Photo by Heather Middleton
By Maria-Jose Subiria
Passengers waiting for a shuttle cart in certain parking lots at the world's busiest airport may be getting on board a greener, quieter ride.
Electric shuttle carts are being driven through the north and south economy parking lots at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, picking up passengers either waiting by their vehicles or at an area designated for pick up, according to Katie Stanciel, aviation parking manager at the airport.
The shuttle carts patrol the main drive aisle corridors and perimeter areas of both parking lots, said Stanciel.
"These vehicles will help reduce the airport's overall carbon footprint as courtesy officers transport customers directly from their cars to the terminal curbside, and vice versa," said Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson.
Miller said he is delighted to make greener services available to airport customers.
"As we continue to enhance how we do business, customers still will experience the same fast, friendly and reliable service," said the general manager.
Besides helping the environment, the new shuttle carts provide other benefits, such as quieter engines, lower maintenance costs, tires designed for surface street driving and no fuel costs, explained DeAllous Smith, spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson.
Art Wainwright, a courtesy shuttle driver at Hartsfield-Jackson, said he has been a driver at the airport for about five years.
Wainwright said the difference in performance between the fuel-dependent shuttle carts and the electric shuttle carts is noticeable. The ride is much smoother, he said.
"This is much better, much [more quiet]," said Wainwright. "It's really like night and day."
Stanciel, the parking manager, said the shuttle carts run on batteries, and are charged up to six hours, before hitting the road, she said.
"Once fully charged, the shuttles are able to operate up to 24 hours," said Stanciel.
Bernard Mitchell said he is the shuttle cart manager at Hartsfield-Jackson, through Nationwide Parking Services, Inc., a subcontractor.
Mitchell said there are a total of 10 batteries in each shuttle cart, located underneath the seats, which include six in the back, two in the middle and in the front.
Stanciel said there are five electric shuttle carts serving passengers at the airport. These shuttle carts replaced the five fuel-powered ones, on Dec. 2, 2010, she added.
She said five passengers are able to take a free ride to the north or south terminals, as well as the economy lots. The previous fuel-dependent shuttle carts also seated five passengers, she said.
The Department of Aviation invested $108,000 for the five electric shuttle carts, said Stanciel.
She said because some areas of the north and south economy parking lots are far from the terminal, Department of Aviation officials found it necessary to start the shuttle-cart service, in September 2006.
She said there are a total of three economy parking lots, including the west economy parking lot, which does not provide shuttle-cart service because it's not far from the terminals.