International airports look to the Segway PT for increased productivity

Posted: 28 September 2007 | Chip MacDonald Director, Global Police & Government Business Unit Segway Inc. | No comments yet

In January 2004 the Chicago Police Department became one of the first police agencies in the world to use Segway® Personal Transporters (PTs) when they placed a fleet of patrol units into service at O’Hare International Airport. The event was widely covered in national media and the Associated Press quoted Commander Steve Peterson about police use of the Segway PTs: “They’re the best of both worlds, with the mobility of a squad car but the personal contact with citizens of a foot patrol.”

In January 2004 the Chicago Police Department became one of the first police agencies in the world to use Segway® Personal Transporters (PTs) when they placed a fleet of patrol units into service at O’Hare International Airport. The event was widely covered in national media and the Associated Press quoted Commander Steve Peterson about police use of the Segway PTs: “They’re the best of both worlds, with the mobility of a squad car but the personal contact with citizens of a foot patrol.”

As of August 2007 more than 500 police and security agencies worldwide now use Segway PTs, an increase of 140% since the beginning of the year. This rapid growth has extended to every police and security sector, and to both domestic and international markets. O’Hare and Midway airports still use Segway PTs for security and operations, but now so do 38 other airports around the world, including the major international airports in Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Orlando, and the world’s two largest airports in Chicago and Atlanta.

Ideal transportation in and out of the terminal

One of the foremost reasons why Segway PTs are so popular among airport security and operations personnel is the substantial size of today’s international airport facilities, which often include multiple terminals, hundreds of gates, massive parking structures and miles of concourses complete with retail shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. The Segway PTs performance characteristics make these enormous facilities easier to patrol and serve:

  • Officers stand eight inches taller on a Segway PT, enabling them to see and be seen over crowds and automobiles.
  • Segway PTs use no fuel and produce no emissions during operation, allowing officers to patrol indoors and out and enabling police agencies to reduce their fuel costs.
  • With a range of up to 24 miles/38 km and a top-speed of 12.5 mph/20 km/h the Segway PT allows an officer to cover far more area than he or she could on foot.
  • Segway PTs are self-balancing, even when standing still. This makes them ideal patrol tools when moving through crowds, on concourses, or in elevators.
  • With the exception of battery recharging there is little maintenance required on the Segway PT. The batteries are charged at any conventional electrical outlet without removing them from the unit. Average recharging costs: 25 cents per day.

According to Scott Shaver of the O’Hare police detail, the Segway PT is simply the best way to move through airport crowds and keep them safe.

“I can cover much more area on a Segway PT than I could on foot and if there is an emergency I can get there quickly,” says Shaver. “And one really nice thing about the Segway PT is people are less likely to become alarmed if they see me responding to a call. Typically, if they see a policeman running through a terminal they’ll suspect the worst. But if they see me gliding along at a good clip they just think I’m having fun. I can get to where I need to be fast and not create a panic.”

The O’Hare police force uses their fleet of Segway PTs around the clock, seven days a week, both indoors and out. Officer Shaver estimates that it would take him a minimum of one hour to patrol one level of the O’Hare parking facility on foot. Using a Segway PT it now takes approximately 30 minutes. “And with the Segway PT I can see up above the cars,” says Shaver.

Increased performance, less fatigue

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police at Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport conducted one of the most thorough on-site evaluations of the Segway PT in March 2004 for three months. According to Captain Eric Garrison, BWI commanders wondered if the quiet, self-balancing Segway PT might allow an officer to respond more quickly to emergencies and patrol the facility without getting fatigued. “Of all the officers on an airport shift, we have several in cars on the roadway, one or two officers on bike patrol and several on ATVs patrolling the acreage to the south of the airport,” says Garrison. “Other than that, all of our officers are on foot patrol and they do a lot of walking – an average of about 7 miles/11 km a day. They also carry and wear approximately 33 pounds/15 kg of gear and equipment. At the 11th hour of a 12-hour shift you get very tired, but you still have to respond to your service calls and emergency calls like it’s the first hour. It’s tough.”

