Saturday, April 2, 2011

City Council, April 4 - Air Subsidies and the Sustainable City

Should a sustainable city subsidize air travel?

On Monday in a special meeting, City Council considers Seaport's wish to offer commuter air service in Salem. According to the staff report,
The primary market Seaport is targeting is business travelers from Salem to Seattle. Results form an informal polling of Chamber of Commerce and SEDCOR members show strong support with a majority of respondents indicating they would be likely to use the service, depending on price.
Last month, Seaport discontinued service in Astoria.
In a move that came as no surprise to many, SeaPort Airlines announced last week it is ending flights between Astoria and Portland on March 12 when $4.5 million in state and federal subsidies run out....Astoria passenger loads never averaged much above three passengers per flight on SeaPort's nine-seat planes. In recent months, Astoria averaged about two passengers a trip.
Now it's Salem's turn.

According to the Oregon Business Journal,
Seaport President Rob McKinney says the service will probably begin with two daily flights, and will be completely unsubsidized.
The City, however, proposes a number of small subsidies:
The dollar amounts are not large at the moment, and perhaps it is not useful to make too much of this. But if you think that rail is significantly more sustainable than air travel, what sense does it make to continue to chase after air service?

(Additionally, when someone complains about the number of people who use bike lanes or other bike facilities, it is perhaps useful to recall the $4.5M spent on 3 passengers per flight. It's hard to think of any bike facility that expensive with such a low usage. Hundreds of people use the Union Street Railroad Bridge every day, for example, and it won't be long before its daily use is measured in thousands!)

1 comment:

Brandon Filbert said...

Excellent points in this post. When gas gets to $5 a gallon, perhaps we won't have to make such obvious points to political leadership. For now, though, it is necessary.