Other Travel Mode Alternatives

Passenger Air Travel

 

The Intersection of Passenger Air Travel and Surface Transportation

OKI’s consideration of passenger air travel in the region’s transportation planning process is to determine its impact as a significant traffic generator to the surface or roadway network, both today and as the region approaches the year 2050.

Existing Service

The OKI region has an extensive aviation system that includes an array of air travel at eight public airports. Two airports in the region have an air traffic control tower – the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) and Cincinnati Municipal Airport-Lunken Field (LUK). The six smaller airports are public infrastructure that could be assets as air travel technology continues to advance.

Source: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
CVG is the primary airport of the OKI region. CVG’s New Height Strategic Plan sets the airport’s goals and activities for the years 2021 to 2025. CVG began 2020, with a January passenger total of 628,729 passengers which was 6.4% higher volume than January 2019. However, due to the COVID 19 pandemic and its associated travel restrictions, passenger air travel plummeted at CVG beginning in March 2020. CVG passenger volume fell to an all-time monthly low of only 40,399 passengers by April of that year. CVG weathered the COVID storm because of the airport’s key role as a North America air cargo hub.

Like airports across the globe, CVG has been experiencing a slow, but gradual recovery. Although passenger volumes have been improving since April 2020, CVG’s January 2023 monthly passenger total remains -12.6% below its pre-pandemic January 2020 level.

CVG has done much to support passenger air travel growth since 2020. The airport has retained and attracted a balance of legacy airlines and low-cost carriers to provide travelers with a wide variety of choices and price points, as well as expanded routes. For example, in summer 2023, British Airways began non-stop service between CVG and London five times weekly during the summer flying season and four times weekly during the winter flying season. Also, CVG continues to financially invest in its a state-of-the-art, sustainable facility, like the new entrance road to the main terminal, rental car center and parking garage renovations, which were completed by 2021.

Source: Cincinnati Municipal Airport-Lunken Field (Lunken Airport)
Lunken Airport is a general aviation airport owned and managed by the City of Cincinnati. It is located on 1,140 acres east of downtown in Cincinnati’s Columbia-Tusculum neighborhood. The airport serves corporate, private and charter aircraft with three runways. For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2022, aircraft operations have increased 38% since 2020 to an average of 314 aircrafts per day with 46% local general aviation, 43% serving as transient general aviation, 11% air taxi, less than 1% military and less than 1% commercial. (Source: AirNav.com. (2021). [Data set].)

In late 2021, Cincinnati City Council voted to approve a 30-year tax abatement for a $20 million dollar development at Lunken Airport’s terminal to create a 55-room boutique hotel with event space, restaurant and bar. As of December 2023, no activity had occurred to the facility. One of the challenges for the development is that the terminal is in a flood plain which requires an additional $300,000 a year in insurance. (Source: Ann Thompson, WVXU. Council approves lease and 30-year tax abatement for Lunken hotel development. (December 13, 2021).

Future Service

Innovative solutions to uses air transport to move people that completely avoid reliance upon surface transportation networks are well underway. Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is an emerging transportation technology that is being developed to provide more energy efficient, highly automated aircraft to transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes. With the challenges of safety and congestion on our roadways, AAM provides a highly desirable, alternative travel option for the future.

Of OKI’s three member states, Ohio is by far the leader in AAM research, investments, and deployment of pilot demonstration projects. The Ohio Department of Transportation — through its DriveOhio, FlyOhio and JobsOhio divisions — has been partnering with public and private sectors on AAM-related topics for several years. OKI is participating in statewide AAM efforts as a member of the Greater Cincinnati AAM Team. This is led by REDI Cincinnati, our JobsOhio affiliate agency. The AAM Team’s goal is to identify regional assets and engage stakeholders.
OKI has also initiated conversations on AAM technology with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet through staff membership on the Kentucky Freight Advisory Committee for Transportation and with the Indiana Department of Transportation in the development of the OKI Freight Plan.
Map of Ohio's Regional AAM Teams

AAM: First Cargo, Second Passengers

Unlike New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and other large metropolitan areas that are facing daily gridlock commuter conditions, Ohio sees AAM first being used to move cargo, not passengers, due to the reduced risk to human life and lower regulatory hurdles.

