Sky Harbor to Track Commercial Vehicles Ferrying Passengers

MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will spend up to $4 million to track hundreds of commercial vehicles that ferry passengers in hopes of finding a more efficient flow of traffic and improving customer service.

The vehicle tracking system will use radio frequency identification and global positioning systems to let the airport keep tabs on vehicles using the congested Sky Harbor Boulevard that runs between terminals.

''There are certain times of the day where sometimes we don't have enough vehicles here to serve our customers, and it's really kind of a challenge when we're using handwritten forms to try to determine how many of our providers are actually here providing service,'' said Janice Jacobo, aviation superintendent. ''We'll be able to print out a report and quickly see if we need to notify a company to send some additional vehicles to the airport.''

The new system also gives Sky Harbor the ability to more closely watch the fees it charges some airport operators. Cabbies and limo drivers pay a $1 trip fee to pick up customers. Drivers pay the fee to the city, but they can recoup it from customers, Jacobo said.

The technology will also be a security enhancement.

''With the cabs and limos, there's not a security component because any cab company can drop passengers off at the airport, but with the buses, there will be,'' said Julie Rodriguez, airport spokeswoman. ''We'll know where the buses are at all times. We'll be able to track them so we'll know if anything unusual is happening.''

The airport's priority is to get the system up and running in time for a new rental car center that opens early next year.

Sky Harbor will use a fleet of 62 shuttles that will take passengers from the terminal to the center. The city plans to contract with a private company to dispatch and drive the buses. The generic shuttles will replace about 100 vehicles currently being run by rental car companies.

Using GPS, the airport will be able to track the shuttles in real-time, allowing the airport to space them apart well enough that customers shouldn't have to wait long. The system will also be added to 33 interterminal shuttle buses that pick off and drop off flyers at parking lots located away from terminals.

Taxis, limos and other vehicles that come and go from the airport will be outfitted with automatic vehicle identification technology used at several airports across the nation, including in Las Vegas.