Greater Greater Washington

Should DCA's role in the region change?

US Airways is merging with American Airlines, and will then control most of DCA airport's flights. Should it have to give up slots? What will that mean for small communities? Moreover, should DCA grow? How?


Photo by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

Last week, US Airways CEO Doug Parker testified before Congress about his pending merger with American. US Airways already is the dominant airline at DCA, and combined with American, will control 68% of the slots and 49% of passenger traffic.

Beyond the questions about what's good for airfares and the aviation industry, what happens at DCA has a big effect on our region. The airport is far easier to reach from most central urban and suburban neighborhoods, where more and more people are living. If the region is growing in the core, should air travel grow there as well? How?

Everyone wants slots

DCA is one of only a few airports in the nation where regulations limit the number of flights. Carriers own "slots" which give them rights to one takeoff or landing per day. There are also limits on how many flights can operate in each hour.

These slots are extremely valuable, since many people will pay more to fly from convenient DCA instead of more distant (for most people) Dulles or BWI. JetBlue recently paid $40 million for slots to run 8 daily round trips.

Furthermore, DCA has a perimeter rule limiting most flights to cities no more than 1,250 miles away (far enough to get to Dallas but not Austin). There are a limited number of exceptions, including some Congress added last year, which gave us new flights from DCA to San Francisco, Portland, San Diego, Austin, and San Juan, as well as more flights to Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, which already had exemptions.

The Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Justice could require the combined airline to give up some DCA slots as part of a merger. United and Continental had to do this at Newark, for instance. However, US Airways currently uses many of its slots to fly to small cities around the East Coast. When JetBlue bought those 8 round trips, it didn't do that; it added flights to Boston and Florida.

CEO Doug Parker, therefore, has been arguing that if his airline has to divest slots, other airlines will simply use them to fly to big cities that already have a lot of service. That will likely lower fares to those cities, but remove options to other cities. Some members of Congress sent a letter asking for US Airways/American to keep its slots so that their small communities can keep their flights.

What is the role of DCA?

This debate raises several important questions about how DCA fits into the region. It's the most convenient airport for the greatest number of residents, while Dulles and BWI take longer to reach. Therefore, there's some logic to the idea that short flights should leave from DCA, while the trek to a farther airport isn't such a burden if the flight itself is longer as well.

Also, being most convenient, perhaps it makes sense to prioritize coverage over price. Price-sensitive flyers can go to BWI, where Southwest has a huge operation, and where other airlines' fares are also generally lower.

Still, as the region grows in the core, it makes sense to think about how DCA could grow as well. Passenger traffic has grown 5.5%, while Dulles lost 6.4% of its traffic. Some of that is the rest of the new beyond-perimeter flights. Clearly, more people would rather fly from DCA. When the Silver Line opens, it might shift some more passengers to Dulles.

DCA has many limits on its size. With only one long-ish runway, it can't handle large numbers of planes at once. Nothing is going to change that. It also has a legal cap on the number of gates, as well as the slot restrictions. Some of that placates Arlington, which has to cope with the noise from planes. On the other hand, those restrictions came about at a time that planes were much noisier than they are today.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has been primarily investing in Dulles Airport, with the newish AeroTrain, the Silver Line, and roadway projects. Ever since Dulles opened and the DCA perimeter went into effect, there's been a general policy of trying to shift traffic there.

Make DCA bigger?

Should the region still try to build up Dulles and BWI and keep a lid on DCA? Just as letting the region's core grow is more economically efficient and better for mobility, so is helping more people use the central airport. More planes can't easily fly in and out of DCA, but they could be larger planes, if MWAA wanted to, and legally could, invest in more gates and more security screening capacity.

One slot can go to a plane of any size that fits at DCA, but many US Airways flights are on small regional jets which flyers reach by shuttle bus. That's why the combined airline would only have half the airport's passengers but 2/3 of the flights. With enough gate space, larger planes could use those slots and carry more people.

However, larger planes have to go to larger cities. US Airways flies so many small planes now because they match the level of demand. There's particularly strong demand beyond the perimeter, and if the rule didn't exist many more flights would be going to the west, but the rule is there to keep that demand at Dulles and BWI instead.

Which brings us back to the same central question: should DCA be a sort of niche airport with smaller planes to many little destinations, or an airport that tries to serve as much of the travel demand, close in to the center of the region, as possible? There's no obvious answer.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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I never understood the argument that we need to keep extra service to small cities. Isn't that what connections are for? Why have direct flights to Tulsa but not Denver (or whatever the blacked out cities are)? If anything DCA should connect to major cities and those cities should connect to more local airports.

by Alan B. on Jun 25, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

Get congress as much out of the scene as possible. Not likely, but one can only hope.

by spookiness on Jun 25, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

DCI = Ronald Reagan National Airport. The avoidance of its proper name is conspicuous: it's name is a reminder that it is micromanaged by Congress, for better or worse.

by goldfish on Jun 25, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

Improvement number 1: Create a Metro express train from Metro Center to National that runs once an hour or something. It really reduces the convenience of Metro access if you have to stop at every single station.

by Chris S. on Jun 25, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

Oh good stop being so bombastic. DCA (not DCI by the way) is just a shorter way of saying National, just like we say IAD or Dulles, or BWI or JFK or LAX or whatever.

by Alan B. on Jun 25, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

DCA = "(George) Washington National Airport". Political partisans can play games all they like, but that doesn't mean normal folk are required to follow like sheep.

by oboe on Jun 25, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@Alan B.

DCA is a hub airport for US Airways, that's why it connects to smaller cities mainly on the East Coast. DCA does have nonstops (albeit limited) to Denver on United and Frontier.

by js on Jun 25, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

I didn't talk about "Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport" either, but I have nothing against Mr. Marshall. I just think of them as DCA, BWI, and Dulles (Dulles is faster to say/think than Eye Eh Dee).

by David Alpert on Jun 25, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Its Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Please do not disrespect our first president by omitting his name. Otherwise DCA is fine as shorthand because it eliminates the mouthful of the formal name, which really should be "Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport" since you can fly to other countries out of it.

by spookiness on Jun 25, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

FWIW, most of the planes being flown domestically can land and take off at DCA without runway modifications. Flights by the planes that can't land at DCA (without accommodations), such as 767, 777, 747, and larger Airbus models, generally aren't used on domestic routes.

I would drop the perimeter rule and drop the subsidies for flights to small towns - if there's a business justification for such flights, they should stand/fall on their own.

by ah on Jun 25, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

So much for thoughtful discourse. Instead the same old childish, petty discussion of airport names.

by MTL on Jun 25, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

many people will pay more to fly from convenient DCA instead of more distant (for most people) Dulles or BWI.

I am calling DC-centric view on this. DCA carries slightly less than 1/3 of the passengers in the area. More than 2/3rds of passengers do not pay to fly from DCA, but happily use BWI of IAD, which both carry more passengers than DCA.

by Jasper on Jun 25, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

David,

I disagree with the implication that airlines fly to small cities from DCA "because they match the level of demand" or because some members of Congress want it. Most airlines fly to most smaller airports only because of massive government subsidies.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/15/travel/endangered-airports/

Not saying we should eliminate all flights to small communities but at DCA, where space it is at a premium, we should maximize its utility and perhaps move some of those flights to Dulles, where they have ample space.

by Randall M. on Jun 25, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

DCA is a hub airport for US Airways.

It's not really a hub.

Most hubs involve large volumes of transfer traffic, and DCA has little of that. US Air's big hubs on the East Coast are in Charlotte and Philly. The merger with American adds JFK as a hub, but DCA is not set up to accomodate the flight volume or passenger transfers to replace either one of those. It is attractive because it has a lot of O/D passengers. US Air has some limited flights that transfer passengers at DCA, but most of that kind of passenger traffic will be routed elsewhere.

The remarkable thing about DCA is how much traffic is to other locations within the NEC. Expand high speed rail along the NEC, extend electrification into Virginia (onto Richmond?) and you can extend Amtrak service to a rebuilt Crystal City/DCA rail station. With faster travel times, trains should grab most of the market share at DCA for intra-NEC travel, allowing the airport to focus on longer hauls.

They can abandon the perimiter rule and replace it with an actual noise rule. Alaska Airlines operates transcontinental flights from DCA with 737-800s that are far quieter than American's old DC-9s and MD-80s.

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

It was always just "National" before the RR silliness. "DCA" is the airport code, not an actual place name.

by Chris S. on Jun 25, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

It's the most convenient airport for the greatest number of residents, while Dulles and BWI take longer to reach.

Also DC-centric. People in Baltimore will pay extra to fly from BWI. People from Herndon will pay extra to fly from IAD. Most people in Greater Washington do not live in DC, Arlington and Alexandria. Most people in the Greater Washington area live in Fairfax, MoCo and PG. They have in fact strong incentives to fly from IAD or BWI. Parking rates and lack of metro to DCA (from their home) is one of them. Furthermore, IAD is getting its own metro line, so it will become much more competitive in that aspect.

by Jasper on Jun 25, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

It's important to note that DCA does have widebody capability albeit with weight restrictions. It can handle 767 and 787s, although 777 and 747s couldn't do it. I'm not saying airlines should or would use widebodies, but Delta has used them in the past (767s to ATL) so they can make sense under certain cituations to hubs for the legacies. IDK about transcons though.

That being said, even with all of the extra rights that DCA owns (The majority of the airport's land is actually under water) I don't think the airport should be expanded. I think convenience to Dulles should be improved, as in the long run that airport has room for much more expansion and is the more sustainable option as a transit hub for the region.

by Dan on Jun 25, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

Yes, we should maximize usage of DCA. I think noise is the primary justification for restraining potential traffic? You said modern planes are quieter, but does the current fleet have enough variation of noise levels that you could allow only quieter planes? Do larger planes tend to be noisier?

Metro access trumps physical distance, so DCA will remain the favored airport until the Silver Line hits Dulles. And especially for flights arriving late at night! There have been suggestions to extend the Green Line to BWI. Greater access to the other airports would help lesson the strain on DCA.

by Michael on Jun 25, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

Flights by the planes that can't land at DCA (without accommodations), such as 767, 777, 747, and larger Airbus models, generally aren't used on domestic routes.

Delta did operate some commercial 767 flights from ATL to DCA prior to Obama's first innagural. Boeing also brought the 787 through DCA on its tour. In 1998, a DC-10 got shut out of landing and BWI and IAD due to weather and was forced to make an emergecy landing at DCA.

The shortcomings to doing so on a permanent basis are that DCA would need some taxiway widening to accomodate the wider wingspan. Also, the runways at DCA are long enough to accomodate widebody planes with less than a full load of fuel, but a full fuel load limits the range of the flight.

