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Old 09-12-2007, 08:23 PM   #1
Loonbeam
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Default MSNBC.Com article - State of the Industry

Honestly, I thought this sums up things pretty well. If accurate, some of the outgoing FAA heads ideas have merit...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20724859/
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Old 09-13-2007, 03:54 AM   #2
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Lightbulb

While I think most of the long term solutions mentioned in the article have merit, I think some of the short term solutions are lunacy.

For example:
Quote:
In the short term, the most effective way to solve the congestion problem would be for Congress to authorize auctioning off the right to fly into overburdened airports — a move that would allow the FAA to limit the number of takeoffs. The rights could expire every few years, opening up the market to competitors, while the money raised could pay for airport improvements. Underbidders could schedule more flights at smaller, less crowded airports or at off hours. "If we auctioned off the space at the 10 worst airports, it would go a long way towards fixing the national problem," says George Donohue, a former FAA official who now teaches engineering at George Mason University.
  • Instituting this particular short term solution would merely swap in place this system for the current one, and would do nothing, but essentially forever delay a real solution in the long run.
  • This would give whoever wins the bidding the unfettered ability to raise fares to very high amounts in the short run, because it would eliminate competition for 3-4 years at a time. Plus this would cause two things to occur
    • Revenues from the auction would not be nearly as high as projected by this article, in my opinion, because no airline is going to bid up the price for such a small window.
    • Airlines are not going to spend money on improvements, when they could get thrown out within such a short time, to see their improvements used by another airline.
  • While in some areas of the west, such as Los Angeles, there are multiple airports available to move some of the schedule, without inconveniencing the traveling public too much, on the east cost the same is not true, plus why should the traveling public be inconvenienced at all. There are definite service reasons the top 10 airports became the top 10 airports. Take PHL as an example. The closest airports with any kind of reasonable commercial capacity are ABE, about 50 miles away and Wilmington, about 40 miles away, but isn't it interesting that they have never been able to lure away PHL traffic, even with startlingly lower fares in many instances. Other than those two airports the others are all 80 or more miles away, and have the same basic level of problems as PHL.
  • Frankly, George Donohue is a dope. He's completely forgotten the political process is at work here. If airport access to the top 10 would be reduced, and the limited flight slots auctioned off, Congress would point to the skies and say the problem is solved, because that way, they wouldn't have to spend money, which is always popular with voters.
If we want to solve the airport problems, the scheduling problems, and the congestion problems, we need long term solutions, not short term redistributions of the problems. We need to:
  1. Evaluate and rewrite FAA rules and regulations which do nothing for the good order of the planes in the air and on the ground, and nothing for safety, and write them instead for the benefit of the passenger, and to minimize costs for the airlines.
  2. Complete the airport expansion projects under study and evaluation, not in the next 20 years, but in the next 10 years by supplementing FAA, and airport revenue with general tax revenue dollars for the good of the country. You could do this with just a fraction of the wasted dollars currently being spent in Iraq each month.
  3. Complete the change-over to a satellite based system air traffic control system, including GPS, weather and communication satellites, not in 20 or more years, but in 10 years, again with the one time help of general tax dollars. This must be coordinated with the international associations to keep the costs for airlines and governments as low as possible. No one needs to have new multiple systems created which will skyrocket costs.
  4. Complete the redesign of the various airspaces in the country and implement them in the next 5 years. Include within the budget of the redesign, tax dollars to pay for environmental property improvements such as sound proofing to mitigate such problems on those living and working in areas surrounding airports.
  5. Hire and train enough people to run the air traffic control system to make it a safe and efficient system, 24x7.
  6. In the Northeast, through the middle Atlantic states allocate enough funds to Amtrak to build and maintain, and continually improve a high speed passenger rail system, similar, but better than the system currently running in France. This would provide in the long term, a substantially reduced demand for commuter air traffic between intercity destinations in this part of the country (the most densely populated part of the country) providing an incredible amount of relief to the air congestion in this area, which is the worst in the country. If this works as well as I would expect, I would expand the allocation and install a similar train system in the midwest, and along the west coast, as well, as a preventative, cost effective part of the solution.
  7. I would raise user fees for corporate and general aviation to both pay for, and maintain these improvements, commensurate with their usage and cost to the system. Right now, these non-commercial aircraft account for about 16% of the cost of air traffic control and airports, but pay only 3%. That doesn't make any sense to me.
  8. I would have Congress redraft the laws governing and funding the FAA to allow it to be an efficiently run organization with its same responsibilities, but also with more of its mission pointed to no longer put the aviation industry first, but the traveling public first. If it is more efficient, both the industry and the public will be far better off than it is today.
  9. In the short term, I would allow the airlines to work together, supervised in part by the FAA, to mesh their schedules to minimize congestion, yet provide the same level of service with regard to available seats, generally at times the public wishes to fly. Clearly shifting of seat availability at specific time have to change for the congestion to be reduced. For this privilege, I would require the airlines to allocate a reasonable amount of planes and crew as backups, to alleviate the exacerbation of problems at such times as weather and mechanical difficulties are affecting the system.
  10. In the long term, once the improvements to the system are made, relieving the congestion and increasing the systems capacity, I would have the FAA in conjunction with the airline industry, and general and corporate aviation, set slot limitations in the system to prevent future debacles like we have been seeing the last few years. I would also charge the FAA with a stewardship, to continuously evaluate and improve capacity and controls, in advance of being needed, in the future, within limits as set by the Congress as representing the people.
Some of the above will not be easy to accomplish, and I'm asking a lot of a Congress which has been generally ineffective for years, but what is easy today. That's no excuse for not trying, and not accomplishing the task at hand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Loonbeam View Post
Honestly, I thought this sums up things pretty well. If accurate, some of the outgoing FAA heads ideas have merit...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20724859/
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Old 09-13-2007, 12:14 PM   #3
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I think you hit the nail on the head Ned. I especially liked your point about the trains. If I had a nickel for every time I've told people to take the train instead of flying or driving from DC to Baltimore or Philadelphia I would be a rich man.

