A Drive for Better Air Service: How air service imbalances across megaregions integrate air and highway demands

A Drive for Better Air Service

March 9, 2018

Megan Smirti Ryerson, University of Pennsylvania, presented A Drive for Better Air Service: How air service imbalances across megaregions integrate air and highway demands on March 9 at 4 p.m. in 290 Hearst Memorial Mining Building. 


Between 2000 and 2010, newly merged U.S. airlines decreased service to airports in small and mid-sized metropolitan regions, opting to consolidate their operations at high-value airport hubs (passenger transfer points). At this point travelers living in small and mid-sized regions likely began leaking, or abandoning their local airport to take flights from hub airports offering more convenient flight options. The extent of this practice, however, is not well established. I ask to what extent airline consolidation deepened the divide in service levels between airports that are 100–300 miles apart, and estimate the magnitude of air traveler leakage at small and medium airports across the U.S. My estimates suggest that 15.7%–31.8% of the total passengers living proximate to a small or mid-sized airport have the incentive to leak. My estimates range from 10.8% to 33.0% for travelers facing a non-stop itinerary from their local airport and 33.3%–85.1% for travelers facing a connecting itinerary. The potential leaked passengers contribute 1-2.75% of average daily highway traffic at heavily congested portions of the interstate highways connecting airports and up to 10–12% of traffic on low density portions of the highway. This study illustrates the relationship between interregional surface transportation and the aviation system by estimating the number of travelers who may choose to travel long distances by car to access a relatively busier, larger airport with better service. The results of this study help to shape the evolving role of airport managers in controlling demand and delay at major hub airports and in building and managing air service and smaller airports across the U.S.

Friday, March 9, 2018 - 4:00pm
290 Hearst Memorial Mining Building


Megan S. Ryerson, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of City and Regional Planning and Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the Research Director of the Mobility21 Transportation Research Center, a national University Transportation Center (UTC) and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Ryerson studies the intercity transportation system, and seeks to understand how perturbations to the system – from new technologies like autonomous vehicles to disasters and infrastructure outages – impact traveller choice and mobility, facility congestion, and, more broadly, the local and regional economy and environment. Dr. Ryerson has investigated how airports compete for air service across megaregions, how airlines can reconfigure their disaster planning to achieve more resilient outcomes, and how flights can be planned more proactive to reduce fuel consumption. Dr. Ryerson has published over 30 peer reviewed publications in this area in urban planning and technical transportation journals and is the winner of the 2016 Fred Burggraf Award for the Best Paper in Transportation Research Record, the Journal of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. Dr. Ryerson was appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Aviation Advisory Committee and the Transportation State Transportation Innovation Council. In 2015 Professor Ryerson was named “Woman of the Year” by the Women's Transportation Seminar-Philadelphia Chapter. Dr. Ryerson received her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 and her Bachelor’s of Science in Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.