Airport Business

AUG-SEP 2018

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August/September 2018 airportbusiness 37 COVER STORY Now the airport is building on this growth and preparing to get ahead of the boom in the community by investing more than $1 billion in improvements to its passenger terminal and facilities outlined in its BNA Vision plan. Airport Business recently spoke with Nashville Airport Authority President and CEO Doug Kreulen about BNA Vision and why the airport is seeing so much growth in recent years. Airport Business: You took over as CEO of the airport authority about one year ago. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Nashville? Doug Kreulen: First off, being in there for only a year is assembling the right team of leaders at the airport to help me out. We’ve done a big job to hire a new executive staff and senior staff to keep things moving in the right direction. We’ve got the right people in the right places, so we’re catching up with all the day-to-day activity that’s required to run an airport. We’re also right in the middle of BNA Vision and everyone is really focused on that, our five-year capital plan to keep up with the growth of Nashville. We’re going to spend about $1.2 billion; we’re going to add about 500,000 square feet to the airport in terms of the terminal and the concourses; and it’s going to take us about five years to do that. AB: Nashville is one of the fastest growing airports in the country. What’s driving this growth? DK: We’ve got a heck of a tourism industry in Nashville. The Music City Center opened about four or five years ago and the number of conventions they book is growing leaps and bounds. We also have an awesome healthcare component to our economy and the music industry itself. It’s just a great place to come visit. I’m sitting here looking at our new aviation forecast for our master plan that we’re working on and it basically shows that it’s going to keep growing for another 20 years or so. AB: So the predominant growth is coming from the tourism side or business side? DK: It’s both business and tourism. If you look at the chamber of commerce, they have touted anywhere between 80 and 100 people moving to Nashville every day. The population growth in this new forecast, in our catchment area is 1.86 million today and over the next 20 years it’s going to grow by 1 million to 2.6 million. We’re expanding about as fast as we can to try and keep up with this growth. Today we’re at a little over 14 million at the end of last year in terms of enplanements and deplanements total, but by the time I finish the BNA Vision in 2023, I’ll already be at 18 million. AB: Memphis was historically the big traffic airport in that region. Has it been a challenge in making sure the air traffic system works right with this change in traffic patterns? DK: I don’t think so. I work very closely with Scott Brockman at Memphis. He’s a mentor of mine. We exchange ideas on how things are going back and forth. We in Nashville understand what he’s going through because when American de-hubbed with us in 1992, it has taken us 20 years to get to where we’re at today. We’re switching from that type of hub and transit market to an O&D and today we’re 88 percent O&D and 12 percent thru traffic. AB: With passenger volumes projected to reach 23 million by 2037, how prepared are you for this growth? DK: We’re doing a better job of focusing on the long-term future. We’ve got a new strategic plan that talks about how it’s our job as airport professionals to look farther out into the future. The BNA Vision is going to take care of getting us to that 23 million. We’re now working on the master plan for what comes beyond that time period. We’re building and we’re already focused on what comes after BNA Vision. We won’t finish that for another year or so, but I think we’re going to have new metrics going forward that won’t allow us get caught a little behind the power curve if we keep growing like this. AB: BNA Vision is such a massive project. What spurred it and what do you see as the impact? DK: We do monthly board meetings like any other airport and as you keep doing those meetings you keep reporting that passenger traffic is up 6 percent. It’s up 7 percent. It’s up 8 percent. You’re wonder how long this can go on and what do we need to do. We pulled out the old 2013 master plan and we started using that as a reference document and found that if we go on like this we’re two years behind, three years behind, four years behind. We knew we couldn’t allow ourselves to get that far behind, so we kicked off the BNA Vision initiative to try and make one big jump and get out ahead of all of this and then probably do a better job of tracking that as we go forward. AB: Building the new parking structure as part of BNA Vision, are there concerns with all the talk of impact of TNCs on parking revenues? DK: We were the first airport in October 2014 to make a license with Uber and Lyft, and they have been widely successful here. They went from 5,000 trips per month combined to 85,000 trips per month. As we build these new parking and transportation centers, we’ve made sure the bottom floor has ceiling heights of 14 feet so they can handle any size vehicle from normal Uber or Lyft to personal vehicles to shuttle buses to bus rapid transit. We envision sometime down the road autonomous vehicles will play some part in Nashville. This is a one-time shot to get the BNA Vision right, so we’re consolidating all that garage right in the front door of the airport. If you come and park at Nashville Airport, we will eventually end up with 7,000 spaces that you can park and walk about 100 to 150 feet and you’ll be in the terminal. Also, if you’re using public transportation, Uber, Lyft hotel shuttles or a bus that goes to downtown Nashville, you have that same 150 foot walk across the road and you’re right inside. The parking for us is an investment with that first-class service we’re trying to provide. AB: There’s a big push to enhance ticketing

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