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police acquired two units for their test, training more than 30 officers. “We kept (the Segway PTs) in certain areas of the airport so we could document and evaluate their use. Our evaluation covered a broad range of areas: use in and around crowds, noise abatement, use in inclement weather, the durability of the unit, the field life of the batteries, feedback from the public and airport management. We also wanted to see how the units operated with officers of different heights and body weights, and explore the potential for injury to police personnel and airport patrons. Lastly, we assessed the morale of the officers after they used the Segway PTs for an entire 12-hour shift.”

According to Garrison the study found that the Segway PTs were a perfect solution to the problem of officer fatigue. “The Segway PT helped us respond to service calls faster and eliminated the fatigue that we normally had in a twelve hour day,” says Garrison. “We found that the officers on the units got to emergency calls three to four minutes faster than the other officers. Moreover, the use of Segway PTs put enjoyment back into foot patrols. Throughout the study the other officers were begging us to train them on the Segway PT so they could use them. We also found that the public are attracted to an officer on a Segway PT like a bear to honey, which greatly improves our community relations and increases our security presence.”

Today, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police use a fleet of ten Segway PTs at BWI and they continue to train new officers in their use.

Paris, Tel Aviv and Munich boost their operations

Recently, enthusiasm for the Segway PT has spread to major airports in Europe, Asia and South America and these new customers are realising many of the same benefits. At the new Airbus A380 terminal at Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, Groupe EuroTEP, the firm that provides much of the facility’s maintenance and service, recently purchased two Segway PTs for its on-site supervisors. According to Azzedine Belkhodja, assistant site director for Groupe EuroTEP, the Segway PTs have enabled them to be dramatically more productive. “The Segway PT is a very useful machine for my job,” says Belkhodja. “It allows me to get to the customer much more quickly and also conduct follow-ups on the work done by our cleaning crews. At the end of the day I am much less tired than I used to be when I walked everywhere. As a result I am much more productive and responsive.”

This sentiment is echoed by Ronnie Shem-Tov who oversees the use of all electric vehicles for the Israel Airports Authority at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. “The new terminal at Ben Gurion was much larger than the old one and required managers to walk long distances,” says Shem-Tov. “After a short trial period, we purchased two units with cargo bags and lights. Immediately the managers were able to travel more quickly and manoeuvre in the hallways and concourses without disturbing the passengers. The high-tech nature of the Segway PTs also reflects the advanced design of the beautiful new terminal. It is a perfect fit.”

Mr. Siegfried Obermeier, Head of Operations for the Terminal Services division at Munich International Airport, believes his Segway PTs have tripled the area that his supervisors can cover compared to walking. “The speed and manoeuvrability of the Segway PTs, and the increased visibility they provide, allow our employees to accomplish their jobs much more efficiently. We initially purchased two Segway PTs and have now ordered two more. They have made our managers more productive by a factor of three.”

One of Segway’s newest airport customers is Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which served nearly 36 million passengers in 2006. In 2002 the airport opened its newly renovated and expanded McNamara Terminal. Faced with a mile-long main concourse in the new McNamara Terminal and an 800-foot passenger tunnel connecting the concourses, the airport police were looking for new ways to efficiently patrol their bustling facility. According to Sergeant James McKernan, the Airport Authority found a solution in the Segway PT.

“The Airport Authority made the decision to purchase three Segway PTs for the airport police department, one for the fire department and one for the civilian division of public safety at the airport,” says McKernan.

The owners of the shops and restaurants that line the terminal were at first quite enthralled by the high-tech tools. “The retail managers would come out of the shops and engage our officers, which was great,” says McKernan.

More than 20 officers are now trained to use the Segway PTs, which are on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The specialised police models carry cargo bags that the officers use to transport gear and equipment, and each unit has police decals on the fenders and agency logos on the front cargo bag. McKernan estimates that prior to the arrival of the Segway PTs, each officer could efficiently walk just eight to nine miles a day on patrols. Now they can easily patrol twice that distance on the Segway PTs and not get fatigued doing it.

The Segway PTs have also dramatically cut response times. “If we get a call for a medical emergency or a lost child, our officers can get to the scene and get the problem resolved much more quickly if they are riding Segway PTs,” says McKernan. “On the second week that we had the Segway PTs, officers were dispatched to a possible heart attack. The officers would have had to run a considerable distance with equipment to render aid. As it was, they used their Segway PTs to get to the victim much sooner and render aid without being fatigued. That’s exactly why the Segway PTs have been valuable tools for us.”

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