In an otherwise unremarkable editorial today, the Washington Post lets slip some factual and logical errors about airports.
The Post assails the Federal Transit Administration’s decision to put the kibosh on the long-planned extension of DC’s Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport. The only transit connections to DC’s major international airport are a bus line from just outside downtown and an express coach from a suburban Metro station. I use Metro almost every day, but while a connection to Dulles (and the fast-growing suburban areas of Reston and Tyson’s Corner) would be nice, I am of no opinion as to whether it’s worth the $5 billion-and-growing cost.
But I am happy to poke a finger in the Post‘s eye for its silly and fact-challenged opening paragraph, a histrionic howler that does no service to what follows:
The international airports in Chicago, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney are served by passenger rail lines. Those in Kampala, Ulan Bator and Tegucigalpa are not. The Bush administration has now, for all intents and purposes, decided that Washington, D.C., belongs forever in the second category and not in the first.
First, some facts: Kampala has no international airport. Uganda’s main airport is located in Entebbe, twenty-plus miles from Kampala. Tegucigalpa has an international airport, but its short runway makes it of little use for international flights (the only two of long distance are to Houston and Miami). The main international airport of Honduras is in San Pedro Sula on the other side of the country. San Pedro Sula’s airport has more than ten times the passenger traffic of Tegucigalpa’s. So really now, Post, a little research might have helped your case.
But even so, does the lack of rapid rail transit really make Dulles comparable to Mongolia’s Genghis Khan International Airport? Not really. This is a classic example of an overgeneralization: if some world-class airports have rapid rail transit, then all should. It’s also a shameless ploy to make Washingtonians feel inferior to residents of other great cities. Here are some airports in the Post‘s first category: Friedrichshafen, Germany (pop. 60,000); Pisa, Italy; and Trondheim, Norway. These small airports have rapid rail transit links. And here are some world-class airports with no rapid rail transit links: Denver, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Las Vegas-McCarran, Melbourne, Miami, New York-LaGuardia, Prague, Sao Paulo-Guarulhos, and Toronto-Pearson.
I’m not trying to argue that Dulles should not have a rail link, but only that the Post‘s attempt to get support for one by an appeal to inferiority is specious. Make the argument for rail links based on evidence and reasoning. This kind of half-cocked appeal to prestige, when adopted by policymakers, usually results in bad policy.
Dulles Derailed [Washington Post]
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