Optimizing Airport Processes and Designing Transportation Facilities with Simulation

Optimizing Airport Processes and Designing Transportation Facilities with Simulation


TranSystems is an architect and engineering company with over 25 years of modeling experience in the transportation industry. The company works on projects related to railroads, airports, seaports, roadways, transit supply chains, industrial facilities automation, and even quick service type operations in restaurants and hospital facilities.

Through their work, TranSystems has developed a variety of specific digital tools that help in many of the projects the company undertakes. But sometimes, especially in cases when multimodal operations or transportation systems modeling is required, the standard transportation digital tools are not applicable. For airport simulation, transportation planning, construction optimization, pedestrian simulation, and other complicated projects, TranSystems applies AnyLogic software.

Designing large transportation facilities, such as airports, ports, or railroad corridors, demands a lot of planning in multiple phases. Such projects are extensive, long-term, and usually involve a lot of stakeholders who are interested in the best value-for-money option, and it is important to get the support and cooperation of all involved parties. In order to address all these requirements, it is necessary to apply a multimodal system that can integrate all necessary elements, such as trains, vehicles, buses, people, etc.

In architecture, any issue should be presented and agreed upon, which demands a lot of diverse situation modeling with tight deadlines. In such cases, AnyLogic modeling is especially advantageous, as it allows for creating dynamic construction simulation models that can provide useful insights about a system in a relatively short period of time. At the same time, it also provides data visualization tools that allow for easy communication and explanation of findings.

Case study 1

Consolidated rental car facilities: Sizing the deck and planning in the early stages

Consolidated rental car facilities are giant structures that consolidate all the rental car operations of multiple agencies scattered around airports. These facilities are becoming more and more popular at large airports. TranSystems cooperated in the development of such facilities at the airports of Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles International Airport, San Antonio, and Phoenix. Consolidated rental car facilities are not just parking structures – they are complex and dynamic with different brand operations and peak demands. The bigger brands utilize their cars across their own sub-brands to keep their fleets fluid and get the maximum return from the cars they own. Consolidated rental car facilities also have integrated facilities for fueling, washing, and repair. Each airport has its own unique demands depending on when it is most busy. The rental facilities have to consider all these factors in order to plan how much space and how many cars they need.

Problem: Sizing the deck

Rental facilities need to plan for all big events, and also for seasonal cases like summer activities. For rental facilities, big events like college football games can be disruptive because they need a massive number of cars for a very short period of time. It is the work of consultants to make sure that a facility can meet these peak demands without too much excess. As part of their operations, consolidated rental car facilities also have to provide customer access to terminal buses and/or vertical access between levels. All these requirements need to be addressed to make sure that an airport maintains its standards on how long it takes for a customer to get a car.

A lot of consolidated rental car facilities are four stories high and this can be a problem for rental car agencies. To maintain a productive operation, they have to avoid situations where their personnel drive unnecessarily. Such situations result in a waste of resources.

The rental car agencies were interested in determining how much space would be enough for them to optimally operate within a building. There was a need to strike a balance between a good mix of cars for customers to choose from and space to deal with the return surges. In that regard, it was important to determine a deck that could support peak demands.

Planning facility in the early stages

Los Angeles International Airport was planning a very large consolidated rental car facility with four decks. Having considered all the options for a new facility in Los Angeles International Airport, the consultants concluded that the new facility should be served by connectivity that could deliver customers from terminals to the facility’s upper deck. Despite this, the facility was to open before the connection, so it was necessary to support a bus operation on the lower level in the interim. There were fears that during peak hours there might not be enough space for buses. It was necessary to understand the operation of the facility in various specific scenarios. It was also necessary to determine which vertical access option was best for the project.


The developers used AnyLogic modeling and customer arrival patterns to define optimal decking. The model had to reflect such elements like staffing and equipment, and provide time-based outputs. It needed to be capable of measuring the utilization of staff and facility resources, as well as certain other metrics. The resulting data would allow the stakeholders to determine whether such operations were feasible for them and whether to agree on the project.

On the input screen, developers could set parameters such as the number of parking places each agency allocated for returns and on-site storage. The design planning model allowed for testing out how much space should be allocated for each rental car agency and indicated how that deck design was going to operate.

This model provided animated visualization of facility occupancy during the day. The visualization helped the agencies understand what their typical day would be like and how much work would be required to maintain their operations on these decks.

Los Angeles airport shuttle bus pedestrian model
to facilitate early stage facility planning

The model also provided outputs in graphical form: vehicle quantity in on-site area by hours, fueling station utilization, and wash bay utilization. This data helped the agencies determine if they were going to have enough space, cars, and units of equipment to maintain the required turnaround of the cars.

The consultants used the AnyLogic Pedestrian Library to create an animated crowd simulation model which included incoming buses to determine if there would be enough space. This model also showed how pedestrians use elevators to move between floors. The early iterations of this pedestrian simulation model simulated escalators instead of elevators and showed good results, but the cost of implementing escalators was very high. It also turned out that this option was unsafe should there be a fire. Therefore, the interested agreed on elevators. The pedestrian simulation model helped to collect the necessary statistics on the load of elevators and, as a result, it was possible to substantiate the idea of using elevators.

Case study 2

Operations study to add a new plane arrival at La Guardia southwest terminal

LaGuardia airport planned to add a new flight to the schedule of the southwest terminal. The airport administration wanted to understand how the introduction of a new flight would influence terminal capacity.


In order to understand the scale of the problem, the developers conducted a preliminary static pedestrian flow analysis based on data of how long before the flight passengers arrived at the airport. In the picture, the solid line represented the number of seats in the waiting area, the red stacks represented the number of passengers in the terminal before introducing the new flight, and additional passengers from the new flight were represented by purple areas. The graph showed that if the new plane took off in the afternoon at 5:00 pm, the already crowded waiting area would have to bear an additional burden that could lead to a significant problem.

The developers used the AnyLogic Pedestrian Library to create a crowd simulation model of the terminal in order to examine the use of seats under different scenarios. The basic model displayed the operation of all terminal areas before the introduction of the new flight, and then various assumptions could be checked against this model. The best situation was when people were waiting for departure at their gates, but the consultants wanted to check how far they would have to move away from their gates to wait for their departure.

Southwest La Guardia airport gate area layout
in the crowd simulation model

To set up the crowd simulation model, the developers used tables of passenger preference for waiting areas.

The model showed how far from their gate people would have to wait. The results of modeling the base scenario, without the new flight, showed that some of the peaks were reduced compared with the static analysis. This was due to passengers lining up 30 minutes before their flights. The model also showed where the people would actually wait. From this, it could be verified that there was no overflow and that the situation was stable.

In the afternoon, the waiting area was a lot more heavily utilized. There were a lot of passengers mixing in different areas and waiting for different gates. With the new flight at this peak time, some of these areas would get extremely overloaded. This pedestrian simulation was very useful in showing the operations of this terminal and how adding the new flight would affect the passengers in this area, including how far they would have to move to wait for their flights.


Designing large transport facilities requires careful consideration and agreement on every detail. That means that such projects must go through a great deal of decision making. The initial task of engineers usually produces alternatives and functional designs. These consider physical requirements and standards, but whether business or operating objectives will be met can be hard to determine accurately. It is here that AnyLogic based modeling helps by enabling faster decision-making and significantly improving insight into the various tasks that engineers face when planning large transport facilities.

Watch the video of Beth C. Kulick presenting this case study at The AnyLogic Conference, or download her presentation.

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