Category Archives: Transportation

T-Giving Travel Numbers Down Despite Falling Gas Prices And Improving Economy

by Categorized: Economy, Transportation Date:

Despite an improving economy and lower gasoline prices, the number of Americans expected to travel this holiday weekend is down slightly from last year and the amount they will spend is down considerably.

The annual forecast by AAA shows that 43.4 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles between Wednesday and Sunday, with the largest share — 37 percent — leaving Wednesday and about a third planning to wait until Sunday to return.

That’s down about 1.6 million travelers from 44 million people who made the trek to eat turkey 50 miles from home last year.  And in New England, according to the forecast from AAA by IHS Global Insight, the decline in number of travelers is expected to be 2.5 million.

Spending is expected to average $465, a hefty decline of 6.5 percent from last year’s predicted rate.  That’s especially odd since gas prices are down an average of 85 cents a gallon (down by 19 cents a gallon in Connecticut, to an average of $3.63 Monday).

Car travel is still the dominant mode, accounting for 90 percent, and air travel plans are down by 3.7 percent, the forecast said.

Anyone traveling on a bus could end up in one of the 42 new coaches outfitted with wifi and seat belts that were purchased in the last year by Springfield-based Peter Pan, that company announced Monday. Peter Pan said it will transport 1 million college students.

As for the rest of us, the forecast is unusual, showing an expected decline in travel amid lower gasoline prices and declining unemployment.  It points to the weakness of the recovery, AAA said.

I’d add that it shows the recovery is still not broad-based, and that lower median incomes, higher health care expenses and flat confidence trump moderately rising job totals and declining energy prices.  Come Wednesday if a storm rolls up the East Coast, we might find that weather trumps everything.

 

Bradley’s Old Terminal Has Date With Destiny

by Categorized: Real Estate, Transportation Date:

It was the heart of Bradley Field, later Bradley International Airport. It harbored the great American post-World War II transition to mass commercial flight, starting with a groundbreaking by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower 63 years ago.

Now Bradley’s Murphy Terminal has its date with destiny. It is set for demolition, starting next August — though there’s no contractor in place yet, said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority.

Cost to build it between 1950 and 1952: $2 million.

Cost to tear it down, complete with hazardous waste removal: $2 million.

Courant file photo (1983)

Courant file photo (1983)

 

Long before the tan, brick edifice closed in 2010 as the oldest active terminal of any major U.S. airport, it was the source of embarrassment for Connecticut, symbol of the aging infrastructure in a rich state with a long history.

“That’s why it is one of the most important projects for us,” Dillon said.  “Look at the deterioration of that building — that is the entry to Connecticut.”

Sturdy old Murphy Terminal remains in use today, believe it or not. It’s home to offices of the Transportation Security Administration and the state police — both of which are now being moved, Dillon said.  The building, dubbed Terminal B after the airport’s ’80s expansion, was named for Francis S. Murphy, publisher of the Hartford Times newspaper and head of the old Connecticut Aeronautics Commission.

THREE REASONS TO TEAR IT DOWN

1. End the embarrassment of having millions of visitors see a crumbling relic on their way into the state.

2. Clear the way for expansion and modernization. “The demolition in and of itself gives us the ability to realign the roadway system and pave the way at some point for a new terminal to be built there,” Dillon said.  Long before a new terminal rises, the current plans call for a consolidated rental car center where the short-term parking lot is now located in front of the terminal — perhaps by 2016.

3. Open or relocate a time capsule which, Dillon said, is supposedly next to the cornerstone. “We will certainly be very careful as we uncover that,” he said.

THREE REASONS TO RECONSIDER, AND SAVE THE TERMINAL

1. We could use it as a movie studio, with its ’50s-era control tower backdrop and plenty of paved, back-lot area for chase scenes.

2. It’s perfect for a higher-profile location of the New England Air Museum, now located around the back side of the runways.

3. We’ve torn down so much historic architecture in the past, maybe we’ll someday yearn to have Murphy back. Not likely, but possible.

Bradley Keeping Seatbelts Fastened For American-USAirways Merger

by Categorized: Aerospace, Transportation Date:

As USAirways and American Airlines prepare to merge with a federal antitrust deal in hand, all commercial airports including Bradley International are watching closely for fear of losing flights and competition.

The outlook is decent for Bradley for two reasons. First, USAirways and American don’t compete against each other in their Bradley routes, said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, which runs Bradley and five small airports. American flies to Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Dallas, while USAirways serves Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

“There would be a high likelihood that you won’t see a reduction of those flights,” Dillon said.