There are a lot more ways for the airlines to make better use of existing slots before they'll resort to using widebodies

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

Randall: I wasn't saying they fly to small cities because it matches the level of demand, I'm saying they fly small planes because of that. You don't want to fly a 737 if you can only fill a 75-seat regional jet because it takes a lot more fuel to fly a 737. If it's full of paying customers, it's more cost-effective, but not if there aren't a couple hundred people a day who want to fly there.

But those subsidies you are talking about are the "Essential Air Service" (EAS) program which is for flights to very, very small places that are very remote. The US Airways flights from DCA are not these. I don't think there are any EAS flights from DCA.

The flights we're talking about are flights to Columbus, Ohio or Bangor, Maine or Birmingham, Alabama or Buffalo, New York or Pensacola, Florida. These aren't nowheresville, they're real cities that are pretty important, but are definitely smaller, regional centers. These aren't subsidized, except insofar as US Airways sort of has a monopoly on the route because it has so many slots at DCA.

We don't know really which ones would go away if US Airways had to divest slots. Maybe none and they would just take flights from Chicago and Philadelphia and Charlotte, or maybe a lot of the small cities would go. US Airways clearly makes money on those routes or it wouldn't fly them now, but one question is, if it had to cut a few, which would it be?

by David Alpert on Jun 25, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

@Dan: I tend to agree: I think it's time to maybe consider making Dulles easier to access. A Metro line is fine, for a start...but that's going to have problems all its own. (I won't be taking the Metro to Dulles, for instance. I live south of Huntington - I'd have to come into town just to make the transfer.) Besides, there's a ton of potential for expansion at Dulles, as opposed to DCA.

Regarding the Green Line to BWI: personally, I think that's extending the Metro system too far away from the core. I'd much rather they consider expanding MARC service at the airport.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 25, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

I believe many of the slots US Airways now has at DCA are the result of a "slot swap" a few years ago with Delta Air Lines. Delta gained slots at New York-LGA (which is now a DL hub) and US gained some of DL's slots at DCA (and some other DCA slots were made available to other airlines). I agree with the post above, the airlines should best determine their markets. Small cities can be served via BWI or Dulles. Most "small cities" only have service to airline hubs anyway.

by Transport. on Jun 25, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

I think upgauging at DCA would be a good idea because new airplanes (with new engines) have both quieter wing designs and quieter engines that planes designed in the 80s and earlier. For instance, the 757 and its uniquely impressive wake turbulance are a lot louder than a 787 (at least from my planespotting experience). 757s fly into DCA everyday whereas 787s do not. Of course airlines aren't going to just upgauge unless if the load factors suggest that it would be advantageous, but seeing as how DCA isnt a true hub, I think airlines like Delta and AA/US might like to use smaller widebodies to get people from DCA to their hubs in neighboring regions.

by Dan on Jun 25, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

@Jasper,
The fact that 30% of passengers fly from little DCA with its higher prices and arbitrary destination restrictions is actually evidence of strong demand at DCA. Also: "happily use BWI or IAD"? How do you know whether they are happy about it? There are obviously a matrix of factors that influence what airport people fly from. Just because they fly from IAD doesn't mean that they wouldn't prefer to fly from DCA.

Regarding the main point, I'm skeptical that US Airways should have to give up slots. Are there not plenty of airports where one carrier dominates slots at least to the same extent? If US Airways can carry on as before then there is nothing to talk about-- apart from the perimeter rule, which should go.

by renegade09 on Jun 25, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

@oboe: Political partisans can play games all they like...

You missed the point: the Congressional partisans control the airport, and it is important that we recognize this, for no other reason than for our own understanding of who the "stakeholders" REALLY are.

BTW, most people in the hinterlands call it "Reagan airport" -- "Washington" is optional -- and not "DCA".

by goldfish on Jun 25, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

@Ser Amantio di Nicolao yeah, I know people at MWAA and WMATA and neither of them expect a huge impact on O/D at IAD because of the silver line (rightfully or not) they mostly expect employees to take it out there, or at least a larger percentage. They hope this is true so that more people will work out there and it will be more affordable for TSA and DHS to staff both security and customs/INS lanes.

Dulles has the capacity to handle up to 60 million people per year when they build a new south terminal and the tier II (C/D) and tier III (E/F) concourses. If more O/D goes to IAD a second airline may even be interested in stripping IAD of the United Fortress hub designation, making it even more attractive to fly out of Dulles because of increased competition. It's obviously tought for people who live where Ser Amantio di Nicolao does because DCA is so close to Huntington, but as the region continues to grow, DCA isn't gonna be the answer, and only so much can be done there, on one runway effectively.

by Dan on Jun 25, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

Before MWAA even thinks about expanding DCA, it needs to get together with United to replace IAD's awful "temporary" C/D concourse with a permanent facility on top of the existing Aerotrain stop. (You know, like what you see in the pretty renderings of this planned facility that taunt you when you exit the train and begin the hike up to C/D.)

Also, what Alex B. said about shifting shorter East Coast routes to rail.

by Rob Pegoraro on Jun 25, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

I call it "National Airport" or "National."

And yes, the reason it flies to a bazillion little places is because congress pulls the strings on where the planes go.

National is so much more convenient if you are in DC and don't have a car. I use BWI some as well but almost never use Dulles if I can help it.

by MLD on Jun 25, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Re: taking Metro to Dulles - I live in the core and won't ever use it. The Silver Line was a stupid, stupid idea (rail to Dulles is a great idea, but should have been done by building a VRE line from USta to Crystal City to Dulles, with fewer stops in exurbia). Even if/when it's completed, it makes more sense to go to DCA or BWI.

Expanded capacity at DCA would be great for these reasons - though I'm not sure about its actual capacity to handle larger flights. My understanding is that the approach and short runway make landing a bit of a trick even now (I'm no kind of expert, but this post by an AA pilot is pretty terrifying: http://jethead.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/why-you-should-never-fly-into-washington-national-airport/).

by Eponymous on Jun 25, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

You missed the point: the Congressional partisans control the airport, and it is important that we recognize this, for no other reason than for our own understanding of who the "stakeholders" REALLY are.

Not sure I understand the point even now that you've "explained" it.

by oboe on Jun 25, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

Naming the airport after Reagan was a petty partisan jab at the time. Naming the enormous building downtown after Reagan was unintential irony.

His place in history is secure, and I will gladly grant him that. I don't have to pander to those who used his name for their own venal ends.

by Crickey7 on Jun 25, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

David:

Cool, thanks for the clarification. Still, I agree with Ser Amantio di Nicolao and Alex B. in that as we make better connections with BWI and Dulles, more regional flights should depart and arrive at those airports.

I've always thought VRE should go to Dulles or at a minimum some sort of express service that bypasses most of the Orange line stations (pipe dream). With weekend and late night service on MARC, BWI will likely look more appealing.

I really like that multimodal Crystal City DCA VRE/MARC Station Alex B. suggested.

by Randall M. on Jun 25, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

@ Dan

I am wondering if the US/AA merger will quicken the expiration date of the biggest noise contributor to DCA, the MD80/90. Both take-off and reverse thrustsers put out a ton of noise.

by RJ on Jun 25, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

@Chris S. - Metro can't run express trains because our Metro is a two track system.

1) DCA should base its restrictions on noise. This would push airlines to more fuel efficient equipment - Boeing!

2) US Airways/Continental should be forced to sell off slots and those slots should support the buyers business. Philly and Charlotte can serve perfectly fine as hubs for smaller cities on the Atlantic seaboard.

3) Maryland needs to improve Rail service/access to BWI. If frequency was increased and access to/from BWI to rail was improved BWI would be more convenient. The more convenient BWI and Dulles become the more airlines compete and fares will favor DCA less.

So congress if you want to help DC air travelers start with trains - stay away from DCA except on Thursdays when you head home.

by andy2 on Jun 25, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

@Eponymous: The Silver Line is a great idea...for Tysons. Who will, I suspect, benefit mightily from it once it's opened. The Dulles stop feels like an afterthought, though, and is being treated as one. Hopefully once the Silver Line is finished they'll think about making the stop something worth talking about.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 25, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Re: BWI. I hate that trek, either on the B-W or trying to find a MARC, which doesn't run on weekends. Add at least 90 minutes to the planning. However, Luv (Southwest) has some great policies on baggage and changing flights, so I will stick with them the majority of the time.

Re: IAD. It might as well be on Mars for all I care. I'll take the connecting flight from DCA before trekking to Dulles for the non-stop. The new terminal layout with the trains adds too much extra time. I took my daughter there for a 6 am flight; we arrived at 5 am and she barely made it.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

Offhand, I think Amtrak is thinking of an HSR stop at PHL airport, I wonder if that would take some of the weight off of DCs current airports (assuming the HSR ever gets built).

Since I don't have a car my experience might be a little slanted but personally, I don't find DCA is so much better than BWI if you're starting in Columbia Heights.

by Steve S. on Jun 25, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

I'm with Aargh_Street. My problem with Dulles is less that it's like it's on Mars, but rather that it's like the terminal is on Mars and the planes are on Jupiter. And long lines for understaffed TSA checkpoints are in the asteroid belt in between.

by David Alpert on Jun 25, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

Don't forget who now has their foot in the door. Southwest. Their track record speaks for itself. Once they get a foothold, they soon take over, I wouldn't be surprise if SW was #2 or #3 airline in 5 years at DCA. And don't forget who has the most Congressional representation in their home state.

Southwest: Texas
AA/USair: Texas
Delta/Northwest: Georgia
United/Continental: Illinois

by RJ on Jun 25, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

I agree with Alex B. We need to think of DCA in terms of competition between airports and other modes of transportation. A more efficient passenger rail system in the US could eliminate the need for shorter flights to smaller cities.

by JohnB on Jun 25, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

@by andy2

Continental is now United. and USair will be 100% AA.

by RJ on Jun 25, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

Technically, US Airways calls DCA a focus city.

Mandating AA/US give up slots would simply mean more frequency on EXISTING routes via another airline provided the slots are not "special mandated routes" that an airline will have to fly. UA would fly additional frequencies to Chicago, Houston or Newark just as Jetblue would add additional capacity to Florida, Boston, or New York. While it will cost more to fly out of DCA once AA/US merge, I am betting they are going to keep direct service which equates to less connections. Less connections equates to less time spent in airports and waiting.

I am happy to give AA/US an extra $100 for a direct flight and spare myself the hour cab ride and $80 buck fare to to Baltimore or Dulles.

by Sherman Circle on Jun 25, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

What do people think about ultimately, say in 30-40 years, closing and redeveloping DCA? I'm not necessarily advocating for that; I'm just curious what people think of the idea, given it's such an ideal location for really significant density.

by BeyondDC on Jun 25, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

Stage 3 noise requirements will go into effect in 2016, causing airlines to retire the older Stage 2 aircraft, such as the older non-hushkit MD80s (717s). That will be very noticeable for the residents of Arlington and especially Alexandria.

