Monday, February 19, 2007

An airport executive understands that high speed rail is great for airports

From the High Speed Rail Now blog comes a copy of a San Francisco Examiner interview with John Martin, the head of San Francisco International Airport, on how airports do much better with a healthy high speed rail network.

Why? Because airports make more money with big planes filled with lots of people instead of little planes filled with a few people. So the best way to run an airport and pay off the massive municipal bonds with per-passenger fees is to keep the runways filled with big planes with lots of passengers in them flying between big cities. Little planes don't make that much money, and little planes from from little cities.

Trains, on the other hand, are good for collecting all the people from the smaller cities around the big city and taking them to the airport where they can then get on a big plane and fly to another big city.

Or, as the airport executive puts it:

Q: How do airport managers feel about establishing high-speed rail for California? Do you support the high-speed rail initiative?

A: The airport commission has come on record in support of high-speed rail. We think it would reduce the number of flights here, and we would see a 5 to 8 percent drop in passenger traffic if high-speed rail is introduced. The markets it would help us with — markets like Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego — are markets that are primarily served by smaller aircraft. So we might see an even bigger percentage reduction in the number of flights.

This is considered a good thing, since the airport is at capacity, and getting rid of these little planes to replace them with big planes, means that the airport can make more money.

We should take that strategy and apply it to O'Hare and Midway. O'Hare is at capacity and Midway is close to it. We should not have flights from O'Hare to Milwaukee (which we do) or Champaign (which we do) or Bloomington (which we do). Instead, we should have fast trains from those cities to O'Hare. That's the best way to put O'Hare and Midway in a better financial position: dump the low-margin small planes by building better rail connections. See for the Midwest High Speed Rail Association's idea on this point.


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