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19 CHAPTER 1 Defining the Issues: Defining the Problem There is a major problem in the provision of effective aviation capacity in the coastal mega-regions and the economic impacts of doing nothing are significant. Using a range of economic assumptions, the "cost" of present air travel delay in the coastal mega-regions ranges from a low of about $3 billion per year to a high of over $9 billion per year (2007). Using the same range of assumptions, the "cost" of air travel delay in the future would range from about $9 billion to about $20 billion, if none of the present capacity constraints were addressed--that is, the cost of doing nothing (2025). Much of the aviation industry's capacity forecasting assumes that, by one means or another, a process of up-gauging of air- craft will occur: the research team found no support for the assumption that systematic up-gauging of aircraft will occur without some form of public policy intervention. The number of air trips within the West Coast study area is vastly higher than the number of air trips within the East Coast study area, even though their geographic area is similar. The present amount of air travel delay is vastly higher in the East Coast study area than in the West Coast study area, even though the intra-area volumes are much lower. Exhibit 1.0. Highlights and key themes included in Chapter 1. 1.1 Introduction Section 1.2 presents a set of definitions concerning the geographic scale of the two study areas covered in this This chapter presents an overview and introduction to the research and the size of the airports that serve them. four major themes developed in the project. It introduces the Section 1.3 summarizes the airport congestion issue in the two study areas in terms of their geography, demographics, two mega-regions from a systems point of view and a cus- and propensity to make shorter distance air trips within and tomer point of view. The amount of congestion experi- between their mega-regions. It reveals a significant difference enced is documented for a cross section of large and smaller in the nature of the demand/capacity/delay characteristics airports in the two study areas, and the overall problem between the East and West Coast study areas. The chapter revealed on the East Coast is compared with that on the describes what the researchers believe to be a present crisis in West Coast. aviation systems capacity and provides a method of under- Section 1.4 identifies the nature of the capacity problem standing the economic scale of that crisis. The chapter also that has been revealed over the past several years, culmi- documents the economic and environmental cost of doing nating in the "perfect storm" of the summer of 2007, as nothing--letting the present system in the mega-regions con- described by the research team and the Federal Aviation tinue to degenerate (see highlights of Chapter 1 in Exhibit 1.0). Administration (FAA). It presents the results of an early Chapter 1 is organized in the following order: outreach effort to define the nature of the present capacity problem in the mega-regions. Section 1.1 summarizes the structure and main themes of Section 1.5 summarizes the perceived 2007 costs to airport the chapter. travelers from congestion and airport delays, including a

OCR for page 19
20 procedure for assigning a "value of time" (VOT) to the reasonably operate on time under any weather conditions of delay experienced. less than perfect visibility. The interviews with airport man- Section 1.6 concludes Chapter 1 with an analysis of the eco- agers on the West Coast reported the same concern as those nomic and environmental impact of doing nothing about on the East Coast. the issues raised in this research. In the interpretation the research team presented in 2008, the team concluded that no one had the authority for getting effective capacity out of the runways and supporting facilities 1.1.1 Overview in major mega-region airports. The airport managers believe In the first half of this project, the research team exam- they have not been given an effective legal mandate to lower ined the issue of aviation planning to deal with the capacity congestion. In some cases, efforts ended up in court. And a issues raised for the year 2025 for key airports in congested given airline scheduling manager--perhaps convinced of the mega-regions, where warning flags have already been raised social virtue of flying fewer, larger planes--is forced to act in the FACT 2 report (1). What the team found was of major under the assumption that her/his competitors will simply concern. take the released slots and use them to perpetuate the use of In interviews4 with airport managers, managers of the fore- smaller aircraft. In short, no single entity is accountable for a casting process, and other leaders in the field, it became clear problem with economic impacts calculated in the billions of dol- that in almost every case,5 in one manner or another, the opti- lars per year, as discussed in Section 1.5. Without a solution mistic assumptions about the amount of capacity to be avail- to this problem, the research team would have to conclude able in 2025 were based on the intuitive belief that, as demand the 2025 capacity predictions included in the FACT 2 report grows over time, this will be matched by a voluntary pro- to be optimistic, as documented in Section 1.6. gram of up-gauging of the size of aircraft flown to the subject It is important to reiterate that the FACT 2 report (1) con- airport--a matter currently almost entirely under the control of cluded that there would be considerable capacity problems the airlines, not the airport managers. in the coastal mega-regions, even assuming the success of For example, the team had a productive interview at one the current national Next Generation Air Transportation of the most important airports in the study area, generally covering issues of airport productivity. At the end of the inter- (NextGen). This initiative centers on technologies and pro- view, one of the hosts pointed out an entire wall of architec- cedures that will boost airspace and airport capacity. A num- tural designs for additional new passenger terminals at the ber of airports are also planning airfield improvements that airport, commenting, "Up-gauging? Everything on this wall will increase capacity. However, the boosts in capacity from is based on the assumption of up-gauging! Without that, we such actions will not adequately meet all future demand at all will not need any more terminal capacity. They can't get airports in the National Airspace System (NAS). According through the runways!" to the FACT 2 report, many of the most congested airports in The best and most analytic approach to the subject comes the coastal mega-regions will continue to need additional in the development by the MITRE group of an aircraft assign- capacity to meet demand even with the capacity benefits of ment submodel as part of their comprehensive multistep NextGen. Therefore, the innovations presented in this study, process of assigning aviation trips in the 2025 forecasts. such as demand management, are vital, irrespective of the Logically, it could be argued that even this state-of-the-art capacity gains promised by NextGen or airfield improve- method is premised on the concept that airlines will, for one ments. The reader is referred to Chapter 5, which focuses on motivation or another, choose to place a given number of pas- capacity management rather than expansion. For a discussion sengers on a smaller number of aircraft. The model assumes about how NextGen issues might impact the individual air- such actions on the part of the major players in its 2025 allo- ports, see Appendix B. cation of aircraft to segments within markets. In short, when examining the possible breakdown of the 1.1.2 Four Conclusions of This Research aviation system in 2025, the research team essentially docu- mented that the breakdown at key mega-region airports was This report is structured around the presentation of the already present in the base year of 2007. In case after case, air- four main conclusions of the project. They are presented in line managers were scheduling more small planes than could the following order: 1. Under the present relationship between the airports and the 4 The airport activity summary sheets are presented in Appendix C. 5 An exception to this sentence might be the process described in Chapter 5, airlines, there is a serious lack of usable aviation capacity in where innovative work undertaken by Massport in cooperation with the FAA is the mega-regions. Chapter 1 builds the case that there is a specifically dealing with the issue of need for up-gauging of aircraft. growing problem in the mega-regions, and that the eco-