The issue with slots is thorny, as airlines have taken to using them as assets. If the FAA decides to modify or abolish the slot regime, that will have an immediate effect on airline's balance sheets. Unfortunately, the slots are also anti-competitive, as is obvious from the lack of new entrants in the DCA market.

Given that, it is absurd that US/AA would be allowed to consummate their marriage without divesting some of those slots.

On the West Coast, there is a great frequency in the LAX-SFO market, mostly controlled by Southwest. It is unfortunate we don't have that here in DCA-NYC-BOS (by NYC I mean any of the three airports there). Amtrak is really the best public transit option, and it's expensive, especially when compared to Luv's fares on the west coast. If there were some way to take the old US and DL Shuttle routes and turn them into a low-cost walk-up fare operation, it would be wonderful.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC: I think it's too far out to really have any idea.

If Dulles and BWI can shoulder more traffic? And if it's possible to get into town with minimal trouble from either? Possibly. But that's an outside possibility. Frankly, I suspect DCA is going to be around for a long while yet.

(For the record: I've never had any trouble with the TSA lines LEAVING Dulles. It's the Customs lines coming in that really get my goat. And I don't believe Dulles is going to ever approach being a world-class airport until they ensure that the arrival restrooms are clean. I'm not entirely joking, actually.)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 25, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

In reality, the most efficient use of DCA would be to shut the airport down and turn the land over for TOD development (be it rail or Metro) as was done when DEN was opened. It would certainly alleviate some affordable housing issues. After 9/11, I am actually surprised DCA wasn't closed for security reasons. but, I guess congress loves their easy, short trips to the airport.

Regardless, DCA should not be allowed to expand or be allowed to have an increase in long haul flights. I live along the flight path and if you don't think I can tell the difference when a bigger plane (even if allegedly quieter) plane takes off, you are dreaming. Any expansion or allowance of bigger planes to take off should correspond directly to reduce landing and take-off times. I don't mind the flights during the day but those 6:01 AM take-offs and 11:30 PM landings of the wide-bodied planes are brutal.

by Burger on Jun 25, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Re: noise. One reason it makes sense to restrict DCA/Reagan traffic based on noise is that, while it's true that *some* newer, larger aircraft are quieter than *some* older, smaller aircraft, other flights (esp. to smaller cities) are handled by regional jets with low noise profiles. And, actually, USAirways flies a number of routes using range-limited turboprop aircraft that are quieter still. Replacing those with louder aircraft would not be favorable from a noise perspective.

As office towers in Rosslyn get larger and redevelopment plans in Crystal City continue to evolve (that may also bring taller buildings and greater density), larger planes also make me nervous given this region's aviation history (Air Florida and Frank Corder, not just Hani Hanjoor, et al.).

by Bitter Brew on Jun 25, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

Its too hard to say what the HSR situation will look like in 2040. Time to Boston by HSR? ANY HSR to Chicago?

IF you can develop that land, you can probably finance an express route on I66 in arlington to bypass the Orange line stations between EFC and Rosslyn, and probably better transit to BWI.

Also no airport means removing a limit on height in Crystal City, does it not?

Plus losing the noise is good for Old Town Alexandria.

OTOH I dont know what demand for TOD will look like in 2040. Will DC have changed the height limit, and how? What will be the pace of Tysons build out - etc, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

Talk about wide-body service in or out of National is beside the point. It usually makes more economic sense to split up your capacity among narrow-body planes to allow for more frequent service--hence you've got 10 United non-stops from IAD to SFO today, none on anything bigger than a 757-200.

(FYI to Burger: There is no wide-body service at National. The noisiest planes there, as others have mentioned, are AA and Delta's MD-80s--the long, thin planes with a T-tail and two engines below that. A wide-body 787 is quieter than just about anything flying out of National today; I know that because I biked out to Gravelly Point to see the Boeing demo flight's departure.)

by Rob Pegoraro on Jun 25, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

If Congress is going to have a heavy hand in DCA's operation it should ban flights from DCA to JFK, EWR and LGA. It is stupid to waste precious slots on flights the train serves better.

Throw PHL into the conversations as well.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 25, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

DCA will never be closed down. If it survived 9/11, it's immortal.

But should it expand? I don't see a lot of room for that. Longer runways would require building into the river, but even the cross runways are long enough for most jet operations.

Terminal capacity at the north end has filled up nicely since the rebuild of the late 90s. There's no room to grow there. The south end has some elbow room. The iconic center terminal is probably off-limits to development given its architectural status.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

The 787 is too expensive up front to make sense for anything in the short to mid range routes. It was designed for trans pacific and just because it is quiet doesn't mean it makes economic sense for DCA.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 25, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

US just pulled out of LaGuardia in a swap with Delta for those spots they use for short-hops. Flying those Congresscritters home is important (to the Congresscritters) and they will safeguard US's slots for their hometowns.

Just as with the Congressional parking lot at DCA, rationality won't win this debate.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 25, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

@Richard Bourne yeah I can't think of any regular situations that would warrant an airline dedicating one to a DCA route.

by Dan on Jun 25, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

Nothing will happen at DCA without the consent of interested Congresspeople and Senators. That is just how it works out for DCA and it is a unique airport.

by Dorita on Jun 25, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@burger "I live along the flight path and if you don't think I can tell the difference when a bigger plane (even if allegedly quieter) plane takes off, you are dreaming. Any expansion or allowance of bigger planes to take off should correspond directly to reduce landing and take-off times. I don't mind the flights during the day but those 6:01 AM take-offs and 11:30 PM landings of the wide-bodied planes are brutal."

Note that "bigger plane" does not necessarily mean long-haul; 737s and 320 are used on routes up to and over 3000 nm. Also bigger does not necessarily mean louder. There may be larger engines with greater thrust, but the overall noise is a factor of construction.

Also, there are no wide-bodies at DCA.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

Throw PHL into the conversations as well.

Except PHL is a hub for USAirways.

by dcd on Jun 25, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

While we are talking about Metro access to airports, how about Metro creating some luggage storage space on the trains? It's a real pain trying to ride with a full-sized suitcase during rush hour with people crowded all around and glaring at you for blocking their way. On the Tokyo airport express train for example there is some storage space at the end of each car where you can use a combination lock/cable to secure your suitcase.

by Chris S. on Jun 25, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Agree with Alex B. and Richard B.

I looked it up a few years ago and almost 50% of the departure gates at DCA were taken up by commuter flights to New York and Boston. That's ridiculous. With real high-speed rail, both trips could be made in at least the same amount of time and with less hassle (especially when trying to get into Manhattan from Queens).

by Adam L on Jun 25, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

The argument that DCA would lose service to small cities if American were forced to divest slots is disingenuous. US Airways serves those small cities now because DCA is a hub for them, and American's service is to larger cities (correct?). They just want to be able to avoid getting a new competitor

by Omar on Jun 25, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

"I looked it up a few years ago and almost 50% of the departure gates at DCA were taken up by commuter flights to New York and Boston."

Wait a minute, whuuuuut?? Half of the gates were dedicated to LGA and BOS? I really highly doubt that.

US and DL both operated Shuttles (which were at one time or another, Eastern, Pan Am, Trump, and whatever else). Those operations used at most two gates out of the 30-some there.

Both Shuttles had hourly departures. Considering the number of other flights there, there's no way either frequencies or gates could approach anywhere near 50%. And I don't think emplanements could, either.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC - I always thought that after 9/11 they would move DCA out to Andrews and then repurpose the airport.

by Sam on Jun 25, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

"This debate raises several important questions about how DCA fits into the region. It's the most convenient airport for the greatest number of residents, while Dulles and BWI take longer to reach."

While it's the most convenient for me and others who live downtown or in Arlington and Alexandria, I wouldn't make the assumption that it's the most convenient airport to the greatest number of residents. Our statistical metro area (including Baltimore) is something like 7 million people. DC has only 600,000 of these people. Even adding in those in Arlington and Alexandria who are closer timewise to National than to BWI or IAD, won't get you to a million. And it there's more than geographical distance involved. I think you'll find that even people living in MoCo will chose to drive to Dulles or BWI than buck the traffic through DC. I follow your assumptions are based on experience that probably doesn't include driving a car regular. Bt such users are a tiny minority overall in the metro area as a whole and not at all representative of 'the greatest number of residents'.

by A neighbor on Jun 25, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

I can't see DCA closing down. It goes from a 20-40 minute trip from most metro stations in the core to a 1 or 1.5 hour trip on the Silver Line? Maybe in the long term if we get HSR with a stop at BWI but other than that I dont see it. You've got well over a million people for whom that is the closest airport by a significant measure. Plus I'm sure the local business associations don't want to lose it.

by Alan B. on Jun 25, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

If I were going from MoCo to DC I wouldnt go through DC, Id to beltway to the GW Parkway. How that compares to Dulles will depend on traffic conditions.

for folks in south east fairfax DCA is a lot closer than IAD, and for many folks in the southern part of inside the beltway FFX. Im not sure for the eastern PWC and stafford folks.

And the folks in western PG and Charles may find DCA at least as convenient as BWI.

And I assume DA was talking the MSA, not the CSA. So its not 7 million people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

Also for solo travelers who don't want to leave a car in storage, good access to transit saves $50-$150 in cab rides.

by Alan B. on Jun 25, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

Of course an airport downtown is an ultimate bad use of urban real estate. (So is the Pentagon).

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 25, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

I always thought that after 9/11 they would move DCA out to Andrews and then repurpose the airport.

I agree, and they should have done it -- in conjunction with some way to get there via Metro.

I looked it up a few years ago and almost 50% of the departure gates at DCA were taken up by commuter flights to New York and Boston... With real high-speed rail, both trips could be made in at least the same amount of time.

Not to Boston, under any realistic HSR scenario. My last trip to Boston via air, from downtown DC: left my office 12:30 p.m. for a 1:30 flight, 15 minute trip to DCA, had time to visit Five Guys after security, landed in Boston a little before 3, and was in Cambridge by twenty after 3.

Even under the $120 billion (more like $250 billion, but I digress) Amtrak plan, there's no way that trip happens in less than 4-4.5 hours. NYC and inclement weather is where the time savings is, not BOS under ordinary conditions.

by Bitter Brew on Jun 25, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Let me add my voice to the chorus saying that regional travel should be by train. It's ridiculously inefficient to reserve limited slots at National for flights to small nearby cities. Air travel is more efficient for longer trips, and US Airways should have to give up slots in order to promote competition on those routes.

by alurin on Jun 25, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Silver Line service to IAD will be a boon to the airport, as more people from Maryland and DC will be willing to go there. United's bankruptcy and their ambivalence about Dulles (smallest hub and never profitable) has kept C/D from being replaced. Now that they're in better shape, they may decide whether to kae the investment or whether to give more emphasis to EWR as an East Coast hub--flights through EWR often are cheaper than those out of Dulles. United has a huge shuttle operation out of IAD and I'd worry more about the future of that more than the impact of the US/AA merger.

