Aug. 03--Chuck Waldron never really thought much about the automated people-movers at Orlando International Airport, even though he has ridden them countless times.
"It seems to work quite efficiently. I get on, I get a handrail and enjoy the ride," said Waldron, 76, a writer of thriller novels.
Here's what Waldron and millions of other people do not know about the shuttles they have taken to and from the main terminal to the four airside hubs where they get on and off their flights:
Each of the eight, three-car driverless trains covers some 80,000 miles a year, making the 90-second trips 20 hours a day, every day of the week. Thousands of times daily, they make a 2,000-foot one-way trek to the airsides, carrying as many as 240 passengers apiece at a time.
Now, after 33 years, the shuttles that have connected the terminal to airsides 1 and 3 to the east are going to be retired. They were running at the airport on opening day in 1981 and have hardly stopped since, though they were refurbished in 1990.
Orlando International earlier this month placed a $65.6 million order with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America to replace the four with new, sleeker models. They will take 18 months to manufacture, plus months of installation and tinkering in Orlando.
One shuttle on the dual-track systems to airsides 1 and 3 will be taken down at a time once the successors arrive, allowing the remaining people mover to ferry passengers. The new shuttles should be up and running completely by spring 2018.
When the old ones are gone, they will have traveled a total of 2.8 million miles, back and forth, over and over again, Orlando International officials estimate.
The reliability rate of the shuttles making their appointed rounds tops 99 percent, according to Orlando International officials.
They have carried all manner of riders, from celebrities and professional athletes to politicians and, more often than not, parents with children either exuberant about visiting area theme parks or exhausted from all the lines and rides.
Orlando International administrators also have ordered two additional people-movers to connect the terminal with a new train depot to be built a mile to the south. That shuttle system, which is more than three times as long as the existing people movers, will cost $75.8 million and be ready by summer 2017.
"You'll see a new, cleaner state-of-art look," predicted Davin Ruohomaki , the airport's senior director of planning, engineering and construction.
The people-movers to airside 4 were added to Orlando International in 1990 and airside 2 in 2000, when the hubs were opened. Those systems are not being replaced.
Waldron, who lives in Port St. Lucie and was at Orlando International on his way to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a family reunion, was stunned when he learned how many miles the shuttles have traveled.
"I get on and enjoy the ride, watch the people," he said. "I didn't give it any thought."
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