Friday, January 25, 2008

Peters Proposes Robbing Paul

Mary Peters, the Bush Administration’s Secretary of Transportation, is increasing her visibility in the public debate about transportation. The Washington Post takes the first shot at her.

She Brakes for Ideology

” The next time you are stuck in traffic (and when are you not?), you might take a moment to ponder Mary Peters's contribution to the fix you are in. “

You would be forgiven if you thought that was about air traffic but they’re talking about regular-old highway traffic. The ideology remains the same though.

” Peters is the Bush administration's transportation secretary, and her main objective seems to be blocking any increase of public contributions to the public infrastructure. The main reason you are sitting in traffic, she believes, is not that the purchasing power of Highway Trust Fund revenue has been dwindling for the past decade, not that population and freight traffic have been soaring with no government response -- but that you are not being asked to pay enough to use the road you are on. “

Then we move on to her comments found in a USA Today article.

”"I am a little tired of all the noise from Capitol Hill about how bad aviation delays are when they are sitting on the sidelines in Washington while passengers sit waiting in airports and on taxiways across the country," Peters said in a speech prepared for the Aero Club, an aerospace industry forum.“

I see. It’s Congress’ fault.

”The airlines and the FAA repeatedly tout a new, $15 billion satellite-based air traffic control system, dubbed NextGen, as the key to improved operations. In August, the agency awarded ITT Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion to build the first portion of the system, that will overall take nearly 20 years to complete.

"The technology is there. But the support from Congress isn't," Peters said, warning that if lawmakers continue to "play politics with our reauthorization," the department may not be able to invest in improvements, including NextGen, already planned for 2008. “

So, the answer to today’s congestion is a program that will take “nearly 20 years to complete” ? I think it has more to do with the Bush Administration’s one-size-fits-all ideology.

”To help avoid another summer of record delays, Peters last week said congested airports nationwide can charge landing fees based on the time flights land and traffic volume. The goal is to encourage airlines to spread operations more evenly throughout the day.“

There’s no need to “encourage” anybody. Or to make it more expensive to fly by charging increased landing fees. The FAA (a part of the Department of Transportation) has the statutory authority to limit the number of flights at Newark. All Ms. Peters has to do is pick up the phone and tell the FAA what to do -- once she's finished chewing on her ideology.

”JFK will be allowed 82 or 83 flights per hour at the peak times, down from about 100 that had been scheduled last summer. Similar caps, which already exist at LaGuardia, also will go into effect at Newark, but the exact number has yet to be determined.“

The “exact number” for the caps at Newark isn’t tough to figure out. Here, let me help.

42 arrivals +42 departures per hour = 84 operations per hour

Add in 6 operations per hour (or not) above the IFR rate like you did at JFK and you’re done. Move on. Go negotiate a contract with your air traffic controllers before you lose any more experienced controllers or any more trainees. And maybe -- just maybe -- you’ll have somebody to work all those airliners. Once you finish chewing on your ideology of course.

Don Brown
January 25, 2008

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