Sky Harbor Passenger Increase

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Despite the tough economy, air travel is up at Sky Harbor Airport. Sky Harbor Deputy Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher discusses that and provides an update on the airport’s Sky Train.

Ted Simons: The passenger load at Sky Harbor is up. This despite of tough economy. Here to up the sky train passenger shuttle is Deborah Ostreicher from Sky Harbor Airport. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.
Deborah Ostreicher: Thank you Ted.
Ted Simons: Sustained passenger growth in this economy, huh? What's going on out there?

Deborah Ostreicher: It's incredible, we're really proud of that. 12 consecutive months of increased passenger numbers. It's really great.

Ted Simons: I know July and August; those are busy months at Sky Harbor because everyone wants to get the heck out of dodge, year to year increases.

Deborah Ostreicher: It's funny. People usually think November, December, Thanksgiving and Christmas would be or busiest months. It's generally spring training with more people coming in, and July and August with more people going out. March, April, July and August typically the busiest months at Sky Harbor.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing from other airports? Are they seeing an uptick, as well? Or are they shifting downwards?

Deborah Ostreicher: You know it's interesting. Some are seeing record highs and are just something general increased passenger numbers, whereas some aren't. I think what it really says about Phoenix and across the nation, an airport can often be the economic indicator and the economic -- what you look to, to see how is that community doing. So the fact that the airport numbers are up 12 consecutive months, I think thanks to Phoenix and the valley's economics as well.

Ted Simons: We should also say we're still trying to reach prerecession levels, correct? We've still got a ways to go there.

Deborah Ostreicher: Our high of passengers was 42 million-plus back in 2007. After that we started to dip down into the high 30s, and tracking toward 40 million for 2011. We're on the uptick. And sure with 12 consecutive increased months.

Ted Simons: Sure. Cargo growth, what are you seeing there?

Deborah Ostreicher: We do see some cargo growth. That's not our focus at Sky Harbor but we have seen that, as well. More products are shipping back and forth, more economic indicators that things are looking better.

Ted Simons: And at least better than lots of other airports around the country.

Deborah Ostreicher: That's true. I want to put a cafeteria yacht on that and say, while we're looking at 8% and 9% increases, that's not typical. But I think we have a lot of making up to do because of the dramatic drop. More typical would be 3%. If we see 9% and 1%, I don't want to create hope that we will see 9% forever into the future.

Ted Simons: We've got the passenger number and the cargo numbers. Let's move on to sky train. Everyone who drives by has to go, what in the heck is going on. Give us an update. What is the sky train? We're looking at some shots here. What are we looking at?

Deborah Ostreicher: The Phoenix sky train, what you're seeing now is the opening, the introduction of the very first train car being introduced into Phoenix. Over a period of time between now and early next year you'll see 18 of these train cars being delivered, part of the first segment of the sky train. What it is, it's going to connect people throughout the airport from 44th street light-rail station all the way through the airport. The first phase, it'll take you from light rail at 44th street and Washington, to the east economy parking lot where there are thousands of parking space stations, and to terminal 4. Ultimately moving to the other terminals and out to the rental car centers. Those buses that you see and the traffic and congestion, that's what we'll be alleviating.

Ted Simons: So we will have trains, is it 44th and Washington? Is it 44th and Van Buren? A little bit of both, basically Washington, correct?
Deborah Ostreicher: Right, that main street where people are transferring on the free airport shuttle today, they are taking the bus today. Ultimately that big station you see with the big curvature at 44th street, that's the Phoenix sky train station. You'll just walk across the bridge and there you'll be onto the free Phoenix sky train.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of place where you check in, you get security clearance there? Does it take you to the airport, the terminal, and you get the security clearance? Can grandpa ride with you and sis, Junior and the crowd? Do they have to wave good-bye at 44th and Washington?

Deborah Ostreicher: That's a great question. We are hoping people will use that as pickup and dropoff. Hey, I'll take the train, it takes my five minutes, and I'll come to the 44th street station and meet me there. Difference is that it's all on the presecurity side. Some airports you go to you may be past security already when you ride on their trains. Our train will be the kind that is presecurity. Yes, grandpa can ride with you if he chooses to.

Ted Simons: If he feels like it.
Ted Simons: And these are unmanned trains, right?

Deborah Ostreicher: Yes. These are driverless electric trains. There won't be a driver but there is a controller and everything is very high-tech in a control room where they see exactly what's going on all the time.

Ted Simons: If you're driving by the area, you're seeing a very tall, high platform. Now, does grandpa have to go all the way up to the top to get on the train? How does that work?

Deborah Ostreicher: Are we talking about at 44th where we change from light rail or …?

Ted Simons: Seems like something is very high.

Deborah Ostreicher: Yes, it is, as a matter of fact. Because part of this needs to actually go over an active airport taxiway. It's the only one in the world which is really spectacular. People are coming from all over just to see this, because it is so amazing. So there is a point where the train is up and over an active taxiway, and airplanes will be going under.

Ted Simons: But you don't have to get on an escalator and ride for two or three to get to the top of the thing?

Deborah Ostreicher: At the light rail at 44th and Washington you will get off light rail, go on an escalator, walk across the bridge and go on another escalator up to the sky train. Yeah, there is a point where you will be going up escalators to board the train.

Ted Simons: When will we see what we saw earlier, the photographs of those trains? When do we see them moving, doing something in some kind of action?

Deborah Ostreicher: Now they are being delivered and cleaned up, spiffed up and getting ready for testing. Soon you will see them testing on the actual guide ways, much like you saw light rail for up to a year before really actually took passengers. You saw it riding around empty. You'll see that at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as well. Thousands of miles of test are is put on these cars before they are ready for passengers.

Ted Simons: Gives us timetable for when we can start to see the testing, when grandpa can start getting on this thing, yee-haw and all the way to the terminal.

Deborah Ostreicher: Next year you will see the testing. And in early 2013. 2012 we are testing and 2013 you'll actually be able to ride the train.

Ted Simons: We'll look forward to that, and look forward to increased passenger and cargo growth at Sky Harbor. Sounds like things are going well. Good to have you, thanks for joining us.

Deborah Ostreicher: Thanks, Ted.

Deborah Ostreicher:Sky Harbor Deputy Aviation Director;

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