There Is More Than One Way Out Of Airport Hell

Similar to the futility of solving highway congestion, laying down more concrete is not a long-term solution to "Airport Hell" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Sept. 4). The Europeans and Japanese have years of experience showing that high-speed rail works and is a viable alternative. Closer to home, even much-maligned Amtrak has a better on-time performance record and fewer canceled trips on its own property (Northeast Corridor) than most airlines. With trains, weather has less of an impact, there are no airport security hassles, it is downtown-to-downtown, and it's downright relaxing. You're not crammed between two burly passengers with the seat back parked under your nose. You're not stuck with nothing but pretzels and unable to work or read because the air is too bumpy.

Following a particularly bad shuttle flight in 1982, I haven't flown on business trips in the Northeast Corridor since. By train, I have never experienced more than trivial inconveniences or delays. I dream of the day I can take a similar train to Raleigh or Charlotte, N.C. There are many people, like me, living in hub cities, who would like the option of high-speed rail travel to destinations less than 400 miles away. One high-speed train can hold three planeloads of passengers traveling between Chicago and St. Louis. The train can do it at less cost with less energy and greater comfort in about the same downtown-to-downtown travel time.

Why couldn't we divert some of the billions we spend on airports to build dedicated high-speed rail lines, reducing flights between their end points? There is a growing divergence between the wishes of travelers and those of airport and airline lobbyists. High-speed rail in the U.S. is long overdue.

Robert H. Leilich

Springfield, Va.

Airlines are overbooked; airports and highways are congested. Now might be the time for another national program similar to the manned moon mission. We as a people like to set a goal and accomplish it. A goal to provide an alternative means of travel that is reliable, efficient, comfortable, and cost-effective would be such a program. The Interstate Highway System was conceived in the 1950s, when automobile traffic was much less. Now is the time to envision a high-speed passenger rail system, initially between large cities and then to smaller markets.

Using the medians and land adjacent to the interstate highways for the right of ways and limiting their use to passenger trains would allow for the development of an alternative to airlines and the automobile. Money from highway, gasoline, and airport taxes to fund this system and the creation of an agency similar to the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor its development would allow faster construction. When people consider the time lost in traffic and in driving to an airport, crowded airlines, and weather delays, high-speed passenger rail service becomes a viable alternative.

Louis Schultz

Portsmouth, Va.

A larger problem is quickly arising: growing orders for regional jets. Although these jets offer more convenient service to smaller communities than the turboprops they are replacing, they require the same en route separation as 747s and the same runway and terminal airspace separation as MD80/737s, which carry three times as many passengers. Turboprops can use shorter or crossing runways and rarely use the upper airways that jets require and thus haven't contributed to congestion.

Our larger airports are maxed out handling the current fleet of larger aircraft. This is where the various government agencies are going to have to work to decide how these aircraft are used and where the future funding for airport expansion will go. Underutilized airports around large metropolitan areas, such as Teterboro, N.J. serving New York, may not be happy with the increased air traffic, even though it will give smaller communities access to these large markets while leaving LaGuardia and Newark to handle the larger-volume aircraft.

Pascal G. Houcke

Richboro, Pa.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.