Maintenance costs for AirTrain rising

The cost of maintaining AirTrain, San Francisco International Airport’s much-used people mover, is going up by an anticipated $2.1 million in its current year of operation due to inflation and the rising cost of labor and parts.

Keeping up with the cost of business, the San Francisco Airport Commission recently approved an increase in the contract for operation and maintenance for AirTrain, a system that has been in place since 2003. The fixed three-year contract expired in February.

Out-of-date cost estimates have the airport, at the discretion of the commission, approving annual cost-of-living hikes to the contract.

The maintenance company now known as Bombadier bid more than $131 million for design, construction and six years of operation and maintenance for the system in 1997. However, to account for inflation, the original bid figure needs to be updated with more realistic figures, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.

Airport officials say the system’s operation costs increase roughly 3 to 4 percent annually.

The commission is set to approve the expected $2.1 million increase in March 2007, representing escalating costs for the system’s fourth year of operation.

McCarron said the system does not break down often and, according to figures monitored daily, AirTrain runs on time up to 98.5 percent of trips. The average wait time for a train is 2.5 minutes, according to airport statistics.

The people mover, with a roundtrip between nine and 19 minutes, runs to the airport’s rental car center as well as the terminals. The airport estimates it carries 3,400 passengers daily.

Airport officials in 2003 said that environmental concerns were among the biggest reasons for the new system.

AirTrain is estimated to eliminate approximately 200,000 rental car shuttle trips annually and reduces the emissions rate for carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide by approximately 254 pounds per day.

AirTrain has had positive feedback from users over its nearly three-year run at SFO. Michael Kiblatt, a traveler heading in to San Francisco from Phoenix on Sunday, had no complaints. Its user-friendliness, he said, has probably contributed to its success.

“It saved me a whole lot of wandering around the airport, that’s for sure,” Kiblatt said.

tramroop@examiner.com

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