...with airport officials and engineers. "It’s a double-edged sword. The airport community is small, and literally we should have zero unhappy customers."

Hi-Tech Service. In Phoenix, messages can be relayed via terminal-wide screens (left). In Las Vegas, airport computer users can go wireless. (Photo left courtesy of Phoenix Aviation Department; right courtesy of Clark County Department of Aviation)

Swonsen notes that design-build is becoming more common for IT contracts, which often are combined with procurement contracts. Rather than separating requests for proposals for a new parking system, revenue control process and related systems, the RFPs may be bundled into one operations contract.

Tucson Airport is taking a cue from Phoenix. Bonnie Allin, president of Tucson Airport, says: "We developed the idea of a formal IT master plan because the technology obviously changes so fast and we’re trying to keep up." As the airport planned an upgrade of its 50-year-old terminal, IT director Robert Sotomayor decided that technologies should be documented separately in terms of layout, costs, schedules and cost-benefit analysis.

An Airport IT Checklist
Wireless communications capability.
Paging system with audio- and visual- impaired accommodations.
Commercial vehicle identification and tracking system.
Redundancy in IT and power backbone infrastructure.
Common-use e-ticketing kiosks and other information facilities that all airport tenants share.
In-line baggage screening system that may use radio frequency tags.
Geographical Positioning System technology to map locations of all utilities.

Unlike Phoenix, which Murphy says is "not trying to push common-use facilities" along with its common-use cabling, Sacramento County Airport has installed a $2.1-million fiber backbone system network and is implementing universal baggage, gate and flight information systems. The system prevents one airline from seeing another’s information even if using the same equipment.

Neverthless, getting airlines to give up their own proprietary systems is difficult. "It saves money to a certain degree, but it can become a slippery slope of sacrificing quality of product that many airlines don’t want to go too far down," says Paul Lambert, America West vice president for corporate real estate. "We prefer to be on our own proprietary systems, though a good one is manageable."

Lambert warns that "the new unified systems at the different airports probably will not be able to incorporate different levels of functionality. For example, will travelers be able to enter frequent flier numbers at [common-use] kiosks?" Moreover, a common-use system could mean "a whole new round of bugs, which the airports may not know how to fix."

The challenges of evolving technol-ogy and airport operations continue. Phoenix is now planning a $110-million project to install some 30 new explosive- detection machines and in-line baggage screening. The airport might own and manage the in-line system, a consortium of airlines might handle operations or a third party may come in with an operations and maintenance contract, says Shovestull.

Sky Harbor’s Rental Facility Is Consolidated in Many Aspects

The concept of consolidated rental car facilities at airports is not new, but Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is taking it to new levels. The $270-million facility is designed for flexibility and the combination of commercial vehicle identification and vehicle tracking technology.

Rental facility in Phoenix will feature flexible communication capacity. photos courtesy of phoenix aviation department.

Drivers of airport courtesy buses to and from the facility will use special cards to turn on the ignition. Who the drivers are, how they drive, how long the stops take at each terminal and other information will be recorded. This will help airport officials make decisions on altering routes so that the buses spend as little time lingering at the curbside as possible, says Roxann Favors, airport project management assistant.

"Other airports have done this, but this is the first time that an airport will have an integrated solution with consolidated reporting," says Forrest Swonsen, regional manager for Transcore, Dallas, which is providing vehicle tracking and identification technology.

With the hybrid system plus the centralized system to accommodate any rental car vendor, "Phoenix will be the model for the future," claims Jeffrey Jarvis, principal with Kansas City-based Transystems Corp., the prime consultant. The steel and concrete facility sits on a 140-acre site and includes a 2.2 million-sq-ft three-level garage topped by a 160,000-sq-ft customer service building.

The crescent-shaped building features separate routes for customers and employees. One reason for locating the customer service area on the top level is to orient visitors to the city, which they can see from the windows, says Jarvis. The layout positions visitors to see all eight to 13 rental car options upon entering. Once ready, customers descend to the garage from one of several core points. They can go directly to the proper section to pick up their cars.

The facility includes more than 40 communications and cable rooms so new rental car companies can hook up immediately, says Ralph Ketchum, project manager for Austin-based Austin Commercial, the CM-at-risk firm. "I don’t know of any other car rental facilities with that capability."

In the spirit of the common-use theme, Austin Commercial provides long-term equipment rentals for its subcontractors on the project. It also has negotiated special rates for short-term equipment rentals with local suppliers.