The Airport Ground Transportation Association
Welcome to the Airport Ground Transportation Association, a trade association for ground transportation operators, airport authorities, and industry suppliers dedicated to the continuous improvement of airport ground transportation services for the traveling public.
Asheville Meeting Resounding Success
Small, Medium, or Large - Airport or Operator
Strategizing for Profitability in ANY situation
When your operation or airport have a need...
Remember these sponsors and LOTS of local people
whose generosity of time and money
made our Asheville meeting such a success.
ASHEVILLE REGIONAL AIRPORT
Carolina Time & Parking Group
Delta Airport Consultants
Emma Bus Lines
Ken Wilson Ford
With special thanks to David Nantz & David King
A Look Back At...Amazing Asheville!
(Meeting presentation available within Conferences section above)
The AGTA Spring Conference received a warm welcome from Asheville’s Regional Airport Director, Lewis Bleiweis, Asheville CVB Director, Stephanie Brown, and local legend Oscar Wong, owner of the Highland Brewing Company, one of the many superb breweries (and micro-breweries) that resulted in Asheville's recent designation as "Beer City USA".
The first session of the meeting tackled what it takes to provide successful ground transportation as either an airport or a ground transportation provider. A view from the vantage point of an operator, John McCarthy, president of GO Airport Shuttle in Chicago overviewed the financial aspects of the shared ride van industry and what is required by an operation in the way of ridership to generate good service, solid employee opportunities, and profit for the company in order to stay in business. The airport viewpoint came from Mike Percy, landside director at DIA, who first updated the group on their plan for a new hotel and rail link to Denver as well as reporting on their successful new restricted taxi plan that permits entrance into the taxi holding lot only the number of taxis the airport requires on a particular day.
Changing topics somewhat, Sherman Stark and David King, representing the host airport, Asheville Regional, provided delegates with the historical development of that regional airport -- and led to the conference sub-theme of what large airports and operators can learn from smaller airports and vice-versa.
Taxi holding lots and the private automobile as sources of revenue for airports was adddresses by Peter Mandle of Leigh Fisher & Associates, Forest Swonsen of TransCore, and Lynn Richardson, of Gatekeeper Systems, who teamed up to overview innovative ways to free up potential real estate now occupied by large taxi holding lots. While Peter reviewed all opportunities for dealing with large taxi holding lots, his view was that dealing with these taxi issues are tough political problems and may or may not be worth the trouble for the reward. Somewhat more optimistic were Forrest and Lynn who reviewed the technical aspects of creating “virtual taxi” holding lots and freeing up much of the current taxi holding space. Richardson reminded delegates that virtual airport taxi lots are not necessarily new - that Farouq Massoud operated the Dulles Airport Taxi lot in the 80’s utilizing such an electronic queue -- nearly thirty years ago! In that instance, drivers could check in at the holding lot and be placed in an electronic queue so they could tell approximately how long it would be before they would be called to the short line, ready for deployment to the airport curb. Today’s electronic or virtual taxi lot carries this theme further by eliminating the need for the driver to come to the airport. Rather, as done at BNA in Nashville, each taxi company is given the number of taxis they may have at the airport as a percentage of the total number of total taxis serving the City. The airport then closes the airport holding lot to all but the number of taxis they plan to use and taxi firms are signaled repeatedly when they can have another of their taxis enter the holding area. A very small holding area means a taxi driver will probably get a fare from the airport shortly – often 20 minutes or less. Thus, taxi drivers who typically drop off at the airport but do not want to wait 2 hours or more in a large taxi holding lot will check to see if they can get into the queue after dropping off, and if their taxi dispatch has an open slot or one expected shortly, they will hang around, thereby eliminating an empty backhaul to the airport. Alternatively, taxi drivers who typically just sit at the airport, no longer do this since it makes sense for them to seek taxi fares elsewhere while they wait for their taxi dispatch company to have a slot open up for them.
DFW Airport's Don Hobbs, carried this theme of increased airport revenues further by relating his airport’s process of charging every vehicle that comes to the airport a fee to use the roadway and parking facilities. Don explained that this has several advantages – one being that individual cashiers at parking facilities are unnecessary, an enormous savings for many airports. Secondly, the advent of automobile tollway tags has made it much easier and less costly to collect their roadway use and parking fees through automatic electronic collection systems.
As with all AGTA Conferences, smaller afternoon breakout sessions discuss and develop primarily the topics presented in the morning as well as other issues of concern to the association members.
Observations reported by session moderators:
Evaluating an airport ground transportation counter
An equal mix of airports and operators participated, with airport representatives providing summaries regarding the positioning and allocation of their ground transportation counters. Some airports, such as Portland (OR) do not provide counters at all, while others, like Minneapolis, provide them only to those with the highest need due to space constraints. Climate also plays a large role in the utilization of counters, as many airports in warmer regions are able to provide outdoor counters from which operators can facilitate service. Discussion regarding recent ADA compliance audits of airports, which include the examination of ground transportation counters, also ensued. Both airports and operators must ensure that counter height and other accessibility requirements are within ADA guidelines.
