especially after long flights.
Flemming says the R1’s saving grace is in its value. Unlike some airport lines, the R1 is unique in that it costs the same price as all other rides on the system, approximately $5 to Center City. The London-Heathrow Express Line can cost as much $40 one-way…
Connections beyond the region could also play a critical role in bolstering PHL as an international gateway. Flemming notes that while the R1 line “works well for what it is” it may be “too Center City focused” to act as the only transit connection to the region’s international gateway.
The R1 signage at 30th Street Station for the R1 Airport Line is virtually non existent. Ideally, PHL would be in play along the North East Corridor, say both Flemming and Actman. This would provide a one-seat connection from multiple destinations in the region to the terminals at PHL. Such a connection could also link to any future high speed rail lines that may be established in years to come.
Such a connection could place PHL in a more competitive position in the region. With five major airports within two hours of Philadelphia International: LaGuardia, JFK, Newark, BWI, and Reagan, the establishment of a convenient rail connection from the region to PHL could give Philly a competitive edge when competing for air travel customers.
PHL as a barrier free international Gateway to the region could also provide not only additional tourism and economic activity but would create more business for the airport. If current EIS planning that focuses on reducing delays and increasing capacity were combined with an active campaign to increase PHL’s presence as a gateway for the region through improved and expanded transit connections, the airport its passengers and the region could reap significant benefits.
Arrus Farmer was most recently a Robert Bosch Fellow based in Berlin, Germany working in the planning and administration of large scale public-private developments. He holds both a Masters of City Planning and a Masters of Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania which were completed earlier this year. Farmer has worked with Praxis on a number of civic engagement projects including the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware Riverfront.
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