January 2022 – If air taxis come to Tampa, where should they land? Access to destinations, local transit connections, and avoiding the flight paths of large and small airports all factor in. Over the last year, the TPO has beta-tested an air taxi siting tool created by NASA to help local governments and support the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority’s (TBARTA) exploration of emerging technology in the region.
In July 2020, TBARTA completed the Innovative Transit Technologies Feasibility Study that looked at three modes of transit: hyperloop, aerial gondolas, and air taxis. One of the study recommendations was for TBARTA to collaborate with NASA on modeling work they did related to air taxis.
Researchers from NASA were developing a geographic information systems (GIS)-based Urban Air Mobility Regional Modeling and Simulation Tool to evaluate potential sites for vertiports. Tampa Bay was one of several locations around the country where NASA was considering testing the tool. Because of the TPO’s extensive mapping data and expertise with GIS, TBARTA asked for the TPO’s assistance.
The TPO collaborated with a NASA researcher to develop and beta-test the model that was customized for Hillsborough County. It used NASA’s algorithm in combination with local land use, zoning, and transportation data.
Ideally air taxi landing sites will be located where they will provide the most benefit to the public, including access to major destinations and connections to other transportation systems. In addition, flight paths must be considered in three dimensions, with consideration of existing structures and existing flight paths to other airports.
The TPO, NASA, and TBARTA project team demonstrated the tool to planners from local jurisdictions and agencies including Tampa, Plant City, Hillsborough Aviation Authority, and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. Several of these agencies have already been approached by private operators of air taxis to use the beta tool to evaluate proposals.
For more information, visit https://www.tbarta.com/en/planning-programs/innovative-transit-technology/itt-study.