The OKI Freight Plan provides an overview of AAM from the perspective of air cargo and makes several recommendations to support the movement of goods through this evolving technology. In this section of the OKI 2050 Plan, we will focus on how AAM can support the future safe and efficient movement of people in, out, and through our region.

Joby Passenger Vertical Take-off and landing

Joby Passenger Vertical Take-off and Landing Aircraft

Characteristics of AAM Aircraft

Large-sized AAM are currently being developed to transport passengers. A majority of AAM are being built as electric-powered aircraft to provide the lowest carbon footprint possible. However, traditional internal combustion engines (ICE), hydrogen, and hybrid-fueled AAM are also in production today.

Take-off and Landing Options

In general, AAM aircraft fall under one of the following three performance capabilities.
• Conventional Take-off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft ascend and descend horizontally and require longer runway lengths.
• Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) aircraft can maneuver with very steep ascensions and descents using runways that are typically shorter than 5,000 feet. Facilities specifically designed for the operations of STOLs are called STOLports.
• Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft includes conventional helicopters and electric VTOLs (eVTOLs) that can ascend and descend vertically. These vehicles serve aviation facilities of varied sizes and levels of service: helistops, helipads, and heliports, sometimes referred to as vertiports in the context of UAM.
Many versions of AAM aircraft are hybrid technologies that operate a combination of STOL and VTOL systems.

Ascent and Descent Comparisons for CTOP, STOL and VTOL

Ascent and Descent Comparisons for CTOL, STOL and VTOL

VLOS vs BVLOS

For the near future, AAM aircraft require an on-board pilot operating within existing Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) guidelines. However, as technology develops it will enable the use of a remote pilot and autonomous aircraft. Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) technology will be necessary to enable this type of remote operation. BVLOS technology exists today in a very few select locations. “SkyVision” is the name of Ohio’s selected BVLOS technology and is currently available only at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport located just east of Dayton. For AAM autonomous service, BVLOS capabilities must cover entire cities, regions, and states. Interoperability of BVLOS technology is also a key factor to seamless AAM connectivity across jurisdictional boundaries.

Vertiports

As mentioned previously, vertiport is the general term used in reference to the locations from which passengers using AAM with arrive and depart. However, just as today’s airports vary in size, so will vertiports too. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using the following broad, three categories to distinguish the size and scope differences for what we may see in future AAM facilities.

Vertipad or Vertistation
This facility is the smallest and simplest of the three. It typically comprises one take off/landing site with one or two parking spots for the aircraft. It would serve as a point of connection in typical suburban areas to the other vertiport networks.
Vertiport or Vertibase
This facility, unlike the vertipad/vertistation, would be in the center or at key points in urban areas. The vertiport would have two to three take off/landing sites or pads and some parking positions to accommodate AAM aircraft. This facility would also staff a basic maintenance crew for the aircraft. Charging stations would be needed and would most likely be limited to quick charging and battery-swapping methods. Passenger waiting areas and some security screening would be needed via a terminal structure.
Vertihub
This facility would be the largest of all three. These facilities would provide enough space for multiple AAM aircraft to park between flights and overnight. They would include a fully functional maintenance and repair facility. Vertihubs may provide a broad range of services and amenities to passengers, such as food and beverage retail options and restroom facilities.
Besides terminal buildings for screening and other pre-boarding activities, other infrastructure like current airport control towers that monitor, communicate, and assist with navigation will be needed to support passenger AAM flights.
(Sources: NASA. High-Density Automated Vertiport Concept of Operations. (2021). McKinsey & Company. Rough Orders of Magnitude from Takeoff, Flying Vehicles First Need Places to Land. (2020).)
BVOLS Rand of Skyvision at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport

BVLOS Range of SkyVision at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport

Role of Existing Airports

With their current infrastructure, the OKI region’s eight public airports are viewed as primary locations for passenger AAM. With innovative investments already being made today, CVG is expected to serve the region as its premier vertihub.

Lunken Airport and the OKI region’s six smaller public airports, which have not traditionally served high numbers of passengers, hold immense potential as vertiports. Experts say they could attract a healthy base of suburban and rural travelers to AAM.

