Airports are public infrastructure. Even if run by private organizations, they are typically on government owned land. Their purpose is to facilitate the flow of people and goods to and from a city. Thus, they are similar to roads as well as transit systems.
Baffling is how many airports — particularly in North America — are poorly served by public transit. You need to use a private car or taxi to reach most airports — or an expensive shuttle service.
For many business people and tourists hauling luggage, a taxi is the easiest option. Those traveling for work can “expense” the cost. Many tourists simply consider it part of the upfront costs of reaching a destination along with the airfare. Many of these people will still use shuttles and taxis even if public transit exists.
But airports are more than conduits that allow business people and tourists to travel — they are work places. Thousands
of people work at the major airports of big cities. Many have no choice but to drive to work. Some can take transit if they work day shifts and don’t mind long waits. But often, transit doesn’t serve airport destinations easily.
The Greater Toronto Airport Authority is now appealing for better transit to serve it’s employees. As Toby Lennox, VP of Public Affairs for Pearson International Airport recently stated to the Toronto Star newspaper:
“We do not have good enough TTC access for employees.”
“As Pearson airport will be expanding, we need to draw on new pools of employees.”
“It is simply not good enough to have every single one of these employees jump into a car.”
The taxi-driver and shuttle lobby is often a contributor. In some cities the airport serves as the largest source of taxi revenue. Moreover, the airports themselves make money on parking. If workers and travellers could get their easily on a metro or frequent bus service, many would use it.
But the airports don’t belong to airport authorities or to taxi companies. They belong to the citizens whose taxes built it and who elect governments to regulate them. They need to be connected to the urban transit system.
A final thought: there has been much talk lately about the ecological footprint of air travel. While this won’t reduce jet fuel consumption, airports could be much more environmentally responsible if everyone — workers and travelers — had the option to use transit.