Most DCA flights are to hubs, other than the USAir flights and even they use Charlotte and Philly to a greater degree. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Philly is in greater danger of a downgrade given American's presence in NY (their one time HQ).

BWI's price advantage is limited or non-existent more often than you'd imagine, esp. for long haul flights. Still, if Maryland had weekend rail service that included BWI, they would attract more DC area customers. Even increased Metro service would be better, esp. if they found more convenient 9and less emphysema inducing pickup sites at the airport).

Any effort to close DCA would not only be opposed by Congress but also by various close-in constituencies. It's one of the few close-in airports that's survived as a major commercial destination.

by Rich on Jun 25, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

People keep suggesting using rail to get to NY instead of flying, but a lot of those flights are people connecting to distant (often international) destinations. Unless the train goes directly to the airport, that isn't really a convenient option.

by Chris S. on Jun 25, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

Andrews is an interesting idea but given all the closures/consolidations in the past 10 years is there much chance that it will be closing? It wouldn't be that expensive to extend the Green line from Branch Ave, even if they had to tunnel.

Do we have any indication that Arlington and Alexandria want to airport to leave thoug? I imagine it's seen as an asset apart from local residents (understandable) complaints.

by Alan B. on Jun 25, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

The default should be a market and competition based approach, although sometimes markets fail to serve the public interest in which case they need to be managed/regulated by the government. In the case of DCA slots, the supposed public interest reason for not taking a competition-based approach is to preserve access to small cities. But, I don't see how that's clearly and universally more in the public interest than providing more frequent service to the cities people want to fly to the most.

Since there's no compelling reason to take a managed approach, government should foster normal competition at DCA. Fostering competition means ensuring that American/USAir does not have monopoly/oligopoly power and forcing them to divest some slots so there is greater competition.

As for expanding service, the principle behind the deal to limit flights from DCA to mitigate noise impacts in Arlington should be preserved. That's the honest and fair thing to do. However, we can recognize the possibility of technological enhancements that reduce noise by changing the deal from a limit on number of flights to a limit on the amount of noise (measured in decibels) generated by flights at various times of day. If noise reduction technology improves, more flights can be permitted.

by Falls Church on Jun 25, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

Remember that weekend MARC service to BWI is less than 6 months away, so BWI will get more competitive soon.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 25, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

I always love referring to BWI as "Marshall"... people get confused.

by guest1 on Jun 25, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

If Congress is going to have a heavy hand in DCA's operation it should ban flights from DCA to JFK, EWR and LGA. It is stupid to waste precious slots on flights the train serves better.

If the train provides better service for all people in all situations at all times, then why are people flying? Scarce resources like airport slots get allocated to their best and highest use based on customer demands. For many people in many situations, flying is preferred over taking the train.

by Falls Church on Jun 25, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

Even under the $120 billion (more like $250 billion, but I digress) Amtrak plan, there's no way that trip happens in less than 4-4.5 hours.

It's fair to doubt whether the plan will ever happen or how much it will cost. However, the plan is quite clear on the scope of the project: DC to New York in 94 minutes; New York to Boston in 94 minutes. Leaving you with DC to Boston in just over three hours.

http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/163/2/Amtrak-Integrates-Updates-NEC-High-Speed-Rail-Vision-Plans-ATK-12-064.pdf

DC to Boston is trickier, but Acela already gets a large portion of the air/rail market and it does so with high fares. Amtrak can marginally increase speeds and add capacity all while undercutting the DC-PHL-NY air market substantially. And it can do so via competition, not any rigging of the market by simply asserting that rail is better for these trips.

As far as flying for hub transfers: the solution is codeshare arrangements. One advantage that rail has is direct access to city centers. However, the airports along the Northeast Corridor are almost all quite near the existing tracks, opening the door to potential codeshare arrangements or shared itineraries. DCA, BWI, PHL, and EWR are all near the existing tracks.

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

There's a partial solution to this problem that I'm working on for my thesis which will be completed in December. This problem is not unique to DCA. I'll be happy share my thesis in December for potential comment.

by Redline SOS on Jun 25, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. I'd point out that LGA isn't very far from the NEC tracks in Queens.

by Steve S. on Jun 25, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

"I always love referring to BWI as "Marshall"... people get confused."

Friendship Airport.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church "In the case of DCA slots, the supposed public interest reason for not taking a competition-based approach is to preserve access to small cities. But, I don't see how that's clearly and universally more in the public interest than providing more frequent service to the cities people want to fly to the most."

I don't think that's the public interest reason, and I don't see the conclusion that they protect small-city service.

If there is such a public interest - and both Congress and the FAA have gone back and forth on this for decades - then slots actively work against small city service by creating an artificial commodity that can be traded, driving up their value and prompting airlines to use those slots for high-density traffic - which does not fit the profile of small city pairs.

The only real public interest reasons I can see for slots are safety and operational - e.g. less traffic into DCA.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

Is there a need to expand DCA, even in the longer term? Domestic air travel has seen only modest total growth in passengers over the past 10-12 years and a significant consolidation in domestic flights. Looking up the BTS month to month stats for passenger travel (http://www.transtats.bts.gov/Data_Elements.aspx?Data=1), the most recent peak in domestic air passengers was in 2007 with 679.2 million. While the economy is still recovering, in 2012, the number was 642.2, down 5.5%. The number of commercial domestic flights peaked in 2005 at 10.04 million and fell to 8.44 million in 2012 - down 16% as the airlines have reduced flights to smaller airports and switched to 737s & A320s over regional jets to squeeze more passengers onto fewer flights. It is possible the 2005 peak in domestic commercial flights will remain the peak for decades.

The growth has been in international air travel which favors IAD and BWI over DCA. One prolonged oil price spike will result in more cuts in service in the short to medium range flights to the smaller market airports. That would mean fewer flights from DCA, not more.

by AlanF on Jun 25, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

Friendship Airport

I like it! Though I'm not a fan of "Arlington Airport". Hmmm

by guest1 on Jun 25, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

@AlanF "The growth has been in international air travel which favors IAD and BWI over DCA. One prolonged oil price spike will result in more cuts in service in the short to medium range flights to the smaller market airports. That would mean fewer flights from DCA, not more."

I see a minimal chance that traffic will decline at National. If small-market cities fall out of the DCA mix, carriers will pick it up with more and fuller flights on the profitable thick routes. No way would they let those slots go to waste.

On the subject of international flights, there already is service to Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Quebec, and I also believe Cancun. San Juan is on the list too but that doesn't really count.

I wonder if we'd ever see 757s flying to London or Paris from DCA? The 757 has that range, but I think departures might be problematic due to fuel load.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

Ronald Reagan National Airport should have an apt new marketing slogan aimed at frequent flyers:

"There you go again!"

by Axel on Jun 25, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

One of National Airport's advantages is point to point flights. Most may be to cities in the East (as a minor USAir hub), but others have been added as exceptions to the perimeter rule have been made. To the extent that the public and the regulators have a choice, I would like to see point to point service options maintained as much as possible. Whether or not this should include service to Binghampton or Martha's Vineyard (in the summer) can be debated, but it's certainly nice to have options to fly to San Juan, Austin, San Francisco, Portland (Maine AND Oregon), etc., even if it means paying a premium. If the slots are just split among other large carriers without consideration of maintaining point to point service, what we are likely to end up with is just more frequent service to the large carriers' fortress hubs. That means that consumer "choice" to get to most cities will be choosing among making connections in overcrowed, delay-prone airports like Atlanta, Newark, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, etc. That may be choice in a limited sense, but it would be less than what exists today.

by Axel on Jun 25, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

I wonder if we'd ever see 757s flying to London or Paris from DCA? The 757 has that range, but I think departures might be problematic due to fuel load.

I would doubt it. A 757 at max weight on a hot day at sea level will require more runway than DCA has.

Also, this would force an airline to operate a transoceanic flight with a rather limited 757 capacity.

That, plus the fact that DCA does not have any customs facilities. The only international flights allowed into DCA are those with border preclearance.

Dulles is so much better suited to handling those kinds of flights (both in terms of the airfield/airport capacity and customs facilities) that it makes little sense to build that capacity into DCA.

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

The thought of a federal aviation policy to discourage short flights on the east coast is interesting, but it would require massive rail investment to provide reasonable intermodal service. Some years ago, then-West Germany decided to move all short duration flights within the country (for example, FRA-Stuttgart, FRA-Bonn, FRA-Dusseldorf) to rail, to more efficiently use limited airport capacity. The country not only upgraded to high-speed rail, but also linked high speed service into several of its international airports. That way, a passenger connecting to/from a transcontinental flight could connect directly from the train to the terminal and vice versa. Much of the air traffic to JFK or Newark, for example, is to make international connections. To emulate Germany's policy, we would have to connect at least several airports more directly to high speed rail, and not just by shuttle buses. Newark is perhaps the best connection today, but one could imagine the high-speed Amtrak lines routes directly to the terminals at BWI, Phila, and Newark, to make connections more seamless. However, that would require massive investment that I just don't see the federal government doing any time in the near to medium term.

by Axel on Jun 25, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

@Alex B: 94 min + 94 min + time for the stop in NYC = at least 3 hours, 15 minutes. Add in the analogues to the trip I described (i.e. time to get to Union Station, time to get through HSR security -- and there will be security comparable to airports, and time to get from a Boston railroad station to Cambridge), and I stand by my estimate that even if that plan is realized, my trip would take between 4 and 4.5 hours: 35 to 50 percent longer than it took by air.

Recognize, too, that those 94 minute times are dependent on HSR being able to segregate its service and create a "Super Express" that bypasses all stops between DC, NY, and Boston except Philadelphia. Regardless of my concerns about cost & engineering, I can't imagine this project ever being implemented without giving the senators from at least three, if not all, of MD, DE, NJ, CT, and RI (I'd bet on MD, DE, and CT, personally) a stop on the "Super Express," which will unfortunately slow those travel times.

by Bitter Brew on Jun 25, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

So it seems that a few people are arguing that the slot regime should do more than control frequencies - they should provide (guarantee?) service to smaller cities instead of allowing more departures to New York and Boston.

I'm not entirely comfortable with that mostly because I dislike slot control altogether. It's artificial and it converts a public resource into a private commodity.

A better option would be a revamping of the Essential Air Service, which is essentially moribund. EAS would provide subsidies to carriers to fly to places like Scranton, Chattanooga, Charleston (both), and upstate New York. EAS could be tailored to support flights specifically from DCA.

