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OP/ED: Ever wondered why your city lags behind?

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posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 02:55 AM
Have you ever wondered why your city lags behind similar size cities? On December 19th, 2004 I found out first hand why the City of Indianapolis remains behind similar sized cities. I had taken a chance and requested a meeting with the Mayor's office to speak about the current airport expansion project here. Somehow I was able to arrange a meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis and the project director of the midfield terminal project. Unfortunately my scheduled meeting happened to fall on the same day that the fate of hometown airline ATA was to be decided by a bankruptcy judge, so this turned out to be a phone and email interview.

The Indianapolis International Airport is barely a mid sized airport. It has 34 gates and approximately 170 daily departures. The city is about the 10th largest in the nation and the airport is the 47th busiest in the nation. As you can see, it lags behind other major cities. Needs were identified and a new airport is being built in between a pair of runways on the current airport property. This is all well and fine.

Late in the summer of 2004 ATA and Northwest Airlines started what seemed to be a route war. The airlines kept trading expansion announcements. This has continued up until late December 2004. The jury is still out as to whether this war will continue. Some of the expansions were significant. Before the first scheduled increase, ATA was serving about 30 (give or take a few) daily departures. Northwest was serving about 17 daily departures. By mid December the expansion announcements between the two had increased their daily departures from approximately 47 between the two to approximately 120.

The airport during busy times was having difficulties before the service expansions. Around race time and the holidays you could barely move through the terminal and it was also not uncommon in the morning to see jets unable to park at a gate because of a shortage of space. Somehow the new airport - with 6 more gates - scheduled to open in 2008 was supposed to be large enough to handle the traffic the day the airport opened as well as a decade into the future. It didn't take a genius to understand this wouldn't work.

In my conversations I asked specifically if the 40 gate configuration would be enough. I was assured it would be fine. I mentioned that with the two major airlines adding nearly 60 new commuter flights that maybe a small commuter terminal might be justified to free up valuable jetway space. I was assured that would be unnecessary as well. They were sure that they had everything in order. I mean, they are the government. They obviously know what is best. Or do they?

Just a day or so ago I was reading an Indianapolis Star News article dealing with the bad overcrowding problem at the airport. Things are so bad they are looking to add a 35th gate to a building that will be torn down in a few years. Things are so bad they are admitting that the 40 gate configuration of the new airport may not do the job. Really? Apparently Tuesday morning there were 14 planes sitting on the tarmac without a gate to pull up to. As all the service expansions actually take effect this will add to the problem. It was stated in the report that the 14 planes may increase significantly. They are talking about three times the number of planes sitting without a gate in the morning. Forty two planes without a gate. They are going to add one? And 6 more at the new airport was supposed to be enough?

ATA has already hinted that it may be expanding its service even more and I have also received the same hint from a Northwest official as well. AirTran also announced service to the airport here to start in May with an additional flight to be added in June to give it 5 daily departures with the possibility of even more scheduled flights. By the time August rolls around, this facility may be looking at 300 daily departures when the same time a year ago there were only about 170 daily departures. That will be just summer of 2005. This airport is supposed to handle the growth until late 2008. This would be necessary but the city officials had the construction company slow down the process in order to delay the opening of the new airport by a year at the request of a few airlines. Perhaps they have dug themselves into a hole. Given the rate of growth the record output for the airport of 8 million passengers in 2004 may increase to over 10 million in 2005. Industry experts predict around a 5% growth rate.

I have to shake my head as I recall some of this. Your schedule increases by just under 100% but you expect a 5% growth rate? This should explain why they are so unprepared for the mess they have now. Even if these flights left half empty they'd hit 10 million this year.

I made a few suggestions to them. One was building the commuter terminal, which I think is a must, but I doubt they will build. It will be cheap and can work for the old as well as new airport. I have also suggested they open the airport at the phase two level which is 60 gates. This would give sufficient space to handle the traffic load the day the airport opens plus it would give them room to grow including service expansions as well as the addition of new airlines. Its unlikely they will do this as well.