In the next 10 years I expect to see commuter rail running the length of the Wasatch front which is a distance of about 120 miles and serves 85% of the population of the state of Utah. Hopefully this and the light rail systems that are being built will reduce the amount of highway traffic. While this doesn't do anything for reducing flight congestion, it is a step in the right direction. I would hope that at some point that there will be high speed rail between Portland and Seattle, Las Vegas and the LA Basin, Tucson/Phoenix and LA/San Diego, Dallas and Houston and a host of other city pairs that are currently either fly or drive options.

My cousin just took the train from San Jose to Salt Lake City and it took just under 24 hours. He doesn't like to fly or drive long distances so he takes the train but it isn't very fast as it gets stuck on sidings while slow moving freight trains go by.
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Old 09-13-2007, 12:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ned View Post
While in some areas of the west, such as Los Angeles, there are multiple airports available to move some of the schedule, without inconveniencing the traveling public too much, on the east cost the same is not true, plus why should the traveling public be inconvenienced at all. There are definite service reasons the top 10 airports became the top 10 airports. Take PHL as an example. The closest airports with any kind of reasonable commercial capacity are ABE, about 50 miles away and Wilmington, about 40 miles away, but isn't it interesting that they have never been able to lure away PHL traffic, even with startlingly lower fares in many instances. Other than those two airports the others are all 80 or more miles away, and have the same basic level of problems as PHL.
Ned, I definitely agree with this point. Usually when I fly it is through DFW. Other than Love Field (which still has Wright Amendment issues) the nearest airports with commercial service to DFW, much less the facilities to handle more traffic than they already handle currently, are more than an hour or two drive away. Yes, you could shift domestic capacity over to Love Field, but this is an airport that is already getting crowded due to Southwest. I can tell you that if someone is traveling to Dallas on business, a city where it can take a few hours to drive across town, someone is not going to like the fact that the "best" option is to fly into an airport a few hours away.