However, in the current political atmosphere, I see very little chance of that happening, as it would be seen as another airline handout.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

time to get through HSR security -- and there will be security comparable to airports,

There shouldn't be an excess security on HSR. We're not crossing any international borders here.

and I stand by my estimate that even if that plan is realized, my trip would take between 4 and 4.5 hours: 35 to 50 percent longer than it took by air.

Leaving the security element aside, this all depends on where your origin and destination are relative to the airport/rail station, no?

Look, DC to Boston is about 450 miles as the crow flies. It's pushing it for the air/rail substitution factor, even with high speed rail. But that's not really the point of investing in HSR, the point would be in linking together all of the other trip pairs.

Regardless of my concerns about cost & engineering, I can't imagine this project ever being implemented without giving the senators from at least three, if not all, of MD, DE, NJ, CT, and RI (I'd bet on MD, DE, and CT, personally) a stop on the "Super Express," which will unfortunately slow those travel times.

I disagree. Not that the political elements aren't a threat; they clearly are a huge hurdle. But if Amtrak is able to get the financial backing to make it happen, they'll be able to operate their super-express service as envisisioned in their planning documents.

Remember that the super-express is just a service; Senators in Maryland and Delaware and Connecticut will still get their HSR stations and still get their HSR service that would be a lot better than what they have now.

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

There are plenty of transatlantic flight on 757s, but they generally go to second and third-tier destinations.

Anyone know how well the United/Amtrak code share works? Can't see rail/air code shares becoming a bigger factor without better rail access to JFK.

by alex on Jun 25, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

757's need to take non optimal routes as they only have 2 engines and are only ETOPS 180 certified. This means they have to be 3 hours(on one engine speed) from an airport at all times or the FAA and JAA will not approve the flight for commercial purposes. The 777 and 787 also have two engines, but they are ETOPS 300+ certified, so they can fly virtually any flight plan.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 25, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

There are plenty of transatlantic flight on 757s, but they generally go to second and third-tier destinations.

Again, to be clear - the problem is not with what the 757 can do, the problem is in what DCA can accomodate. There are limits to the airport's facilities. International, transoceanic flights are not going to happen anytime soon. And if they were possible, why bother when you have two other prefectly capable pre-existing international airports nearby?

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

I'd say this is a good starting point. But the best comments here (e.g., Alex B's and many others) support a general point that a comprehensive regional transportation plan, if we had one, would address airport transportation too, both from the standpoint of airports but also getting there.

Alex B. is absolutely right that a lot of NEC service currently absorbed by airlines could be shifted to HSR. This would be better for the environment, more convenient for a lot of people, and would allow the capacity of DCA to be used in different, more fruitful ways.

(Steve S., I have to disagree with you about BWI vs. DCA from Columbia Heights. Take the yellow line to DCA vs. the green line to Greenbelt + B30 bus to BWI and tell me which is faster and more convenient.)

These decisions are greater than the considerations emanating from the US Airways/AA merger.

Yes, the issue should be noise in terms of flights and determining where they can fly and when. Yes more people from the core of the region will try to fly from DCA because it's more convenient.

Plus David didn't mention overnight transit service from DCA (I did find out that WMATA is going to embark on a small study of overnight transit issues soon, and DCA services will be considered in that context).

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/06/night-moves-need-for-more-night-time.html

Plus the integration of visitor services into airports and railroad stations.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/06/more-on-airport-related-transittransit.html

So it doesn't help that we don't have a robust regional transpo. plan that covers this, and federal transportation planning concerning airport and railroad transportation isn't quite at the point where it needs to be to address these issues for the Washington-Baltimore region and other cities and their airports along the NEC.

by Richard Layman on Jun 25, 2013 6:07 pm • linkreport

Alex B, I wasn't really disagreeing with your main point, just adding that it's very unlikely that anyone would use a 757 on a London or Paris route.

by alex on Jun 25, 2013 6:18 pm • linkreport

Few people are going to use a 757 on a transatlantic route largely because narrow bodied aircraft are so uncomfortable. If a budget airline really wants to try to save a little money it could, but I doubt there is a market for it.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 25, 2013 6:54 pm • linkreport

Evolving aircraft technologies have forced a similar conversation over in Toronto, where Porter has applied to amend the current no-jets rule at its YTZ hub, about 1 mile from downtown Toronto. YTZ currently limits noise using both a performance standard ("Noise Exposure Forecast") and an explicit rule barring jets. The proposed new rule would allow the new Bombardier CSeries small jets, whose engines promise a 75% smaller noise footprint than existing jets and as such should not be heard beyond the airport boundary. The net result would expand a de facto perimeter rule.

DCA's future depends on the community's goals. Its proximity to downtown creates a substantial economic advantage for the region's core, and unlike BWI or IAD it's relatively unconstrained by landside congestion: terminal and ground transportation facilities are good, and further development around it would not threaten greenfields. Its advantages can be better leveraged through utilization of higher-capacity aircraft on its limited slots.

DCA already sees plenty of 757s and A321s on trans-continental flights; the wide-body 787 and 767s have flown there before, but on short and thus fuel-light flights and at some cost to parallel taxiway movements. (DCA lacks CBP facilities and thus can't handle trans-Atlantic flights, except to preclearance-equipped SNN & DUB.)

@Alex B: US Airways calls DCA a hub, sells tickets that connect through, and schedules flights in banks that facilitate connections. If it quacks like a duck...

by Payton on Jun 25, 2013 7:04 pm • linkreport

The most dangerous place to be in Washington on a Thursday afternoon is still between a member of Congress and National Airport. You will get run over as they leave the Capitol and head home.

And those Congresscritters will fight like the devil to gain or retain service from DCA to their hometowns. John McCain knocked down the perimeter rule allow America West service to Phoenix, and Dan Glickman allowed it by forcing them HP to add a single flight to Wichita. The west coast crowd has since forced additional non-stops to LAX and SFO, and new ones to SAN, DEN, PDX, and SEA in recent years.

DCA is vital to members of Congress who demand a non-stop flight home. And their demands trump our self-perceived needs. Anyone who thinks members of Congress are willing to change planes in PHL or CLT to get home is simply delusional. They don't care about what we think or need. They want their non-stop flight home. Period.

By the by, air service into Washington began at Hoover Field, which was on the site of what is now the Pentagon. Chain Bridge Road bisected the runway, and whenever a plane was taking off or landing, a police officer went out there to the intersection with a lantern and stopped traffic. True story.

by Mike S. on Jun 25, 2013 8:25 pm • linkreport

I'll start out by saying that DCA is probably my favorite airport on the East Coast. Easy to get to, large enough to have quite a few point-to-point flights, but small enough to be very easy to navigate. It's the antithesis to Dulles, which is a very very good thing.

That being said, I've never actually flown out of DCA on USAir -- the fares for their tiny planes are outlandishly expensive, and almost certainly priced for business travelers. The other airlines there are all much more reasonable.

I think that DCA could drop a few of the smaller cities, use bigger jets, and be a bit more responsive to customer demand. However, I also wouldn't want the airport to turn into a place that only ferried passengers to other hub cities.

Dulles flights also tend to be rather expensive, presumably due to the lack of domestic competition at the airport, and effectively zero presence from low-cost carriers. (God, United is terrible...)

If we're going to dramatically expand one airport in the DC area, it should be BWI (with additional Amtrak/MARC service to match; hourly trains from DC to Baltimore would be awesome to have around the clock, and BWI is a perfect excuse to provide that service).

Also, if I recall correctly, the BWI train station is a shorter ride to the main terminal than Newark's train station is (even if it does involve a bus). Many Amtrak services (including Acela) bypass EWR.

by andrew on Jun 25, 2013 8:32 pm • linkreport

If the train provides better service for all people in all situations at all times, then why are people flying?

Business travelers with admins or travel agents who don't know how to book trains.

I'm not even kidding. My ex would frequently get put on $800 flights from IAD to PHL, despite loudly protesting every time that this happened.

by andrew on Jun 25, 2013 8:33 pm • linkreport

Payton:

US Airways calls DCA a hub, sells tickets that connect through, and schedules flights in banks that facilitate connections. If it quacks like a duck...

Hmmm. Seems like a bit of a move to protect their slots from forced divestiture in their merger with American.

That said, the move towards a mini-hub (and it still is mini) appears relatively recent (when I fly out of DCA, I rarely use US Air): http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-09-22/local/35495441_1_passengers-reagan-national-airport-new-flights

40% of US Air pax at DCA connect now, up from just 18% recently. However, US Air currently represents less than 50% of DCA passengers (even though they do hold more than 50% of all slots). So, they do indeed operate as a mini hub, but this is more of a duckling than a duck. I also don't think that's a very good reason for the Feds to let a merged US/AA keep all those slots. If DCA is congested enough to issue these slot restrictions, then it's likely congested enough that US Air should consider other hub locations.

andrew:

If we're going to dramatically expand one airport in the DC area, it should be BWI (with additional Amtrak/MARC service to match; hourly trains from DC to Baltimore would be awesome to have around the clock, and BWI is a perfect excuse to provide that service).

First, we should expand MARC service as it is, and we don't need airport service to justify that.

Second, if we're going to expand an airport in the region, we should consider the one that has room for expansion - and that's Dulles. BWI has room to grow within its current infrastructure, but that infrastructure is somewhat limited. Dulles, however, has huuuuge tracts of land, three parallel runways far enough apart for simultaneous instrument approaches, etc.

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 9:16 pm • linkreport

Perhaps in Never Neverland, where airlines aren't driven by profit and aircraft are powered by unicorns and rainbows would slot concessions result in sustained service to secondary markets; in the real world, where airlines operate with razor thin profit margins, conceding slots means more service to Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Houston and Florida, and maybe a pre-cleared destination in the Caribbean on Saturdays.

Let's be real here, the real reason that USAirways (and Delta to a lesser extent before the USAirways/Delta slot swap occurred) were able to serve some of these smaller secondary markets was because they were able to fill a substantial portion of seats on those flights with connections from elsewhere in the network. If you want continued service to ever little strip capable of handling a regional jet this side of the Mississippi, then you keep Air-21 and let American keep the slots.

by elmothehobo on Jun 25, 2013 9:26 pm • linkreport

Alex B.

Are simultaneous instrument approaches the difference between a runway that is one mile apart from another and the many many that are not? I recently landed at Dulles in the middle of the night on the far, new runway and the pilot apologized to the passengers for how long the taxi took to the gate.

by xtr657 on Jun 25, 2013 10:28 pm • linkreport

xtr,

Yes, more or less. I believe the minimum horizontal separation for runways to operate independetly for instrument approaches is 4,300 feet - so, yes: close to a mile.

