Stuck at the Airport

On November 1, elected officials descended on Hancock Airport to announce the end of its 2-year $62.4 million renovation. They gave out quotes about how the bigger terminal and updated exterior would bring “economic growth” and “bolster tourism.” They talked about how airports are “gateways” and “the first impression that many visitors have of our city and our region.”

A bigger airport serving more passengers is also an opportunity to diversify Syracuse’s transportation network. Anyone arriving at the Syracuse airport on a plane has to find some other mode of transportation to reach their final destination. Fly into other cities, and you’ll see signs directing travelers to options like buses, trains, and cars.

We’re missing that opportunity. People flying into Syracuse are limited to using some kind of car, whether it’s a taxi, a rental, a Lyft, or a ride from a friend. Talk about first impressions–someone coming to Syracuse for the first time might leave the airport thinking that this City is too small to even have a public bus system. (Trailways does run extremely limited private bus service between the airport and the RTC).

There are challenges to providing bus service at the airport. Here’s a summary of them from the Syracuse Transit System Analysis:

“Challenges to providing transit service to the airport include the ample, convenient, low-cost parking located directly across from the terminal, and relatively low passenger volume. The lower passenger volumes and varying arrival and departure schedules would also make it difficult to provide a service that is convenient for all airport users. The location of the airport terminal would require too much time off-route for the airport to be a regular stop on one of the trunk routes. Finally, Airport employees work under a variety of shift schedules, making mass transit service expensive and ineffective.”
STSA pg 63

The airport is too far away from anything else to be a stop regular stop on an existing bus line, and it doesn’t generate enough regular traffic on its own to support a new dedicated bus service.

Those are real challenges, but they’re not insurmountable. The STSA suggests one option: running a shuttle service between the airport and the RTC. A more regional approach to public transportation could also make bus or rail service to the airport more feasible. Any new service would cost money, but we already know that New York State is willing to spend money on the airport–why not finish the job and truly connect it to the City.