Also, if we restrict access at the top 10 biggest airports, I can guarantee you that the first flights to go will not be ones to major markets, but rather to smaller and mid size airports, where we already have limited service anyways.
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Old 09-13-2007, 12:35 PM   #5
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I did the the auction idea was kind of silly. Personally, I found a lot of merit in the user fee argument. I DO agree with the assertion that it takes just as much ATC resources for a small plane as for a large one.
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Old 09-13-2007, 04:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mercwyn View Post
I think you hit the nail on the head Ned. I especially liked your point about the trains. If I had a nickel for every time I've told people to take the train instead of flying or driving from DC to Baltimore or Philadelphia I would be a rich man.

In the next 10 years I expect to see commuter rail running the length of the Wasatch front which is a distance of about 120 miles and serves 85% of the population of the state of Utah. Hopefully this and the light rail systems that are being built will reduce the amount of highway traffic. While this doesn't do anything for reducing flight congestion, it is a step in the right direction. I would hope that at some point that there will be high speed rail between Portland and Seattle, Las Vegas and the LA Basin, Tucson/Phoenix and LA/San Diego, Dallas and Houston and a host of other city pairs that are currently either fly or drive options.

My cousin just took the train from San Jose to Salt Lake City and it took just under 24 hours. He doesn't like to fly or drive long distances so he takes the train but it isn't very fast as it gets stuck on sidings while slow moving freight trains go by.
Mercwyn,
They are working on a kind of high speed train between Seattle and Portland, and we do have a local comuter train called the ST Express that serves all of the major cities in the Puget Sound region. Amtrak does run a train between the cities but from what I understand there is a right of way issue with the frieght companies. I personally think there should be a national rail system,or at least the regional systems connected/combined some how like in Europe. I can get to almost anywhere in Europe within 8-12 hours by train.
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Old 09-13-2007, 08:28 PM   #7
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Arrow

Amtrak owns little of its track, which is why it has so many right of way problems, and is one of the major reasons it can't even run Acela on the east coast a top speed most of the time.

You know Amtrak is our national rail system. The big difference in my opinion is that the European nations are very serious about train travel, understand its travel and environmental benefits and highly subsidize their rail system. On the other hand President Bush has tried hard several times, along with many members of past Republican Congresses, to do away with Amtrak all together, and let the states handle rail traffic if they want trains at all.

I'm with you. We need to make Amtrak into an efficient rail transportation system for the nation, and to do that we need to give Amtrak a steady and well funded subsidy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonjour Burnite View Post
Mercwyn,

They are working on a kind of high speed train between Seattle and Portland, and we do have a local comuter train called the ST Express that serves all of the major cities in the Puget Sound region. Amtrak does run a train between the cities but from what I understand there is a right of way issue with the frieght companies. I personally think there should be a national rail system,or at least the regional systems connected/combined some how like in Europe. I can get to almost anywhere in Europe within 8-12 hours by train.
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Old 09-14-2007, 12:08 PM   #8
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The mistake when Amtrak was created was that we nationalized the rolling stock but not the tracks. This has created major issues for Amtrak ever since and is the primary cause of the bad service on the majority of lines since the owners of the tracks give freight a higher priority and shunt passenger service off on to sidings.

I am 100% behind the idea of improving the US rail system, both the freight and passenger sides as it will help us reduce our demand for foreign oil.
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Old 09-14-2007, 12:52 PM   #9
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I'm with you. By the way, it is the freight rail companies such as CSX and Norfolk Southern who own most of the rail in the US. Amtrak does own some of their rail, but not nearly enough.

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The mistake when Amtrak was created was that we nationalized the rolling stock but not the tracks. This has created major issues for Amtrak ever since and is the primary cause of the bad service on the majority of lines since the owners of the tracks give freight a higher priority and shunt passenger service off on to sidings.

I am 100% behind the idea of improving the US rail system, both the freight and passenger sides as it will help us reduce our demand for foreign oil.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:52 AM   #10
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This was in the Seattle Times on Sunday, good article good relate to our forum here.

http://archives.seattletimes.nwsourc...4&query=Amtrak

Cheers
Patrick
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