This can greatly increase the capacity of an airport. Most new airfields aim to get this kind of separation. Airports designed in the jet age take this geometry into account - if you have the space, why not use it and increase the capacity of the airfield?

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 10:51 pm • linkreport

@elmo ... If you want continued service to ever little strip capable of handling a regional jet this side of the Mississippi, then you keep Air-21 and let American keep the slots.

I've argued several times in this thread that the slot system should be scrapped entirely; I don't see a reason to perpetuate it. The CAB was abolished in the 1970s so that carriers could decide when and where they wanted to fly, and how much they could charge for it. The slot system is a throwback to that. The argument that we have to protect limited air and ground resources by limiting operations at DCA is just bogus.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 25, 2013 11:07 pm • linkreport

There two kinds of slot restrictions here: one for distance (the perimeter rule) and one for capacity. DCA and the three New York airports are subject to slot restrictions for capacity purposes and the FAA has imposed slot restrictions on other airports as well (Chicago O'Hare - airlines had scheduled so many flights that the airfield could not hope to handle and remain on schedule) that have since been lifted.

I think there's a strong case for removing the perimeter rules; I also think there's a case to reform the accounting for and use of other slots, but the capacity restrictions are real and based on the airspace and airport capacity.

GAO did a study of this and made some recommendations last year: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-902

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2013 11:29 pm • linkreport

I would drop the perimeter rule and drop the subsidies for flights to small towns - if there's a business justification for such flights, they should stand/fall on their own.

Yes. This.

One thing the perimeter rule does is lead to more flights to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and other cities served by Amtrak - thus lowering the price of flying to those cities. So getting rid of the perimeter rule should make Amtrak more appealing and lead to more revenue/less subsidizing.

by David C on Jun 25, 2013 11:58 pm • linkreport

What do people think about ultimately, say in 30-40 years, closing and redeveloping DCA?

It's a fantastic idea whose time will never come (because of Congress). Another advantage is that the current location of the airport restricts the heights of buildings in Rosslyn and Crystal City.

It might be possible to buy off Congress by offering them free military helicopter transportation from the helipad at the Anacostia waterfront to Dulles and BWI. It'd be worth it really.

Maybe we could even build a new, small airport in PG County. Far enough from Edwards to appease the Secret Service, but close enough to use the same flight paths and thus not add much impact (other than more flights).

by David C on Jun 26, 2013 12:14 am • linkreport

@ David C who wrote "the current location of the airport restricts the heights of buildings in Rosslyn and Crystal City."

Frankly, apart from National Airport's convenient location to most of Washington, the effect keeping Rosslyn and Crystal City to a reasonable height is the best thing about DCA. :)

by Sally on Jun 26, 2013 8:14 am • linkreport

There shouldn't be an excess security on HSR. We're not crossing any international borders here.

I'm not crossing an international border 95% of the times I fly, and I still have to take my shoes off, pull my computer out of my bag, go through a metal detector, and run my bags through an X-ray maching. I think that is the kind of excess security in mind.

by dcd on Jun 26, 2013 8:31 am • linkreport

Security for HSR will focus more on keeping the right-of-way secure. I'm not sure airport-style security will be desired or required for future HSR service. We don't do it on Amtrak currently.

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 8:35 am • linkreport

@oboe: Not sure I understand the point even now that you've "explained" it.

It is a matter of framing. Not using the actual name of the airport even one time in the article is conspicuous, and indicates a disregard for the perquisites and privileges due to members of Congress. I remind us all that these privileges flow directly from the US Constitution. Moreover, note some of the insulting anecdotes and terminology upthread -- e.g., "Congresscritters" -- it becomes plain that this little discussion is parochial.

DCA is not like other large airports, such as those in New York or Chicago. Those airports have far larger capacity and are built to serve commerce, so passenger demand should be the rule. DCA, on the other had, serves to provide access to the national government. Thus the existance of non-stop flights to far away smaller cities "for Congress" is actually a good indication of access from those places to the Capitol.

It would be interesting to see if where there are more trips originating from the hinterlands or from DC. Does anybody have a cite?

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 8:37 am • linkreport

Steve S., I have to disagree with you about BWI vs. DCA from Columbia Heights. Take the yellow line to DCA vs. the green line to Greenbelt + B30 bus to BWI and tell me which is faster and more convenient.

+1. I live in Columbia Heights, and I go to great lengths to avoid BWI. DCA is a piece of cake to get to - much of the time you can get a yellow line train directly from CH into the terminal at DCA, and if you can't, you get of the green line, stand there for 10 minutes, and get on a yellow line without changing platforms. If you're driving or cabbing, it's pretty easy as well (although I wish Car2Go would come to an arrangement with the airport). In contract, I have getting to or coming from BWI - limited MARC service, a complete crapshoot on the highways. Plus, it's just far.

I'm curious - what makes you say BWI is easier than DCA?

by dcd on Jun 26, 2013 8:38 am • linkreport

dcd & Richard Layman: Two words: Terminal A.

by Steve S. on Jun 26, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

I'm not crossing an international border 95% of the times I fly, and I still have to take my shoes off, pull my computer out of my bag, go through a metal detector, and run my bags through an X-ray maching. I think that is the kind of excess security in mind.

And a great deal of that is not justified even for air travel.

However, there are some fundamental differences between planes and trains. You cannot hijack a train and take it to Cuba or something. You cannot turn it into a flying bomb - both because it goes only where the tracks go (and those tracks are under the control of someone else) and because it's not filled with jet fuel.

If a terrorist is targeting just the indescriminate killing of innocent people, then yes, trains are soft targets. But we have lots of those.

As MLD notes, the security will be focused on keeping the right of way secure. Terminal security will be like Amtrak now - use of K9s, etc. A good rail system should be thought of more like a mass transit system rather than an airline.

by Alex B. on Jun 26, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

@dcd
What makes it easier is your relative location. If you are on the yellow line, obviously you have a one seat ride. People living in NoMa, H street or Chinatown can just go to Union Station and similarly have a one seat ride to BWI.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 26, 2013 9:16 am • linkreport

People living in NoMa, H street or Chinatown can just go to Union Station and similarly have a one seat ride to BWI.

One seat rides are great, but distance still matters. At Union Station, you're 4 miles away from DCA (as the crow flies) and 27 miles from BWI.

by Alex B. on Jun 26, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

People living in NoMa, H street or Chinatown can just go to Union Station and similarly have a one seat ride to BWI.

Likewise, they could go to Gallery Place and have a one-seat ride to National.

I mean, if you discount the transfers you can call ANYTHING a one-seat ride...

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

As MLD notes, the security will be focused on keeping the right of way secure. Terminal security will be like Amtrak now - use of K9s, etc.

You're correct that securing the right of way will be very important. But you're wrong about the likely requirements for onboard security. When HSR opens after an expenditure of $250 billion or so, it will be a high-profile national landmark on par with the World Trade Center or the Eiffel Tower, but far easier to put at risk. It's likely to be among the top targets for any terrorist looking to do something spectacular.

Because an HSR derailment due to a security breach will be much deadlier than on Acela and attract far more attention, security for passengers will need to be commensurate.

by Bitter Brew on Jun 26, 2013 9:34 am • linkreport

It's likely to be among the top targets for any terrorist looking to do something spectacular.

And that's my point - there are limitations based on the very physics of train travel that make the potential for something 'spectacular' quite low.

There's no doubt that assets like this need to be secure (or as secure as they can be), but they do not need to be secured with airline-style security theater.

by Alex B. on Jun 26, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

but they do not need to be secured with airline-style security theater.

If HSR is directly connected to and integrated with airlines, with seamless luggage transfers -- as suggested above, to eliminate short haul air trips -- the security will have to be the same as an airport.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

If HSR is directly connected to and integrated with airlines, with seamless luggage transfers -- as suggested above, to eliminate short haul air trips

Does HSR operate like this anywhere in the world?

This entire line of conversation just seems to be another attempt at picking away at the positives of HSR. "See, it won't be any better than what we've got now, because you'll have to spend all that time in security!" Little that I have read on the subject, even from security experts, indicates that anyone is interested in duplicating airline security for high-speed rail.

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 9:52 am • linkreport

"When HSR opens after an expenditure of $250 billion or so, it will be a high-profile national landmark "

If HSR is going to have a single national brand identity. That was not my impression though - Cal HSR, Midwest HSR, NEC HSR, and possibly SEHSR will all be seperate brands, with potentially different amenities, different speeds, different equipment, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

Little that I have read on the subject, even from security experts, indicates that anyone is interested in duplicating airline security for high-speed rail.

Of course not -- everybody dislikes the excessive airport security.

But: if HSR in the NE corridor is to gain the passengers that otherwise would have taken a short haul flight to JFK (for example) and then boarded an international flight, there will be added costs and hassles associated with this new business. It may be that the these added passengers are essential to making the entire HSR endeavor to be cost effective.

No point in hiding from the potential problems, if you truly want this to succeed.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

It may be that the these added passengers are essential to making the entire HSR endeavor to be cost effective.

Experience elsewhere in the world says otherwise. Even our own experience with the inferior Acela says otherwise.

But: if HSR in the NE corridor is to gain the passengers that otherwise would have taken a short haul flight to JFK (for example) and then boarded an international flight, there will be added costs and hassles associated with this new business.

Not really. The order will go: Train -> Airport -> Security Checkpoint -> Plane.

You could re-order that process to include the rail system into the airport security cordon, but why would you? You'd gain nothing from it. And we have plenty of ways to better integrate rail and air travel before even considering that.

by Alex B. on Jun 26, 2013 10:16 am • linkreport

Experience elsewhere in the world says otherwise. Even our own experience with the inferior Acela says otherwise.

The Acela cost a lot less than $250 billion.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

Train -> Airport -> Security Checkpoint -> Plane.
You could re-order that process to include the rail system into the airport security cordon, but why would you? You'd gain nothing from it.

If we want HSR passenger that will be boarding a flight, what this requires is that they drag their bundles through two train stations plus the airport, over significant distances. Yeah they could hire porters, but the hassle factor is tremendous (recall the debate over citing the silverline stop in Dulles, due to the walking distance). In my case, I would not consider HSR if instead all I needed to do was board a flight at DCA and check my bags there.

If the transfer from HSR to a flight is too difficult, you loose the passengers.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

What makes it easier is your relative location. If you are on the yellow line, obviously you have a one seat ride. People living in NoMa, H street or Chinatown can just go to Union Station and similarly have a one seat ride to BWI.

Yes, if you're in a different location a different airport may be more convenient. But Steve S. stated, "I don't find DCA is so much better than BWI if you're starting in Columbia Heights." Not sure what NoMa, or Gallery Place, has to do with it.

