Transit Innovation: Rail-Air Integration - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Transit Innovation: Rail-Air Integration

Every two weeks, MPC uncovers best practices from around the world and delivers them right to your inbox in Talking Transit. This week, MPC explores Berlin’s commitment to improving transit accessibility to its new international airport.

Photo courtesy of Wim Mees

Transit access to air travel

The Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BBI), a six-level megastructure, will condense Berlin’s three regional airports (Tegel, Tempelhof, and Schönefeld) into a new, modern airport by 2011.  Promising to be functional, cosmopolitan and inexpensive, the BBI is using innovative technologies and state-of-the art features to provide a high-quality and efficient international airport in the heart of Europe. At maximum capacity, the BBI will be able to handle 40 to 45 million passengers every year. The region’s commitment to environmental concerns also are integrated in the elements of the BBI, including heat recovery systems, geothermal energy, and cooling systems using rainwater, as well as low-noise vehicles and asphalt for the construction of nearby roads.  The new airport will bring more than 40,000 new jobs to the Berlin-Brandenburg area, and provide significant purchasing power.

A six-track rail station, with three platforms directly below the main terminal, will give BBI travelers direct access to the heart of Berlin.  The new rail link at the airport, funded in part by the regional authorities and European Fund for Regional Development (EFRD), will be fully integrated with Europe’s extensive intercity and national rail network, providing a stop for the German Railways (DB) and the Intercity Express Trains (ICE). This will allow for easy connections to other destinations and provide better accessibility to cities like Prague and Warsaw.  Known as the Airport Shuttle, the regional transit agency also will operate a special express train that can get travelers to the central city in 20 minutes. It will complement existing local rail (S-Bahn and U-Bahn) and express bus services.

While O’Hare and Midway International Airports are both connected to the rail network and provide service to downtown Chicago, we can learn from the BBI’s ability to create efficient connections to a variety of local, regional, and multinational destinations.  BBI teaches us to make better use of our existing infrastructure and maximize the growth opportunities for our current system.

This article was featured in Talking Transit, MPC's bi-weekly e-newsletter. To receive the newsletter, visit  




  1. 1. Robert Munson from Chicago, IL on June 23, 2009

    Let''s take this analysis to the next level and remind us why the O''Hare to Block 36 line was botched so terribly. I would like to see an objective analysis of what really happened and a doable strategy for getting a proper airport to downtown service. Chicago cannot make a legitimate claim to being a global city until it has this high-speed connection.

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