Saturday, July 05, 2008

Falling out of the sky

I come from an airline family, UAL to be specific. This goes back to my maternal grandfather who worked for UAL in the early days of its life. I have a sister who works for them now. It's scary to think I may be about to witness the end of an industry. However, as noted in this article the impact of fuel prices spiraling ever higher will make that a real probability. The fallout will be felt by the aircraft manufacturers. Boeing is headquartered here in Chicago, and while I don't know how many jobs are involved, I imagine any downsizing as revenues shrink will be keenly felt.


The North Coast said...

Cheap air travel is a luxury I will greatly miss, but I realize that it is just that, a luxury that shouldn't be subsidized by the taxpayers.

Short-hop air travel is OVER. Even with the appx. $14 Billion a year tossed directly to the air carriers, it is no longer affordable, as it is based on the availability of cheap fuel and bountiful subsidies together, for flights under 500 miles never did make economic sense.

Cheap short-haul air travel would never have been possible without the billions of dollars given to airlines in corporate subsidies every year. Never mind the additional massive subsidies to the industry in general, mainly in the form of massive and ever-expanding airport infrastructure that is never, never adequate to handle all the short-hop flights no matter how much of it you build. My personal feeling is that if we yanked the subsidies away from this most wasteful manner of travel, intercity passenger rail would blossom once again sans government assistance.

It's heartbreaking to see that our leaders are so behind the times and have their heads buried in the sand clear up to their waistlines, on the issue of airport expansion. Do they think it's still 1992, or what? Chicago's expansion plans for O'Hare ought to be iced, and immediately. Even more should the plans for an express train to O'Hare be scuttled. This is a tragic and deeply idiotic misallocation of taxpayer monies when there are so many more urgent infrastructure needs, including city streets and public transit, to be met, for which we don't know where we'll find the money.

twestgard said...

Wow, that's a sobering thought. I guess maybe the counterbalance is that, if air transportation takes a nose dive (pardon the expression), then it's likely that rail transportation will grow. So those who would otherwise have been flying a plane will be driving a locomotive instead, perhaps?

I have been thinking about all the truck drivers who are & will continue to be out of a job due to high fuel prices. Of course, as it becomes increasingly expensive to ship things by truck from overseas, it becomes increasingly cost-effective to manufacture them locally. So those people might be operating stationary machinery in an American factory, instead of operating a tractor-trailer rig.

I hope it works out that well, anyway. No matter what happens, the transition will surely be troublesome for those that have to jump it.

The North Coast said...

Well,TW, the transition will not be smooth, if only because we are proving unwilling to give up on the past 50 years' mis-investment in airport and highway infrastructure,not to mention the suburban sprawl it made possible and in which about 80% of the U.S. population lives.

The worst injury is that millions of people who never could afford either cars or air travel have been taxed to pay for this crap, while going into deep debt for cars they can't really afford,while the services they badly need just to live their lives, such as public transit, have been regulated to death and further decimated by having to subsidize their more wasteful competition.

We can already see how the drive to sustain the unsustainable at ANY COST, is costing us what narrow opportunity we have to realign our services, our life arrangements, and our economy. Because our moronic little mayor's sole focus is attracting rich businessmen and tourists, at the expense of the 2.9 million other denizens of Chicago, we will soon have neither auto or air tranport because most of us won't be able to afford all that no matter how much of our incomes are mulceted to pay for it, while the public transit and railroads we all will need to have basic transportation are not being provided because the money for those things has been allocated to wasteful, obsolete air and auto travel that only the truly rich will be able to afford on any terms in another decade.

The result will be that 98% of the population will be mostly without motorized transportation of any sort, but will be taxed brutally to pay for state-of-the-art highways, airports, and express trains to the airports.

If current trends in oil prices continue unabated for just another year, most of us won't be able to get anywhere, as it is. Thanks to the bias towards funding private autos and airlines, our public transit does not have the capacity to meet current and growing demand, and we barely even have passenger rail at all- let's hope the Shrub doesn't completely axe Amtrack just before his graceless exit from office, and let's hope McCain doesn't get elected to continue Republican policies.

As I have stated repeatedly in many other forums, my dream would be to, stage by stage, totally defund all transportation and let the user be the only payor. The government's incredible power to misallocate vast amounts of money and direct it to things that benefit private users at the expense of the public, and to the detriment of the efforts of individuals to make the fine-tuned responses in response to market conditions that present themselves, is proving very destructive to us at this critical juncture.