And are you really suggesting that if you are in Gallery Place, for example, BWI is more convenient that DCA? First, if you're traveling on the weekend, that just isn't true. Second it's still almost 30 miles to BWI.

@ Steve S.: I have never found the walk form the Metro to Terminal A to be debilitating (but I almost never travel with bags to be checked). And isn't there a shuttle if the walk really is a problem?

by dcd on Jun 26, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

Clearly, no one commenting that new planes are quiet lives anywhere near the river. Come spend an hour sitting outside on my patio, and you'll see why flights at DCA should continue to be limited due to noise pollution.

by atty2d on Jun 26, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

"If we want HSR passenger that will be boarding a flight, what this requires is that they drag their bundles through two train stations plus the airport, over significant distances. "

you could have security screening of through-checked luggage at the originating rail station, while having the checking of passengers (immigration, carry on luggage, etc) at the airport.

Alternatively you could have people drag their checked luggage with them. IIRC thats how it used to work transferring from an international flight to a domestic flight going to a non-international airport (IE one with no customs employees) Its a hindrance, but plenty of people did (do?) it

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

Alternatively you could have people drag their checked luggage with them. IIRC thats how it used to work transferring from an international flight to a domestic flight going to a non-international airport (IE one with no customs employees) Its a hindrance, but plenty of people did (do?) it

They still do.

However, there are important differences. A transfer from HSR will most assuredly require escalators, whereas a transfer within an airport through customs normally does not. Also, the distance from the HSR station to the terminal will be greater.

This won't be a problem for people on short business trips carrying an overnight bag. But for those on longer trips with significant luggage, or for families with small children, forget it.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

This won't be a problem for people on short business trips carrying an overnight bag. But for those on longer trips with significant luggage, or for families with small children, forget it.

And? Are those a big market or a target market for HSR service? I would say no.

It is unfortunate that when building transit infrastructure (Silver Phase II) we scrutinize every last item for cost/benefit but when it comes to security theater who knows what the costs/benefits are and who cares?

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

If the distance of carrying your luggage is the only or deciding factor then feel free to book a flight from DCA to NYC and beyond.

I feel like cost/time of departure/arrival is a bigger concern to most rather than the distances one must travel from a train platform to an air gate. My evidence is the amount of walking people must do just to get around the airport itself.

by drumz on Jun 26, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

And? Are those a big market or a target market for HSR service? I would say no.

Recall the trip: HSR is to replace the short-haul flights connecting to JFK and other airports on the east coast. What are ultimate destinations, that are NOT served by non-stop flights from nearby airports such as Dulles and BWI? Only places that are quite remote and/or international. If you are going to Europe your trip is probably at least a week. You go to a place that has flights out of New York, you are going far away with a lot of travel time, you need to carry a lot luggage.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

"Recall the trip: HSR is to replace the short-haul flights connecting to JFK and other airports on the east coast."

i thought the primary market for HSR between DC and NYC was people traveling to NYC and that transfers to air were only a secondary market.

"If you are going to Europe your trip is probably at least a week. You go to a place that has flights out of New York, you are going far away with a lot of travel time, you need to carry a lot luggage."

Ive flown on business to domestic destinations for a week, and managed to fit everything into baggage I could easily carry (in those days you could even take all that as carry-on)

Now for a FAMILY traveling on pleasure that would be different. The question for HSR to JFK then, is how much of the target market for HSR is the families traveling for leisure, vs business travelers (and I suppose, other single travelers traveling light)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

Recall the trip: HSR is to replace the short-haul flights connecting to JFK and other airports on the east coast. What are ultimate destinations, that are NOT served by non-stop flights from nearby airports such as Dulles and BWI? Only places that are quite remote and/or international. If you are going to Europe your trip is probably at least a week. You go to a place that has flights out of New York, you are going far away with a lot of travel time, you need to carry a lot luggage.

I disagree that the point is to replace trips between airports. The point is to replace trips between cities along the east coast.

I understand the concept of international travel, thanks. The point is that those people making international trips who will be burdened by hauling luggage on HSR from DC to NYC for a flight make up a tiny portion of the potential HSR market. Therefore it's silly to put the burden of airport security on all HSR passengers for the benefit of a tiny portion of those passengers.

Your argument seems to be equivalent to the idea of putting a luggage trailer on all buses going by Ikea stores so that people can drag their pallets of furniture home with them. It ignores all other modes and demands that a small portion of travelers be accommodated at the expense of the rest.

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

@atty2d

If sound is the issue, then let's limit sound. No plane over a certain decibel. Lower decibel flights at certain times. A total decibel load for the day. Etc... And then let the airlines and airplane manufacturers solve those problems. Those rules foster innovation.

But just limiting the number of flights so as to limit noise is using the wrong tool.

by David C on Jun 26, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

BWI has done a really nice job in the past couple years of integrating their shuttle bus system to include the train station. B4, there was a shuttle by Amtrak and it wasn't that comfortable I recall. I presume there is more frequency too now that the service is done by BWI. And I happily ride the train there. But it is about opportunity cost. If I can fly out of DCA I will. It takes a lot less time, and the cost to get to and from is a lot cheaper too (most of the time).

by Richard Layman on Jun 26, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@goldfish

I'm curious how you plan to transfer without escalators from Regan to an international destination in Europe.

You take the metro to Regan, requiring escalators/elevators into and out of the metro. You then get on your TINY puddle jumping plane, with all your luggage and kids. In that tiny little box you cannot stand up, walk around, use your phone, or really even look out the windows. Then you land at EWR or JFK, landing at LGA would mean a long overland portage to an international airport. At JFK and EWR, you usually have to transfer between terminals, which means more escalators/elevators and often going through security again.

On the way back you have to collect your bags and cart them through customs.

Now a lot of these problems could be mitigated with a newer, better designed airport. But then the same can be said of HSR. Have you been to Charles De Galle Terminal 2,3 or 4? Yes you have to use an elevator or escalator, but that is it. One level up and you are there.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 26, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

@Richard Bourne: You take the metro to Regan, requiring escalators/elevators into and out of the metro.

I have never done this trip; I always used IAD for international travel. I have never gone through customs at NY airport, so I don't know the layout. BTW, in all of the Customs areas I have seen, there are the luggage hand trucks and no stairs or escalators -- for obvious reasons.

If I did start a trip from DCA with heavy suitcases for international travel, I'd take a cab to the terminal, which would drop me at the (proper) upper level, and then do a curb luggage check-in. Well worth the money. Customs is at the other end, in Europe.

On the return, customs is would be at JFK or EWR, then recheck the bags for the flight down to DCA. At DCA the bag reclaim is down below, and then take a cab back home. Cab fare to my house is pretty inexpensive, and again after a long trip, it is worth the money.

So no escalators.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

The point is that those people making international trips who will be burdened by hauling luggage on HSR from DC to NYC for a flight make up a tiny portion of the potential HSR market.

International AND domestic travel.

It the numbers don't justify the expense, then there is no reason to put HSR stations at airports, and there is no expectation that HSR will relieve DCA of the need to provide connecting flights to NYC airports.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

None of what you're saying makes any sense. You're just putting up strawmen so you can knock them down.

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

Also, have you been on a domestic flight recently? Ever since the airlines started charging fees to check bags, people seem all to willing to haul all their crap around the airport with them. Makes security even worse than it needs to be.

by MLD on Jun 26, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

It the numbers don't justify the expense, then there is no reason to put HSR stations at airports, and there is no expectation that HSR will relieve DCA of the need to provide connecting flights to NYC airports.

The opposite is also true. Of course noting that HSR might be able to relieve pressure isn't the same as an outright endorsement or assurance that it's going to happen. Plus it was just something brought up in the comments as something to consider.

by drumz on Jun 26, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

MLD: None of what you're saying makes any sense.

Hey, *I* thought HSR replacing the need for short-haul flights out of DCA was interesting. There are huge advantages of integrating HSR and air travel; moreover, the east coast airports were close to the anticipated HSR right-of-way, further suggesting that HSR stations should be in or near airports to facilitate integrating the two travel modes. Seemed cool to me.

But then you think about the mechanics of actually making a HSR-airplane trip, the idea -- which would certainly improve the efficiency of travel in the Boston-Washington corridor -- would also have its share of problems. *I* still think it is a cool idea, but it is important to understand the trade-offs.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

Since y'all are fantasizing, I'm still looking forward to the 70 story buildings (with matching FAR) that will be used to rebuild Crystal City into Midtown Manhattan South (yeah, I know the name is taken). To get that we will need lots more transit infrastructure - not just a Y in Rosslyn for 1 stop Tysons access, and the planned street car lines, but a heavy rail metro line along the I395 corridor, better VRE AND MARC run through service, and probably for Amtrak to stop at CC. Plus maybe a a Y at L'Enfant so trains from Branch Ave can go direct to the region's new center.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

atty2d: "Clearly, no one commenting that new planes are quiet lives anywhere near the river." Well, I said that, and I live ON the river. Indeed, I'm hard pressed to think of any buildings in DC or Arlington that are closer to the water's edge. The only planes I can hear from outside are the MD-80s that are going to be retired.

by Payton on Jun 26, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

@Aaaargh: I don't think that's the public interest reason, and I don't see the conclusion that they protect small-city service.

Maintaining service to small cities is the public interest reason Alpert provides in his post for possibly considering allowing AA/USAir to retain all their slots post-merger. He said:

CEO Doug Parker, therefore, has been arguing that if his airline has to divest slots, other airlines will simply use them to fly to big cities that already have a lot of service. That will likely lower fares to those cities, but remove options to other cities. Some members of Congress sent a letter asking for US Airways/American to keep its slots so that their small communities can keep their flights. ...

Which brings us back to the same central question: should DCA be a sort of niche airport with smaller planes to many little destinations, or an airport that tries to serve as much of the travel demand, close in to the center of the region, as possible?

by Falls Church on Jun 26, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

Lots of interesting perspectives here, but I struggle to see any that fully take into account what airports do. I don’t have all the answers, but I think we’re missing some important information.

First, some data (from http://www.metwashairports.com/reagan/1279.htm)…
MWAA thoughtfully puts together statistics on its operations at DCA. From 2005 to 2012, total operations have increased about 4.3%, while passenger loads have increased about 10.1%. Interestingly, the 2005 passenger numbers represent an all-time high. However, the operations figures are in line with values going back as far as 1951! If, as others have pointed out, the carrier with the most slots flies small aircraft, then shouldn’t we see higher operations numbers?

A large part of the answer to this disparity is likely freight. Freight pounds over the last decade at DCA include values that are among the lowest since 1953. Unquestionably, the demand for goods shipped by air has only been increasing since 1953 (and especially since the rise of just-in-time inventory and FedEx and UPS), so we must conclude that airfreight headed to Greater Washington is going to IAD and BWI.

