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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Airport Expansions - Carte Blanche

Anyone who follows rail, and in fact most transit in general knows that any proposal involving tax monies receives a lot of backlash.

"How dare we spend so much money on a train to nowhere, or on an empty bus!"

Except of course when we talk about air transit. It seems as if airports have found a way to avoid any criticism when it comes to dumping money into them (although of course they get criticized when it comes to noise).


Take Sacramento International:

In what Sacramento International Airport officials called a milestone moment, crews hoisted the first of two automated people mover vehicles onto an elevated guideway Thursday morning as part of the airport's $1 billion expansion program.

$1 billion is a good amount, and that's just an expansion. Who knows how much has been spent to get the airport to the condition it is today?

So how many people get to benefit from this mass infusion of money?
4,455,817 boarded airplanes at the airport in 2009.

 That's 12,208 passengers a day.

Individual bus lines in cities like San Francisco regularly carry more than 12,208 people a day. Can you imagine a single bus route getting  a $1 billion expansion?

Let's just look at an even smaller chunk of that:

The new buildings and $30 million people mover system are expected to open this fall, replacing the outdated Terminal B complex. Officials said the electric vehicles will travel at 22 miles per hour on a curving track that runs about the length of three football fields. The 50-second trip will take passengers to the federal security checkpoints in the concourse building.
$30 million for an automated transit system, that at most, will see 25,000 riders a day (boardings and arrivals), and that's assuming everyone needs to ride it to get to their gate (I'm not familiar with the new layout). 

"It's a highly sophisticated system," airport director Hardy Acree said. As well, "it's a fun ride."
I'm sure it is a fun ride, but surely that money could have gone somewhere with more riders? Sacramento's very own light rail system sees 50,000 riders a day. I'm sure they could use $30 million. 

In fact:

Before the June 2010 budget cuts, RT light rail formerly operated from 4:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily with 15 minute headways during the day. After the budget cuts took place, it was curtailed to operate from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with service every 15 minutes in the day Monday through Friday and every 30 minutes on weekends and every night.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramento_light_rail#Light_rail

I'm sure $1billion could have done wonders for Sacramento's light rail system.

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