Discussions regarding illegal solicitation and the varying degrees of violation throughout North American airports was also a hot topic While some airports have tighter controls and greater enforcement of solicitation rules others are lacking. One operator offered that, in a particular market, solicitors would brazenly solicit customers within feet of "their" leased counter. All agreed that communication between operators and airports and the continued promotion of "good" relationships best serves the common interest of providing great experiences to their mutual customers.
Tuesday's featured speaker was Matthew Daecher, of Daecher Consulting Group, who was invited to share with the group insights garnered through his involvement with interpretation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rules and regulations regarding airport ground transportation companies. Mr. Daecher reviewed the historical definition of what makes a passenger trip interstate vs. intrastate, and where he felt the FMCSA was in their evolution of these definitions. Mr. Daecher was somewhat encouraging to both airports and ground transportation operators, his view that the FMCSA has taken on a lot with the safety and monitoring of trucking and busing companies and their drivers and that airport ground transportation may be far down their list of priorities.
Jim Gleich of SuperShuttle then provided attendees with a review of shared ride service densities and what such systems need to operate at various size airports. As requested, this presentation attempted to address smaller as well as larger airports and what shared ride services require in order to succeed. Jim has done this for the association in the past and augmented his presentation with several case of examples of successes and failures.
Afternoon breakout summaries:
Can airports be paid electronically from each passenger’s payment to the operator?
• The airports attending all collect fees from the companies, not the drivers for taxicabs, limousines, shared-ride vans (hired transportation).
• Speed of payment to the airport is not a high priority, and not the responsibility of GT
• Some discussion around the impact on the use of cash vs. credit card by the passenger, and the potential for how that might be treated by any system
• Some discussion around the possible changes in the business (airport, operators, technology) in the future that might make this approach more desirable - no clear consensus from the group.
• The airports participating seemed to have a consensus that their preference was to have a process that involves payment by the companies based on recorded trips (all airports had AVI systems) rather than on the payment transaction. The issue seemed to be volume of transactions to track/audit, low bad debt experience, low concern for getting the payment more quickly.
• The group was much more interested in discussing the “problem” of drivers refusing to accept credit card payment, even when the airport regulations require the acceptance of credit cards. Very frequent complaints from customers that the driver said his terminal was not working, so he could not accept a credit card at that time and offering to make a trip to an ATM machine to allow the passenger to obtain cash for the payment.
• While this seemed to be an important issue, it also seemed that there was agreement that appropriate disciplinary action was being taken against the driver - action included immediate dismissal, days off of driving, or some type of point system process. One airport commented that the issue was that drivers were not changing their behavior even when they were aware that they could face significant penalties for not accepting credit cards.
• Some discussion about why drivers do not like to accept credit cards - seemed to be 2 major factors: processing fees charged; delay in payment created a cash flow problem for the driver.
• Airports felt they were getting the customer complaints, not the cab companies, making it their problem.
• A significant difference in the process used in submitting the credit card charge and in paying the driver. Each airport represented seemed to have a different process and all attempted to minimize the cost to the driver (with varying degrees of success)
Attendees were provided with several technology presentations dealing new software technology and apps. Representing TransLoc, John Mickey demonstrated their newest app for airport parkers waiting on their shuttle bus at Nashville’s BNA Airport. By pressing their shuttle app, users can visibly see where their next shuttle vehicle is and how long it will take them to reach them. Users at BNA will have no need to stand out in the cold or warm summer heat when using their shuttle app. They will simply wait until their app picture shows their shuttle coming. Interested readers can see this demonstration by going to their website www.transloc.com.
By far, the hottest topic of the meeting was the issue of new user apps for taxi, limo, and shared ride van service. No fewer than three speakers addressed these issues. Lyndy Burnham, with the Hudson Group (works with GO Shuttle Group), Mike O’Conner with SuperShuttle, and Jeremy Phillips, with Taxi Magic all brought attendees up to speed in the development of apps for the industry and the new features available within the past six months. As elaborated upon during later breakouts, these new apps are making life easier for the ground transportation user, but operators and airports are working overtime just to keep up with them. Operators are striving and succeeding in offering competitive apps of their own in the shared ride van industry and Taxi Magic appears to be leading in their business strategy of becoming the country’s leading general taxi and limo app.
Eric Bates, of Roush CleanTech related the successes for operations and airports in converting from oil-based fuels at airports. Conversion to natural gas, and especially propane, appears happening at a faster pace than before because of cost savings by the airport ground transportation operators. Alternative fuel applications for the industry was elaborated upon further by Bill Eaker, Coordinator, Land of Sky Regional Council Coalition, who discussed all the various forms of alternative energy applications their coalition had been able to obtain funding for, and discussed sources of funding attendees might want to look into. Additionally, he provided a vehicle display of all these various sources of alternative fuels supported in the NC region, including vehicles which were all electric, hybrids, propane, natural gas, and bio-fueled.