Airline Folly vs Transportation Matrix

Op-Ed Piece

Airline Folly vs Transportation Matrix

Ernest M. Fazio, Chairman, Long Island Midsuffolk Business Action

PO Box 135, Centerport NY 11721 tel 631 757-1698

Prior to September 11th 2001 air transport was dysfunctional. After that time, an economic and logistical “basket case”.

When the modern era of airline travel began in the 1950’s, there was ample room to build airports. A smaller percentage of the public used airplanes to travel, and there were a smaller number of people in the general population to begin with.

With the population making a dramatic increase and the percentage of those people who fly, rose, it was inevitable that we would come to this juncture.

The air transit industry has become moribund. Even if the world we live in were completely Honky Dory, we would still have come to the point where air transportation would be hopelessly congested.

In the fiscal year 2002, $12 billion was scheduled for airport facilities enhancement. I assume it was, and is, being spent. After 9/11, the mendicants from the airline industry came with their sad story of woe and bilked another $15 billion from the taxpayers. Never mind that their business model was a failure prior to 9/11. At the same time our illustrious leadership in Washington wrung their hands about giving Amtrak $200 million to keeping its operation going.

There is no question in my mind that short haul airline travel to places like Boston, Washington and Albany is not as efficient as high-speed rail. The energy consumed per passenger to get to the same place is about double on an airplane as on a train.

The total time spent in transit on a European style, high-speed train is less than that of a plane for the short haul airline trip. The trip to the airport, the lengthy security checks, and the trip from the airport to your city of destination combine to make what was a convenience in the early days of airline travel, an exasperation.

There are no “magic bullets”. That is, a system that works for every application. We must embrace all systems of transport, instead of concentrating on one system of transportation and letting others suffer. Properly planned transportation systems are a matrix.

Air transport will remain viable for transcontinental trips as well as intercontinental travel. But light rail, (trolleys) should not have been removed from our cities, and in fact, should be reintroduced. Rails should never have been “written off”. Rails, in many cases, can do a much better job of moving people than planes, and rails are an economical and energy efficient means of moving freight. Add to that mix ferries. Ferries in an area surrounded by water make good sense.

Building a national rail system Americans can be proud of is essential. And where, I ask you, would be a better place to engineer the infrastructure and equipment for such a task, than right here on Long Island? Organizations such as LIMBA, LIA, LIFT, Action LI, and the HIA should all be working in concert to influence what is going on in Washington and lead this country to create systems that will serve us throughout the century.