Skytrain service takes off at Miami International Airport

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Now you can ride the train to your plane in Miami International Airport’s new Concourse D.

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Now you can ride the train to your plane in Miami International Airport’s new Concourse D.

The mile-long concourse has 60 gates. Walking its length would take 20 to 30 minutes, or more, depending on how long and swift your stride is and how much luggage you’re toting.

Use MIA’s Skytrain and you’ll run that mile in four minutes without having to catch your breath. If you miss one train, another will be along in three minutes.

Skytrain began carrying passengers on September 15, 2010. It has four stations spaced a quarter-mile apart. Each station has two separate lobbies, for domestic and international passengers. Each train has four cars, two for domestic passengers, two for international passengers. This arrangement keeps international passengers who must clear immigration and customs separate from domestic passengers who need not do so.

Skytrain can accommodate up to 9,000 passengers per hour. It runs at up to 30 miles an hour on dual concrete guideways atop Concourse D’s roof. On one side, riders can see jets lined up at the gates, trundling along the ramps, and taking off and landing on MIA’s north runways. The other side offers a view across the city to to the downtown Miami skyline along Biscayne Bay.

What about hurricanes?

Putting a train on top of a building in the most hurricane-prone city in the entire U.S may seem a bit odd, but an airport spokesperson says Skytrain is designed to withstand high winds.

An enclosed repair structure can accommodate two of the system’s five trains. Presumably the other three would be parked adjacent to stations on the lee side of the approaching storm, where they would enjoy at least a modicum of shelter.

Although Skytrain’s manufacturers characterize it as a “light rail” system, the trains themselves weigh enough that they are unlikely to blow away.

Moving sidewalk

Skytrain is a key component of Concourse D (also called the North Terminal), a major hub for American Airlines and American Eagle flights to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Concourse D has been under construction since 1998. Its completion is expected in 2011. If you haven’t been at MIA lately and are looking for concourses A, B, and C, don’t bother. Concourse D ate them as it grew.

At Skytrain’s Station 3, you’ll find a connection to the rest of MIA, where Skytrain doesn’t go. Happily, a moving sidewalk helps to ease the burden of moving all the way around the U-shaped terminal. It runs from Concourse D through Concourses E, F, G, H, and J. (There is no Concourse I.)

Located on the third floor of the terminal, the moving sidewalk is accessible from MIA’s garages on pedestrian bridges that span the airport roadway, and from elevators strategically located in every concourse.

Unfortunately, many people who could benefit from the moving sidewalk remain oblivious to its existence. If you find and use it, you’ll avoid the crush of humanity trudging through the second (departure) and first (arrival) level – though you’ll also avoid Concourse D’s 87 restaurants and shops. Some are already open; the rest will be in business by 2011.

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