That’s mostly true across the country. The second good sign for Bradley is that even with the merger, Connecticut’s flagship airport would still be far more balanced than other regional airports, what Dillon calls “a healthy mix.”

Based on the current flights, the merged airline would have 28 percent of all passenger traffic at Bradley — 18 percent from USAirways and 10 percent from American. That would make it the largest airline locally, barely edging out Southwest, which has 27 percent.

Those two carriers alone are balanced, and Delta has 21 percent, while United and JetBlue add 10 percent each. The small remainder is either Air Canada or commercial charters, Dillon said.

One wild card is whether the merged airline reduces Bradley flights as a result of cutbacks elsewhere. For example, at Reagan National Airport in Washington, USAirways and American are forced to sell off “slots,” or landing rights, which are controlled at a small handful of airports.

If they give up a slot for a Hartford flight by USAirways, which has six round-trips a day to Bradley, that could mean a lost flight or more here. But it could also be good for this market if, say, JetBlue picks up those slots and adds Hartford service from Reagan National.

That move would seem to make sense since JetBlue is growing in this market, and since the current USAirways flight to Reagan National is generally very expensive, catering to business travelers.

Another concern is that while American and USAirways have 28 percent of passengers, they have a slightly larger share of flights — 32 percent — meaning they have fewer customers per flight than, for example, Southwest, which has just 20 percent of flights. That could point to the demise of less profitable trips.

And USAirways and American could give up some facilities at Bradley, where they now hold a total of six gates. That could happen even if they didn’t curtail flights, Dillon said. “Of course we like to get the rental income that comes from those gates,” he said, but a cutback would free up those gates for future use.

At the moment, Bradley has three unused gates among its 22 available, and plenty of times available for flights to be added to the existing gates. So, growth is far off.

Bottom line: Nothing is certain but Bradley has a good seat assignment going into the merger.  Just keep those belts fastened for more turbulence.

 

Metro-North Calamity Cost $62M To State Economy, But What Does That Tell Us?

by Categorized: Economic Development, Transportation Date:

It’s not surprising that the loss to the state economy totaled $62 million for the partial shutdown (there’s that phrase again) of Metro-North’s New Haven line from Sept. 25 until this past weekend due to an electrical breakdown.  That’s the conclusion of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, based on an econometric study of the spinoff effects of lost time and added costs.

Click here to see the report.

The loss, in an economy of $230 billion, amounts to the equivalent of 260 jobs in lost productivity, DECD said.  Metro-North, which is state subsidized, had lost sales of at least $2.3 million and consumers had to reallocate spending of at least $2.2 million.

Those were chump change compared with the real cost, which is an extra hour of commute time for 62,500 people. that’s where the real value is, especially fore high-priced investment bankers, and DECD economist Mark Prisloe made a point of saying the estimates are very conservative.

And that raises a question, which Joseph McGee is asking loudly: If a shutdown averaging half of Metro-North’s service for eight days costs the state hundreds of jobs worth of output, what would be the value of an upgrade of service? And why hasn’t the state tried to figure that out?

What it’s really showing us is one, how dependent we are on rail and two, how important it is,” said McGee, vice president of policy for the Business Council of Fairfield County. “The single greatest thing the state could do for economic development is to build up that rail system.”

McGee said he’s been pushing James Redeker, the state’s Department of Transportation Commissioner, to study the economic upside of high-speed rail for Metro-North, to no avail.  It takes a crisis such as the recent shutdown to squeeze numbers out of the state, apparently, just as, in McGee’s view, it took the idling of many Metro-North passenger cars in a snowstorm to prod former Gov. M. Jodi Rell to buy more.

.Crisis management is the nature of things, of course, and McGee might better knocking on the door of the Department of Economic and Community Development, the agency he ran under former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

Assuming McGee is right, that cutting, say, 15 minutes off the 46-minute trip to Grand Central from Stamford would have a huge effect on the state’s economy, the bigger question is how much would it cost and who would pay for it?  The number is clearly in the billions, but McGee says we can’t afford not to do it, considering that Long Island and New Jersey rail commutes are coming down due to huge investments, including construction of new platforms deep below Grand Central.

“We’re operating at the same speeds we were in the 1950’s,” McGee said.

It’s worth a look as an alternative to what McGee said is the idea floated by the DOT: Widening I-95 with dedicated toll lanes.