The City of Indianapolis is bleeding jobs in a big way. Something needs to be done to correct the problem. But what can be done? The city is planning to spend $500 million on a new stadium for the local football team. The promise is the stadium will increase revenues by $20 million a year. I suggested to the city that they spend $500 million to build a second detached terminal which supports 40 gates to offer up to a legacy class airline as a hub. Just as an example the Delta hub in Cincinnati produces an economic boost of over a billion dollars a year and has resulted in tens of thousands of jobs being created. The city will not spend $500 million for this kind of an opportunity but will spend $500 million to increase revenues by $20 million and add a few hundred jobs to the market.

I know this has been a long story. But this tells me why Indianapolis is always behind the rest of America, why as a #10 city it can't compete. It could compete, but the people that lead the city are too consumed with themselves to lead us in the right direction. All the ideas I proposed to the city and airport authority were doable and would help the city grow and establish a positive image. Every idea was shot down. The recent report in my opinion was a big "I told you so". Look at your own city. See what they are doing with your money. Is it a sad state when an amateur has a better clue and grasp on the material than the people that were hired to do the job?

They are starting to feel it. Here is the article.

[edit on 13-1-2005 by Banshee]

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:35 AM
I had posted a rant about this subject on our local news paper website. I mentioned who I spoke with and left a a less than favorable review about the job they were doing. Here is a reply someone left. I suspect it is one of the people I spoke with or an airport authority staff member.

"It is first necessary to separate the airline industry from the airports themselves. While the financial stability of the airlines is extremely volatile due to intense competition, varying passenger demand, and the rising costs of fuel, the income to airports is relatively stable and consistent. Airports derive their revenue from the airliners that pay for rental space and landing fees, parking fees, concessions fees, and the surcharge that passengers themselves pay for using the airport. As long as the passenger demand is there, and to the only major airport serving a major metropolitan area it has to be, the revenue will be there. Airports pride themselves on not using taxpayer dollars, so instead, they issue bonds to fund these massive capital improvement projects.

While the 1 billion dollar price tag may at first seem excessive, it is essential to understand the entire scope of this project. It encompasses a new entrance to the airport from I-70, control tower, parking including a new parking garage, support for landside and airside operations, and a new midfield terminal. From the passenger standpoint, the entire airport experience will be new. The midfield terminal has been in the master plan of the airport since the early 1970s, and since this is the culmination of that plan, it is good that this project is expanding.

It is true that a forty gate terminal may be inadequate for our needs. However, due to the relocation of the terminal to a site between the main runways, it will be more capable of expanding to meet future needs than the existing terminal. When you study airport expansion, you realize that these airports were initially designed a very long time ago, and the subsequent expansions and alterations were made to accommodate the current airports design and while maintaining current airport operations. Yet here in Indianapolis, we have the opportunity to build practically an entire new airport. This new airport will afford us an unprecedented opportunity to realize efficiency into the design, rather than sheer size, at least here in the United States.

One has to look beyond North America to find examples of recent airport projects of this scale, because since 9/11, there hasn’t been any. South Korea's Incheon International Airport is one, and China's Guangzhou-Baiyun International Airport is another. Both of these multi-billion dollar airport projects have been built in the initial design phase of under 46 gates, but their infrastructure and efficiency of design allows them to accommodate 25 million and 30 million passengers, respectively. Additionally, while Indianapolis ranked 46th in terms of passenger boarding , 28th placed Chicago Midway and 32nd placed Washington National does it with only 45 gates, respectively. How big can an airport be built, and is building big really good design? Is multiple terminals and underground tunnels with the mandatory neon light and sound show really what we want?

This is our one chance to build an airport for the future, our one chance to build an airport that can compete on a global scale. In the United States, destination airports such as 30th ranked Tampa with 54 gates are consistently judged the best in the nation, far above massive international hubs with a hundred gates plus. Make no mistake about it, the world will be watching. This will be the first new airport terminal to be built in America after 9/11, when practically every aspect of modern aviation changed. This will be the first terminal to incorporate new security requirements into the initial design, instead of SUV sized baggage scanning equipment hastily placed in valuable public circulation space, and to incorporate new technology, such as common-use self service kiosks.

