Transportation Hub Infrastructure Expansion: Decision Support Under Uncertainty

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Athena project ( has worked to investigate the relationship between the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) and the greater Dallas area in order to better understand and therefore better inform future decision-making regarding the critical infrastructure that influence mobility between the airport and the city. Through this work, infrastructure related to curbside pickup and drop-off, parking, public transit, and the road network congestion were identified as critical to the operation of the DFW transportation hub. The infrastructure analysis and expansion aspect of the Athena project is focused on the restructuring of the CTA curb as a hierarchical curb and the building or repurposing of parking infrastructure as the interplay between these two areas. Many sources of uncertainty exist that may impact future airport and transportation hub operations, such as passenger volume growth, population demographic changes over time, electric vehicle (EV) adoption rates, and autonomous vehicle (AV) adoption rates. Due to these sources of uncertainty, we have selected for our research a modeling framework that can capture various types of uncertainty and hedge against those uncertainties in the optimization process. We analyze road network and curb congestion, the rise of transportation networking companies, trends in parking usage, existing policies around this infrastructure, airport revenue streams, and other contributing factors to enable infrastructure decision making with less uncertainty. To accomplish this wholistic analysis, we have developed a novel multi-stage, multi-period stochastic optimization model which considers the airport's decisions from 2025-2045 under different possible future macro trajectories and day-to-day variations in operational conditions captured as "annual representation of operations" scenarios with respective probabilities. This model has also been designed to leverage the outputs of various efforts under the Athena project to create a combined decision framework for infrastructure decisions. These various efforts include the route optimization model, the ASPIRES simulation, the mode choice model, and the SUMO traffic simulation. Our computational experiments of this system at scale have resulted in a working version of our infrastructure model which enables the explicit representation and consideration of various sources of uncertainty in the decision process to enable robust, flexible decision-making. This model has been effectively run on NREL's HPC system, Eagle, with large numbers of stochastic scenarios and shows promise as a scalable tool for robust consideration of uncertainties in airport planning. We have tested our model using 30,240 operational circumstances in total, resulting in a problem with more 200 million variables. This model was solved in several different configurations, and a workflow to simulate the performance of the infrastructure model results was developed and deployed. In general, our results indicate that a combination of remote parking, remote curb infrastructure, and dynamic pricing can generate revenue, reduce emissions, accommodate emerging technologies such as AVs and EVs, and manage airport passenger growth over time. We note the success of the proposed strategy depends on the data collection and forecasting abilities of DFW. We have also seen that the AV adoption by TNCs might necessitate larger amounts of remote curb. The results of this work inform strategies for airport infrastructure decision making, as well as demonstrate the value of an adaptable model, but also indicate that there are avenues remaining where further research would be of value.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages89
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-2C00-80637


  • airport
  • autonomous vehicle
  • infrastructure
  • mode choice
  • modeling
  • simulation
  • stochastic model


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