Role of Existing Heliports

In addition, although AAM uses advanced technologies, vertiports are anticipated to function like conventional heliports. The advantage of AAM aircraft over helicopters is the potential for improved safety and reduced fuel and maintenance costs. Existing heliports may transition in the future to serving AAM aircraft.

Other Siting Considerations

AAM operations could also occur at sites other than existing airports or heliports. Use of the technology at non-traditional aircraft-served locations will need to address several factors such as:

  • Noise
  • Zoning restrictions
  • Electrical capacity for charging AAM aircraft
  • Zoning/building code updates
  • Land availability in densely populated areas
  • Coordination with multiple public and private stakeholders

AAM Commercial Passenger Use Cases for the OKI Region

In June 2021, Ohio was one of the first states to release an AAM market impact study. The study and findings are published in the report — Infrastructure to Support Advanced Autonomous Aircraft Technologies in Ohio.

Ohio followed the AAM market impact study with the July 2022 report — Ohio Advanced Air Mobility Framework. The report provides a recommended policy framework to aim key decision makers, such as MPOs, in preparing for, accommodating, and programming AAM into their regional plans. The state views organizations like OKI as the experts in helping stakeholders understand emerging topics of interest. That’s why the report proposed that the role for MPOs is to perform activities that can position regions and local partners for a successful AAM future.

These reports identified passenger air travel use cases which provide the greatest potential for advancing AAM to result in economic benefit for the state. The two reports published by Ohio offer three specific AAM recommendations for the OKI region.

(1) Airport Shuttle or Air Metro
Following a scheduled, fixed-route service with multiple stops like current public buses, light rail and subways, Airport Shuttle or Air Metro AAM is expected to open in large U.S. cities between 2025 and 2035. However, until aircraft technology can advance to a safe degree, the number of passengers will be limited due to weight capacities.

This AAM use case will connect passengers to and from major hub airports. The Ohio AAM Framework suggests an AAM Airport Shuttle between CVG and downtown Cincinnati to assist with the surface transportation limitations of the Ohio River Bridges. The Brent Spence Bridge and its scheduled construction are identified specifically as sources of surface congestion.

(2) On-Demand Air Taxis
As AAM technology advances, the second use case is on-demand air taxis. Forecasted to serve select U.S. cities between 2030 and 2040, air taxis would provide on-demand passenger service like Uber or Lyft, transporting people from point A to point B. They would likely transport a small number of passengers on short trips.

The Ohio AAM Framework proposes an on-demand air taxi service for Mason to address the city’s growing population, which includes those who commute for work an hour or more round-trip to Dayton or Cincinnati daily.

(3) Commuter/Regional Flights
A third use case is that of Commuter or Regional AAM for trips between major metropolitan areas. Like Air Metro and Air Taxis, Commuter AAM aircraft will have limited passenger volumes until the technology matures.

The Ohio AAM Economic Impact Study’s findings highlight the Interstate 71 corridor, commonly referred to as the 3C Corridor, for AAM Commuter/Regional service as a huge opportunity to link the State’s three largest metropolitan areas – Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Conclusion

This overview highlights what types of AAM are under development and when we may see these aircraft transporting passengers in our region. However, the actual timeline for AAM technology depends on several key factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Current AAM technology is expensive and unfamiliar which limits market demand and public acceptance.
  • AAM technology still has myriad hurdles to clear. To gain market support, the technology must operate in all weather conditions. Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAVs) are forecasted to manage all types of weather by 2030. The bar for passenger AAM will be much higher and require a longer time to gain acceptance.
  • The need for BVLOS capabilities and interoperability between jurisdictional boundaries is critical to deployment.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory groups must develop new standards and guidelines that will permit AAM technology beyond their current practice of approving individual, controlled pilot demonstrations.

Given these and other reasons, for the near future (2025 to 2030) AAM operations will likely be limited to test flights in most U.S. metropolitan areas, including the OKI region.

Passenger River Travel

Often referred to as the region’s “Main Street,” the Ohio River is what first attracted people to settle in this part of the Country. Although used by only a fraction of residents and visitors today, the river continues to serve as a means of moving people and attracting them to the region.

