Greg Lindsay knows a lot about airports: in fact he’s just written a whole book about them, called Aerotropolis. So I thought I’d ask him whether my uninformed ramblings about airports and infrastructure made any sense.
It doesn’t matter whether you fly private or whether you fly commercial: you still have to fly from an airport. Which clearly annoys the Obama administration’s top plutocrat, Larry Summers. Justin Fox was in Washington on Tuesday to hear Summers give a speech on the inadequacies of US infrastructure. And he came up with a truly classic example to make his point:
Airlines save money when their customers check bags rather than carry them on board the plane. How to encourage their customers to do just that? They don’t seem to be jumping at the idea of the negative bag-check fee. But how about charging money for carry-ons? Spirit Airlines has now announced it’s going to do just that: while a small carry-on which fits underneath the seat in front of you is fine, anything which requires stowing overhead is going to cost at least as much as that checked bag.
Back in September, Joe Brancatelli made a compelling case that bag-check fees at major airlines were actually losing them money, rather than making money. And that was before Southwest airlines embarked on a major marketing campaign touting the fact that they check bags for free — a campaign that Eric Joiner calls “pure marketing genius”.
While I was waiting in an interminable security line at America’s friendliest airport today, a woman’s voice came over the intercom and scolded us that it was basically our fault that the screening was taking so long, and proceeded in a mildly unintelligible voice (the intercom’s fault, not her own) to go into great detail about exactly what had to be done with both small and large containers of liquids, gels, aerosols, and whatnot. People who didn’t fully understand the liquids-and-gels policy, she said, were causing unnecessary delays for everybody else.
Last week, weighing in on a miles-travelled tax, I said that “there really is something quite creepily Big Brotherish about trying to track every single vehicle in America”. But then I heard from Bern Grush of Skymeter, and he’s persuaded me that you don’t actually need to make tracking information available in order to tax miles travelled.
Andrew Samwick calls a tax on vehicle miles travelled (VMTs) “one of the most ridiculous policy proposals I’ve read in a while”, and Ryan Avent responds with a defense of the idea. The weird thing, here, is that they’re both right. Samwick agrees with Avent that congestion charges — essentially VMT taxes which vary according to the route you take and the time of day that you drive — are “worthwhile policy measures”. And it’s pretty clear that if we’re going to have congestion charges, we’re going to need to implement some kind of VMT-tax technology. (I’m a fan of Skymeter, myself.)