Ted Simons: Futurist and architect Paolo Soleri died today. Soleri was 93. He died of natural causes at his Paradise Valley home. Paolo Soleri was one of the last living architects trained directly by Frank Lloyd Wright, and is best known for Acrosanti, an ongoing if slow-developing experimental city that Soleri began years ago near Cordes Junction, north of Phoenix. The sky train at Sky Harbor officially opened to the public yesterday. The train connects light rail to terminal four and is just the first phase of the airport's passenger moving expansion plans. Here to tell us more is Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director for the airport. Good to see you again.
Debra Ostreicher: Hello, Ted.
Ted Simons: We talked about it when it was in its planning stages. It's here. What is the sky train.
Debra Ostreicher: The Phoenix sky train is so amazing. It takes you as you said, from the 44th street and Washington metro light rail stop to our east economy parking, which is a great place to park right into terminal four, where 80% of Sky Harbor's passengers are.
Ted Simons: How fast does this thing go?
Debra Ostreicher: It Averages about 25miles an hour, but it can go even faster, up to 38 miles per hour. It's faster than you think when you get on it.
Ted Simons: If you get on 44th street and you get -- How long to the east economy lot?
Debra Ostreicher: Three minutes.
Ted Simons: From the east economy, how long to T-4.
Debra Ostreicher: Two minutes. The whole ride is five minutes.
Ted Simons: And when kind of train, what kind of technology are we talking about tracks, air, what do we have?
Debra Ostreicher: This is a state of the art driverless train made by Lombardia, and it's sunk down so it's on a guide rail, so there's no driver and it's all controlled by a control room.
Ted Simons: Interesting. How long of a wait between trains?
Debra Ostreicher: Three to five minutes. Three minutes in peak times. So the reliability and the frequency is unbelievable, because you always know another one is right behind the first.
Ted Simons: Really, three to four minutes, poof, here comes another one.
Debra Ostreicher: That's right. And unlike the buses, which were great in their time, and we continue to have buses to the other terminals, but you know there's a train coming every three to five minutes now.
Ted Simons: Right now we're on this train toward the airport. I gotta tell you, it's elevated, there's not much to the size. That's an interesting ride.
Debra Ostreicher: Oh, there I am, look at that. The first ride yesterday.
Ted Simons: The mucky mucks at the opening ceremony. That is a ride, isn't it?
Debra Ostreicher: It really is. We all expected the ride to be beautiful and scenic as you go up over that active taxiway that everybody sees. But what we found when we rode it the first time the other day, it's beautiful the whole ride. You really get to see Arizona in such a unique way.
Ted Simons: The waiting areas, you don't have to wait very long, but describe the waiting areas. Benches, seats?
Debra Ostreicher: So the train is designed for quick travel with suitcases. So the inside of the train, there are hardly any seats, there are a few seats, and the stations are beautiful at 44th street and at the east economy lot, and terminal four, they have public art inside, they are worth going to see just to see them.
Ted Simons: And as far as parking, correct me if I'm wrong here, there is no permanent parking at the 44th street light rail area?
Debra Ostreicher: That's correct. The airport doesn't have any parking. Some of the hotels and properties around 44th street and Washington do have some private facilities there where you can park. But the very best option now is the east economy lot. Whether you want uncovered parking or the covered garage, that is probably the best place to park now. Because you just hop on the train and you're in terminal four in two minutes.
Ted Simons: But there is a drop-off area at 44th and Washington.
Debra Ostreicher: There is, and a cell phone waiting lot that a lot of people are used to. So what we're hoping is this new transit station will be a place that you can pick up and drop off so that you don't even need to come into the airport proper. You can just tell somebody to meet you at the 44th street and Washington station.
Ted Simons: There's a remote bag check involved?
Debra Ostreicher: Yes. This convenience is incredible. Both at the 44th street and Washington station, and the east economy lot. You can drive up, give your bags right now with southwest and U.S. Airways, no extra charge for that, give your bags to someone, and off you go your bags are checked.
Ted Simons: do you have to get there a little earlier?
Debra Ostreicher: A little earlier, I think the cutoff time is an hour and a half. You'd be there anyway if you were parking. But now you don't have your bags.
Ted Simons: What kind of cost to build this thing? I've heard upwards of $1.56 billion.
Debra Ostreicher: for the entire project, once it's done, going to the rest of the terminals to the rental car center, the estimated cost is $1.5 billion, but what we opened yesterday, $644 million.
Ted Simons: So what you opened yesterday was phase one. Talk about the rest of the phases here. This thing goes to 2020 completed out?
Debra Ostreicher: That's right. In 2015, we're continuing to build right now. If you drive past terminal three right now you can see the beginnings of the next station. But we figured why wait to open it? Let's open now what we can, which is to serve 80% of the passengers anyway. So the sky Travis Murphy train will go to the rest of the terminals in 2015, and sometime in the 2020s it will go all the way to the rental car center.
Ted Simons: This is really something. But let's get a 30,000-foot view if we can. Why was this built? What need does this fill?
Debra Ostreicher: This fills a very important need. That is, if you've ever been to the airport on a Sunday night, or during Super Bowl, we have another one coming up, or any big holiday weekend, you see the roadways get so congested. Sometimes you can't even get up to terminal four to pick up or drop off a passenger. As we look into the 2020s, that's what the roadways would begin to look like every single day. So rather than wait until that happens, we needed to act now to build this so we can grow together with the demand for traffic.
Ted Simons: Last question. Is there a message involved? Is there like a civic message? Airports are often the first thing that out of town folks see when they get to a particular community.
Debra Ostreicher: Well, this is really a -- Just another sign that America's friendliest airport, what we're doing for customer service. You can't be more efficient, quick, and beautifully transported than you can on the new Phoenix sky train.
Ted Simons: It sounds exciting. It's running as we speak.
Debra Ostreicher: It sure is, 24 hours a day.
Ted Simons: Seven days a week. Good to have you here.
Debra Ostreicher: Thanks, Ted.