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The solution to NYC’s airport woes?

Gothamist calls it “almost certainly a Swiftian satire,” but there’s something striking about the Manhattan Airport Foundation’s “plan” to convert New York’s long underused Central Park into the closest in on close-in airports.

There are already aviation buffs out there saying “oh please, oh please” — if only to experience an approach that would rival runway 13 at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak airport.

US Airways on perimeter restrictions at DCA, LGA

TEMPE — On most policy issues at the national level, airlines work through their trade association, ATA. Yesterday, I asked C. A. Howlett, US Airways senior VP for public affairs, about what issues he works on that the ATA does not get very involved in. “The biggest issue that is US Airways-specific is the Reagan National Airport perimeter rule.” National is one of US Airways’ key focus cities. He said that although the airline favors reducing barriers wherever they exist, “a more practical political solution is to create more exemptions to beyond-perimeter flying.” This would add to the twenty-four (in practice, twelve round-trip) exemptions, which include US Airways’ routes to Phoenix (one of which I am about to take back to Washington).

The key, Howlett said, is to make these changes in the pending FAA reauthorization bill, because the perimeter at National is congressionally mandated. US Airways is also interested in increasing beyond-perimeter exemptions at LaGuardia Airport, where it has a focus city operation. At LaGuardia, however, the perimeter is a locally adopted rule which does not require federal action.

One of the obstacles to perimeter exemptions is the objections of communities within the perimeter that fear losing service to big West Coast markets.  “Our approach would protect small and medium markets within the perimeter,” Howlett said. “We would say that an airline could use up to some percentage of its existing slots to fly beyond the perimeter, provided that those flights were taken from large or medium hubs. . . . What we’re doing is trying to protect the city that has maybe two flights to DCA. . . . We’re building in protections so that communities don’t lose service.” Howlett offered the example of, say, Delta taking one flight out of the Atlanta market, which would not make much of a difference, to add a flight to Salt Lake City. Besides, he said, there is just not that much demand for nonstop travel from National to the West Coast. A few more exemptions should meet that demand. (more…)

In the Middle East, which comes first: growth or airports?

A new paper from the Center for International Private Enterprise at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce examines the development of the aviation sector in the Middle East and North Africa. (Thanks to colleague Mitch Boersma for passing this along.) Jawad Rachami points out that the region’s “share of global passenger traffic is expected to hover at less than 6 percent in the next 20 years, and the region’s share of the world’s total number of flights is expected to remain at about 3.5 percent during the same period,” arguing that “[t]his is reflective of MENA’s poor integration into the global economy and the weakness of its market and governance institutions.” Moreover, the leading node of aviation growth in the region is Dubai, which accounts for nearly three times as much traffic as Cairo, the region’s second-largest airport.

Rachami identifies four “trajectories” for aviation growth in the region. The first are “leaders” like Dubai and the other Gulf states, which have invested oil money and sovereign investment revenues into strategic infrastructure investments. (more…)

Sunday stumper: optimizing your run from one end of the terminal to the other

Suppose you are trying to get from one end A of a terminal to the other end B.  (For simplicity, assume the terminal is a one-dimensional line segment.)  Some portions of the terminal have moving walkways (in both directions); other portions do not.  Your walking speed is a constant $v$, but while on a walkway, it is boosted by the speed $u$ of the walkway for a net speed of $v+u$.  (Obviously, given a choice, one would only take those walkways that are going in the direction one wishes to travel in.)  Your objective is to get from A to B in the shortest time possible.

1. Suppose you need to pause for some period of time, say to tie your shoe.  Is it more efficient to do so while on a walkway, or off the walkway?  Assume the period of time required is the same in both cases.
2. Suppose you have a limited amount of energy available to run and increase your speed to a higher quantity $v'$ (or $v'+u$, if you are on a walkway).  Is it more efficient to run while on a walkway, or off the walkway?  Assume that the energy expenditure is the same in both cases.
3. Do the answers to the above questions change if one takes into account the various effects of special relativity?  (This is of course an academic question rather than a practical one.  But presumably it should be the time in the airport frame that one wants to minimise, not time in one’s personal frame.)

[H/T: Greg Mankiw]

Getting our “infrastructure” priorities straight

It’s pretty common knowledge that the United States has for years underinvested in “infrastructure” — from the power grid to physical plants to transportation — and thus one of the first priorities of the next administration should be to devote massive resources to repairing infrastructure. And I’m sure the commuter inching forward on a Dallas interstate on his way home from work or a passenger on a regional jet at LaGuardia groaning as yet another thirty-minute delay is announced would agree. And Barack Obama has endorsed a massive infrastructure spending program in hopes of stimulating the economy. So then — let’s get busy! Where to start?

As Bob Poole writes in yesterday’s WSJ, the mayors of 427 cities have helpfully identified more than 11,000 “ready-to-go” infrastructure projects worth \$73 billion. Okay, there’s a start. And what kind of projects are these? Poole lays out several of them: a “waterfront duck pond park,” community centers, tennis centers, “life style centers,” a “Grand Central Station” in San Francisco for a rail line that doesn’t exist, and the like. (More “infrastructure priorities are listed here.) That is, the mayors have, in a recession and what is widely acknowledged as a crisis in infrastructure, presented the taxpayers with a gold-plated wish list. No doubt Congress would be happy to pony up the money in exchange for naming rights.

Why are these projects even on the list? For several reasons. First, they’re discrete and local. Highway, airport, and major transit projects often require consultation with and the involvement of multiple authorities, making it harder for the spending to have a quick impact — even if its long-term effect would outweigh that of a duck pond by a factor of, oh, infinity. Another reason might be the “spaghetti” approach: throw it at the wall to see if it sticks. No harm in trying, right? ask the mayors. (No harm, indeed, except perhaps the derision of a few lowly bloggers.) (more…)

Review of new book on aviation infrastructure

On American.com today, I review Aviation Infrastructure Performance: A Study in Comparative Political Economy, edited by Clifford Winston and Gines de Rus. The book, which I highly recommend, includes several reviews of how other countries’ aviation infrastructure sectors have performed under varying levels of privatization — and what lessons could be learned for the United States.

Should We Privatize Airports? [The American]