I hold firm to the belief that not being a hub for one particular airline is an asset to Indianapolis International, and that strong passenger growth driven by low fares due to diverse airline competition in this market will foster long term growth. Additional growth for the airport will come in the form of air cargo. Unlike passenger air travel, air cargo has seen steady and substantial growth over the past few years from companies like Fed-Ex. Fed-Ex has a strong corporate strategy and vision, and I feel that their growth here is inevitable. The city of Indianapolis has a rich history of being a transportation center for the nation. From the early 19th century railway hub of Union Station, to today as Indiana's interstate highway system being known as the "Crossroads of America", we have a legacy of our own to uphold."

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:37 AM
Here is my reply to this person...

"Here is something to consider. Destination cities like Tampa and Orlando have something to offer year round to bring in the numbers consistantly. Because of that you can get the passenger volume you need to offer services to passengers normally found with hub airports. Those would be more non-stop destinations and more international service. You have to be able to fill a large jet day in and day out otherwise the carriers won't run the route. With just regular point to point service do you think Indianapolis can support four or five European routes? Are there enough people to fill four or five large jets daily without a hub environment. Of course not. That is why to this date we lack the service. If someone in Indianapolis wants to travel to most destinations in the world they have to go through another city. You can't even get to a large number of US cities without going through a connecting airport. Your airport is your image. Are long tunnels with neon lights necessary? No. But neither is lagging behind because you don't want to spend the money to grow and catch up with the rest of the country. Are we the Crossroads of America? When it comes to air travel it would certainly seem as not.

The 40 gate airport won't do the job. A shorter taxi time will help but look at the problems facing the airport now. I'm not even worrying about parking. They are out of ticket counter space and gate space. They were 14 planes sitting without a gate Tuesday morning. That number is expected to be 3 times as high late spring. This is with no additional growth after summer 2005. Ive seen 5% growth tossed around. That is extremely unrealistic. Without a major airline failure and withdrawl from Indianapolis or a sudden and drastic schedule reduction it will be likely that the passenger throughput this year will hit 10 million. You don't add nearly 130 daily departures and expect 5% growth. At only 50 seats per departure that amounts to nearly 2.74 million extra departing passengers. 130 flights x 50 passengers per flight x 365 days in a year. And thats just departing flights. Throughput is based on incoming and outgoing.

Even if you believe that 40 gates is enough to handle the traffic load the day it opens late in 2008 how long do you think it will be before expansion is required? How will you add new airlines? You won't have the gate space to offer. You will be full the day you open. No new airlines. No new gates for existing airlines. You are basically stuck until you can get around to raising the money necessary to expand to 60 gates. In the mean time the airlines have chosen to expand somewhere else. Just like they have done in the past.

Putting all your eggs in one basket isnt the way to go I will agree. You don't want a single carrier dominating like is the case in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. There is no reason you cannot have a pair of airlines dominate the market like is the case in Chicago. You don't what that large of a scale but two major airlines can coexist. With the appropriate space you give airlines the ability to bring in more flights and offer connecting service. This drives up your throughput numbers and gives you the ability to offer more nonstop flights to more markets and eventually flights to other parts of the world. Why should we give all our business to Chicago and Detroit? Do you want to be a world class city or everyones second choice? Do you want to be the Crossroads of America or the city that everyone just drives through or flies over?

40 gates won't cut it. 60 is the way to go. Lets give the city a chance for once. Don't pull a Hoosier Dome and open a facility that is obsolete the day the ribbon cutting ceremony is held."

and an additiona note...

