Houston Airport Trains (IAH)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport is a public establishment operated by Houston Airport System, but owned by the City of Houston. It is found in the United States of America, in the state of Texas, and approximately 23km or 37 miles north of downtown Houston. The airport is known by its IATA code of IAH, and is major airport serving around forty million passengers every year. There is currently no airport train station for ground transportation, but there are two airport trains that run through the airport complex. Passengers who need to travel into the city will have to take a bus or a taxi.
The airport of Houston, has five terminals that are well equipped for their arriving and departing passengers. The terminals are referred to as A, B, C, D and E, and Terminals A and B are the original buildings of the airport. Terminal A consists of a north and south concourse, and is a hub for many of the airport’s domestic flights and flights to and from Canada. Terminal B of the airport is used mainly by United Express, but does not accommodate any arrivals that require a Customs and Immigration service. The airport’s main airline company is United Airlines, and their domestic flights are operated from Terminal C and their international flights are operated from Terminal E, the newest terminal of the airport. All other international flights arrive at Terminal D. Since the terminals are spaced quite far apart, there is a need for airport trains, or people mover systems. George Bush Airport, although with no trains to the city, has two people mover trains that operate twenty-four hours a day.
The TerminaLink trains of Houston Airport began their operation on May 24, 1999. At this stage they linked Terminal C and Terminal B, and the track was 0.1 miles (0.2km) in length. The system cost around $58 million to complete, but was funded by Continental Airlines. The track was also soon extended a further 0.6 miles, so that it included Terminal D. In later years, the system was expanded once again to include the other terminals of the airport. Today, the TerminaLink trains connect all the terminals on the north side of the airport, and provide a connection to the International Arrivals Building (IAB) as well. The train runs for a distance of 0.7 miles, or 1.1km, and there are four stations which are used. There are stations at Terminal A, Terminal B, Terminal C and at the International Terminals D and E.
The TerminaLink trains are considered to be very efficient, and are the quickest way to move between the terminal buildings of George Bush Intercontinental. They are also free of charge and able to accommodate passengers with disabilities. The above ground train is used by passengers who are on the secure side of the airport, i.e. those who have checked-in their luggage and who have passed the security control check-points. The trains are especially useful for passengers who have a connecting flight from another terminal. Passengers will therefore not need to re-enter security. The airport trains can transport up to eighty passengers at a time, and are of the Bombardier Innovia APM variety. The same vehicles are also used at other major American Airports, such as Denver International Airport, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the San Francisco International Airport.
The inter-terminal train is the second people mover system at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It is also the older of the two systems, and unlike its counterpart, runs on an underground track on the non-secure side of the airport buildings. The train links all the terminals, and is also a connection to the Marriott Airport Hotel. The train system was replaced in 1981, and is today a WEDway system built by WED Transportation Systems. It is the only WEDway mover that is built by the Walt Disney Company outside of Disney property, and it is similar in design to the system that is used by the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is an attraction in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. The train is therefore able to make the tight turns that are necessary. At present, the inter-terminal trains are operated and maintained by Johnson Controls.
Houston Light Rail System
The city of Houston has a light rail system that is used by around 34,000 people every day. It is a relatively new system, as for a long time, Houston was the largest city in the United States that had no rail system. The railway line is operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, or the METRO (or MTA). The company also operates the city’s bus services and a paratransit service. Although there is a local bus that runs frequently to the airport, the light rail system does not currently include the grounds of the airport.
Metro Rail is the name given to METRO’s light rail services. Metro Rail currently consists of one line, the Red Line, but further lines are planned for the future. The Red Line is currently under expansion, and should be completed in 2013, and the new East End/Green Line will be completed in 2014. Thereafter, the Southeast/Purple Line will run from downtown at Smith Street to the Palm Centre at MLK and Griggs Street, and the University/Blue Line will run from the Hillcroft Transit Centre to the Eastwood Transit Centre. The last line will be referred to as the Uptown/Gold Line, and will extend from the Bellaire/South Rice Station on Westpark to the Northwest Transit Centre. METRO is also planning a commuter rail system for the future. The light rail of Houston is a quick and cost effective form of transport for many residents and visitors, and has made a positive contribution to the city’s options for public transportation.
Although there is no George Bush Intercontinental Airport train station, passengers have a number of bus services from which to choose, and taxis are always available.