TRB - Researching Airports

DFW International Airport executive VP Jim Crites examines the progress of the Airport Cooperative Research Program and puts out a call for industry to participate.

DFW AIRPORT — In January, the committee that is spearheading the Airport Cooperative Research Program, under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board, identified some $4.7 million in launch projects. For Jim Crites, executive vice president at DFW International Airport and an industry driver for the research initiative, the meeting was a moment of truth, of realization. Congress has now appropriated some $13 million for the program’s startup and the identification of intial projects, and another $10 million is appropriated for FY07. The program is now at a critical juncture, says Crites — the next 18 months will determine if Congress reauthorizes the program for FY08.

Several days after the TRB meeting in Washington, D.C., Crites sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss the program and its merits. His overriding message: This is an opportunity for industry to gain independent research and insights on problems it faces, and all stakeholders need be willing to get involved to ensure its success.

Following are edited excerpts of Crites’ comments ...

AIRPORT BUSINESS: What is your assessment of the TRB’s January meeting?

Crites: We went ahead and picked some projects. The next step is forming the panels for each one of these 24 projects. What the panels are going to consist of are experts in aviation – research, practitioners, etc. – who will come together for each project. People who have expertise in those areas. It’s all voluntary work, though their expenses will be paid.

None of these are research statements. They’re raw ideas for identifying a need out there. What has to come from this is, you have to reformat this into an experimental design. What is it that you’re really trying to accomplish? You have to polish these, is the way I put it, so that they can be developed into true problem statements. Send out a call for RFPs to aviation at large. Then the panel reviews the RFPs. The panel tracks the project until completion.

AB: Can you cite some examples of projects that were considered?

Crites: One is titled, ‘Airport Curbside Capacity Analysis and Operations Management.’ It states what the problem is; the objective; a description of the research and the estimated dollar value; and then how long it would take to research it.

What the panel does is, they go into this raw information [and determine] what it’s going to take to do it and fund it. The project in general concept has been approved at this point. Some of these will have to be refined before going out for an RFP. There are some that needs to be polished.

AB: Who can submit proposals?

Crites: Anybody can. In this example, the person submitting the proposal sees a need for general curbside capacity design standards. There doesn’t seem to be consistency in how one might approach and evaluate curbs.

Airports are unique, and we have so many parties competing for that curb, be it taxicabs, limos, employee buses, passenger vehicles, you name it. This person is saying we really ought to have an analytical approach to understand the dynamics that are going on and, from a general planning purpose, what are the various demands, like taxicabs? How does that match up with limos, or passenger pickup? There’s probably a need for a consistent approach.

Now, why would I find that of value? I have enough money to go out and hire anybody I need to do that. From my perspective, and the value of the Airport Cooperative Research Program, is that a large airport like DFW can fund a study like that; however, there are two questions of concern. Why wouldn’t we all want to know what some of the logical cause and effect are behind airport curbs that would help streamline and help us all have a better understanding of what’s going on curbside?

The other thing is, other airports have the same difficulty but do not have the in-depth staff resources or financial resources to do these kinds of studies. So, my hope would be that this comes away with providing us with very good guidelines.

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