"Additional Note: You can do more with fewer gates when you are in some of these locations because a bulk of the flights coming in are international and are the larger variety A330's, 767's, 747's, etc. You can do more with less when each flight brings 200 to 300 and and moves 200 to 300 out. Throughput of 400 to 600 per jet is pretty good. Compared to here where you are looking at smaller jets that may have 200 throughput per jet versus the 400 to 600. You fly into an airport like Frankfurt and you see endless 747's, 767s and the other heavies. Indianapolis will most likely never see that kind of service so you aren't going to see 20 million people with 45 gates."

Sorry about posting all this. Not sure how long the topic will stay before deleted or before the other person decides to retract his/her post.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:41 AM
how do you know all of this?

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:44 AM
Its called not having a life and spending too much time doing research on the subject. I have archived many of the press releases announcing service expansions, news articles related to the expansion, information about the new airport including the master plan. I have seen the capacity enhancement plans, runway expansion plans, growth forecasts, etc. Like I said. I don't have a life.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:47 AM

Originally posted by Indy
Its called not having a life and spending too much time doing research on the subject. I have archived many of the press releases announcing service expansions, news articles related to the expansion, information about the new airport including the master plan. I have seen the capacity enhancement plans, runway expansion plans, growth forecasts, etc. Like I said. I don't have a life.

Well, for what it's worth - i would hire you on as a consultant just on the strength of these posts alone.

Good job!

I hope someone over in Indy wises up and listens to you.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:48 AM
i need to send a U2U (Indy) to you but, for some reason i can't. why is that?

[edit on 13-1-2005 by chrisamatic]

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 03:52 AM
Thanks quango. I hope they listen. I really do want the city to succeed.

chrisamatic... are you getting an error or is it just not completing? I have used 159 of my 250 slots. So im not over quota.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:01 AM
Also check your quota. Make sure you aren't at your limit because if you are I believe you can't send either. If you are at your limit then delete a couple of old ones.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:02 AM
okay. i think i can reply. expect one in a minute.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:25 AM
I did some checking. The person that replied to my post on the newspaper's website has a total of 2 posts. The one I pasted above and one other reply to another topic I had going on the airport expansion project. Both replies amounted to nothing more than a show of politics. It was the same kind of scripted reply that I gave you above. Its as if this person had a list of answers to give in forums if a topic came up and just cut and paste the answer. Its as if the person is in media relations. Two posts in two months and both are on the same subject. Very suspicious.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:29 AM
it may be suspicious but, i assure you, it's pure coincidence. you just strike as an intelligent person.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:33 AM
I certainly don't mind them replying. As I look over the post from November I see the person didn't start each sentence with a capital letter. The material was well written but the attention to detail like that tells me the person wrote it freehand. Their posts were well thought out. I just think they are taking an approach that is just far too cautious. Sometimes you have to take chances in life.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:35 AM
i kind of see your point but i don't completely understand.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 01:09 PM
Please forgive this "mostly" one-line post...but, what are you guys talking about??? I'm lost.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 04:41 PM
Your investigation was well researched for the topic of airports, but do you think this is the only thing that causes a city to "lag behind"? Here in Dayton (not far from you) we have the same problem - the town is on the verge of becoming depressed, and the city is trying to revitalize its image. In otherwords, they are trying to find ways to not lag behind. The problem is, they spend all the money on worthless projects that are good for political egos and not where it should be going - education and good paying jobs. Education and jobs will take a longer time to return on the investment, but is also longer lasting. Things like stadiums bring in revenues, but not for the majority of the population in the city.

posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 05:16 PM
This was just the perfect example of what plagues this city. We have other issues here as well. Poor school funding, misuse of funds for worthless projects, use of funds for projects that were possibly not necessary, and my favorite is paying for something new because you didn't make the original one right the first time.

Billion dollar airline maintenance facility that was to generate about a million a year in rent and create a few thousand jobs.

A hundred million dollar public library construction project that is stuck at ground level because of faulty concrete work in the sub levels. (on hold for about a year now).

A 58,000 seat dome stadium that was obsolete the day the doors opened on it.

A brand new government center.

A million dollar dog park.

Did I mention a lack of funding for schools?

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