Ferry Service

Before bridges spanned the Ohio River, ferries transported people between Ohio or Indiana and Kentucky in the most direct and efficient manner. Two private ferries currently operate within the OKI region. For some, the ferries are used to drastically shorten travel distances and avoid congestion along the region’s I-71/75 or Brent Spence Bridge corridor between Kentucky and Ohio. In accordance with the FAST Act’s expanded focus on the resiliency of the transportation system, ferries along the Ohio River provide an alternative travel option to ensure continuous connectivity for our OKI region.

Anderson Ferry

The Anderson Ferry Boat Inc. operates an automobile ferry service on the Ohio River between the foot of Anderson Ferry Road in Hamilton County about 10 miles west of downtown Cincinnati and River Road (KY 8) in Boone County near the Kenton-Boone County line and is one of only two privately-owned/funded ferries in Kentucky. The Anderson Ferry has been in continuous operation for over 205 years and is a National Registered U.S. Historic Site. The ferry is also on the route of the trans-continental American Discovery Trail.

Anderson Ferry operates Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Saturday and holidays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. News and updates such as closures due to high winds, fast currents or high river levels are posted to the website and Twitter. The only day of the year the ferry is Christmas Day.

The ticket cost for cars and passengers is $5.00 per river crossing. Trucks, trailers and recreational vehicles are $5.00 to $8.00 depending on number of axles and length of vehicle. The ferry transports an average of 400 to 500 vehicles across the river per day. Due to the absence of river crossings in that area, the ferry is also important for transporting bicyclists for a charge of $1.00. The fare for pedestrians is 50 cents and motorcycles are charged $2.00. Payment is cash only at the port of departure. The website has online ticketing and reduced pricing for multi-trip pass advance purchases (10 trips for $40.00 and 40 trips for $145.00).

Rising Star Ferry

The Rising Star Ferry began service in October 2018 between Rising Sun, Indiana and Rabbit Hash, Kentucky across the Ohio River. A ferry operated in the same location from the 1880s to 1948 when the old ferry sank.

The Rising Star Ferry cuts what had been a nearly hour-long trip between the two towns into a five-minute ferry ride. It operates seven days a week (Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Similar to Anderson Ferry, the Rising Star provides daily service updates via Twitter to inform potential riders of closures due to poor weather conditions.

The Rising Star Ferry joins Anderson Ferry as the second of only two privately-operated ferries in Kentucky, It can carry 10 vehicles at a time and costs $5.00 one way or $8.00 for a round-trip ticket. However, the trip is free to members of the casino’s VIP club.

Tourism

Beyond passenger service to get from point A to point B, the Ohio River provides a means of attracting tourists and locals to simply enjoy the beauty of the natural resource itself whether from more passive or active recreational use. In this way, the river promotes a higher quality of life and healthy lifestyle. The FAST Act expanded the scope of consideration of the metropolitan planning process to include the enhancement of travel and tourism.

 Ohio River Way

The Ohio River Way, formerly the Ohio River Recreation Trail, is a collaboration of numerous public, private and not-for-profit organizations across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana to:

  • Celebrate and enhance the natural, cultural and historical assets of the Ohio River Valley;
  • Facilitate a regional network to address common challenges and pursue shared opportunities; and
  • Identify and align resources to benefit the health and wellbeing of communities.

The group is working on developing a 274 mile long Ohio River Way or trail from Portsmouth, Ohio to West Point, Kentucky supported by an on-line digital guide https://gis.oki.org/ohioriverway/ developed in partnership with OKI. The digital guide contains the information and resources needed for either land-based or water-based tourism. The guide provides details about the Ohio River such as marinas, locks and dams, weather and water condition information, as well as information on hiking and bicycling trails located along the river. In addition, it has links to river community websites and social media pages where local points of interest and amenities including lodging, restaurants and shops are posted.

Riverboat Companies

A number of companies capitalize upon the beauty of the river and offer passengers a view of the cities from a different perspective.

Paddlefest

The Ohio River Paddlefest is recognized as the nation’s largest paddling celebration with over 2,000 participants traveling nine miles through downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in canoes, kayaks, and other human-powered craft.

Private Vessels

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) website provides key information for boating along the Ohio River. Due to the fact that the Ohio River is bounded also by the states of Kentucky and Indiana, the ODNR website also provides contacts for the numerous enforcement agencies patrol the river and have authority to enforce boating safety laws and assist boaters in distress. Boating safety equipment and operating laws vary from state to state.

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