So what? Well, this shifting of airfreight from DCA to IAD and BWI means that DCA’s role in the region *has* been changing. But you probably didn’t notice because you’re a person not a package!

Second, my search of the ~150 comments shows that nobody has used the word “tourist.” We must not fail to account for the value of tourism. Destination DC asserts that DC tourism represented $6.0 billion in spending from some 17.9 million visitors in 2011 (http://washington.org/DC-information/about-destination-dc). How many of those folks went through DCA I’m not sure, but I think we ought to consider how changes to DCA will affect tourism.

Finally, I see little consideration of business travelers in these comments. Given that fares from business travelers make up the bulk of airline revenues, have we really explored the needs of business travelers? Lots folks writing about which airport they personally use, but are any of you corporate travelers? Better question, are any of you Travel & Entertainment Policy Expense folks or corporate travel purchasers? We need viewpoints from these kinds of people, too.

by TreyP on Jun 26, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

my search of the ~150 comments shows that nobody has used the word “tourist.

I alluded to travelers that were *incoming* to DC, which includes tourists. Access to DC from all areas of the US is probably DCA's most important function.

by goldfish on Jun 26, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

TreyP -- fwiw, I used the word "visitor". And wrt visitors/tourists, international tourists (which typically fly into Dulles) spend a lot more money per capita than domestic tourists.

In other writings I have argued that serving the visitor market justifies providing high quality rail service from Dulles (although as others said in this thread, railroad service might have been better, then again, you don't have get the multiplicative long term impact on Tysons Corner that comes from rail-based transit service if you just have an express railroad service from the airport) and that visitor services provided at the airports (including information about transit) should be much much much better than they are.

by Richard Layman on Jun 26, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

wrt AWITC's comment about Crystal City and 70 story buildings, I don't understand the sentiment that people raised about how if DCA were closed Rosslyn and Crystal City could have much taller buildings. There isn't that kind of demand. Even if DC maintains the current height limit, there wouldn't be that kind of demand.

cf. http://nreionline.com/international/worlds-10-most-expensive-office-markets?NL=NREI-06&Issue=NREI-06_20130626_NREI-06_603&YM_RID=rlaymandc@yahoo.com&YM_MID=1405092&sfvc4enews=42

by Richard Layman on Jun 26, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Okay, 60 story buildings. Or even 50. Which is a lot more than the 24 stories mentioned here
http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=3173

And I'm talking decades from now (since we are, after all, talking about not until after a very extensive HSR network is in place)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

this seems to be the tallest the FAA will allow in CC now

http://www.emporis.com/building/1812northmoorestreet-arlington-va-usa

at 35 stories. I'm not sure going say 30% or so taller than that is unrealistic in say 2050, especially with significantly improved transit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

I have to agree. I'm great with 20-30 storey buildings. I don't really see the compelling need for taller buildings in this area with so much undeveloped or underdeveloped land near the core.

by Alan B. on Jun 26, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

I don't think our geological underframe would support buildings over 50 stories, would it? We're not Manhattan; we're a reclamation project, and tidal flat sedimentation as well. Look what's happening to the Jefferson Memorial, for example.

Anyway, is there demand for such construction in Arlington and Crystal City? Is there capacity to transport that many workers on a daily basis? My guess is no and no.

by Arrgh_Street on Jun 26, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

@dcd
"There shouldn't be an excess security on HSR. We're not crossing any international borders here.
I'm not crossing an international border 95% of the times I fly, and I still have to take my shoes off, pull my computer out of my bag, go through a metal detector, and run my bags through an X-ray maching. I think that is the kind of excess security in mind."

And as we learned in 2001, a plane can be used as a mobile weapon. We also always have the risk of hostage takers threatening to crash planes or demanding that they be flown to the destination of their choice. Trains only go where the tracks go, so you dont have that risk.

Planes also are much more vulnerable to small explosives. A shoe bomb likely wouldn't do very much to a train, especially if it was just detonated in someones seat or in a bathroom. Luggage could be large enough to enclose something powerful enough to derail the train, but even then that wouldnt lead to the type of casualties that taking a plane down does.

Rail and HSR as an extension are inherently safer and a lower target than aircraft.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 26, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

@Arrgh_Street
Look at Shanghai, they are building tall buildings in former swampland. It depends on how much you want to pay, but if you have the $$ you can build a deep enough foundation. NY pays less for tall buildings in certain areas, due to its geology, but you could build 100 stories virtually anywhere if you wanted.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 26, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

"Anyway, is there demand for such construction in Arlington and Crystal City?"

Not NOW, good heavens - not with a vacancy rate approaching what, 40%? This isnt relevant till we have an extensive HSR net (since its predicated on closing DCA) - not just the NEC, but in SEHSR, and perhaps to Chicago as well. Even 2050 is optimistic for that. And yes, its possible that in 2060 everyone will be teleconferencing in virtual reality or something.

But assuming steady office space absorption, I dont buy that there won't be pressure for major expansion in say 40 years. Downtown DC is close to build out assuming no height limit expansion. The capacity of places like NoMa and Cap Riverfront to absorb overflow is limited. CC is already growing - but if its going to grow by replacing its existing building stock with 30 story buildings, there will be limits to the economics of that redevelopment.

"Is there capacity to transport that many workers on a daily basis?"

No, which is why I suggested that this fantasy includes major transportation investment (essentially rail investment).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

I don't understand the sentiment that people raised about how if DCA were closed Rosslyn and Crystal City could have much taller buildings. There isn't that kind of demand.

In both areas, builders have built up to the height limit and asked to go higher. So, I think that proves there is this kind of demand.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/27/AR2007122702154.html

If there is no demand to go higher, why does the FAA even have a limit?

by David C on Jun 26, 2013 9:04 pm • linkreport

Pretty easy answer here: Remove federal restrictions of all kinds at DCA. No more mileage limits and let the free market determine what type of airport DCA should be. It's artificial controls...antiquated at that...which creates problems. Would be nice if you could have a lottery of sorts..to determine who got the 'slots' in a do-over...but lacking that...remove restrictions and see where it is the paying public wishes to fly. In about 2 or 3 years flights will arrive and depart to places the public wants...not the government.

by Glenn on Jun 27, 2013 8:45 am • linkreport

Glenn, I'm with you, as long as there is some mechanism for ensuring that no one gets a monopoly or near monopoly on slots. I think we can agree that that would hurt consumers.

I also assume that you don't mean restrictions on noise (though those should be smarter as discussed upthread).

by David C on Jun 27, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

DCA is not like other large airports, such as those in New York or Chicago. Those airports have far larger capacity and are built to serve commerce

DCA's not that much smaller than LaGuardia.

by andrew on Jun 27, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

After ~175 posts in this thread, one trusism remains: as long as Congress keeps their hands in this stew, do not expect any substantive change with National Airport.

by Dane on Jun 27, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Noise at dca has three practical methods of being reduced and MWAA is only implementing two of them. They are sticking their head in the sand and placing an unnecessary burden on the communities. Three ways: newer quieter planes like Boeing 737-800 - check most of time
Fly planes directly over the middle of the river - check most of time
Fly icao noise abatement vertical climb profile - not bing done. This results in aircraft being closer to ground on departure climb and much more noise. This is a pre-approved FAA and airline procedure that is accomplished at many airports today. Safe. . Does not cost more to anyone to o this, but MWAA are a bunch of old timers with nepotism issues that cannot comprehend modern aircraft operations. You lose residents anywhere within first 5-10 miles of airport departures.

by London pilot on Jun 27, 2013 8:29 pm • linkreport

get rid of all the number of flight restrictions, hours restrictions and any other congressional imposed restriction. forget the noise restrictions at night. if you don't want to hear airplanes don't live near an airport. also lets get rid of TSA and the absurd screening needed to get on a flight. you want to stop the terrorist thing use profiling.

by Casius on Jun 28, 2013 9:00 am • linkreport

I also want a pony.

by Igor on Jun 28, 2013 10:49 am • linkreport

There's a VERY good reason for the service to many small airports without connections: very many people commute INTO National for business from these small regional airports in the morning and fly home in the evening. It's like getting on the bus. It would be challenging to take a connecting flight to go to a meeting and then go home again through another connection--impossible to fly into DCA in the morning via connection, work an entire workday, and fly home by bedtime, let alone supper time, via connection. They should eliminate the perimeter exemptions, not expand them. As the author mentioned, it you're on a long flight anyway, the additional time to transit from BWI or IAD is irrelevant. But forfeiting a slot that serves a regional airport would cause everyone from that airport to make their day trip into an overnight. That would be really incredibly stupid. People living in the metro core can use the outer airports--DCA is for inbound visitors, not outbound leisure travelers.

by Frequent flyer from Boston on Jun 28, 2013 9:21 pm • linkreport

I'm not actually all that annoyed about the shuttle services between KDCA and KLGA/KBOS for the main reason that Frequent flyer and others have commented on - the value of regional point-to-point day trip connections between various cities is absolutely invaluable, and as much as anyone would like to see a national rail network of trains moving between major cities at average speeds of 200 MPH, that's not a realistic goal for any time within the next 10 years. Maybe in the bright, distant future of 2050, we could have such a network - but making decisions about how we allocate our limited air traffic today based on maybe-realized Visions for 2050 is a terrible decision, bound to cause far more harm than good. Even in the one and only instance where it does make sense - that being KDCA - KLGA itself, where the Acelas are all under 3 hours travel time and even most of the Regionals float between 3.25 and 3.5 hours travel time - the fact of the matter is Amtrak is unable to run the kind of service frequency that would be needed to absorb the impact of the sheer volume of shuttle commuters that would now be riding the rails instead.

Let's get the high-speed rail first, before we start worrying about how trains that don't exist today and won't exist for 15 years (at least) could do a much better job of serving markets dominated by a tremendous volume of existing air traffic. Discontinuing a shuttle run like (to use one example) KDCA - KCLT when SEHSR hasn't even managed to put a shovel in the ground yet is short-sighted and, frankly, insane.

by Ryan on Jun 29, 2013 5:43 pm • linkreport

Discontinuing a shuttle run like (to use one example) KDCA - KCLT when SEHSR hasn't even managed to put a shovel in the ground yet is short-sighted and, frankly, insane.

Well, I don't think anyone is talking about discontinuing all shuttle runs. But the perimeter rule likely means there are more shuttle flights and thus drives down their cost. [Imagine if flights from DCA could only go to LGA, that would make flying to LGA much cheaper.]

This in turn takes business away from EXISTING Amtrak trains and drives down that cost.

All while making flights outside the perimeter more expensive.

So we don't need to wait for HSR to change this policy. It's already distorting the market. We already have trains (and buses) that make that run. They can already compete with the shuttles.

by David C on Jun 29, 2013 10:24 pm • linkreport

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