Paine Field (wikimedia)

The last two days the Times has had stories about turning Paine Field into a real airport. Airports aren’t really our gig but I thought there were some interesting interfaces with stuff we usually talk about. In no particular order:

1. There’s more than a whiff of NIMBYism in a lot of the protests. As someone who promotes both disruptive transit construction projects and more density, I find it viscerally unappealing. I live on the low slopes of Beacon Hill and knows what it’s like to live with jet noise.  But you have the same  “save our communities” overheated rhetoric, the know-nothing disregard for what the studies say, and the insulting attitude toward other communities in the region (in this case, Seatac).

2. On the other hand, I’ll take all the friends I can get:

“I’d rather invest the money to bring light rail to Snohomish County than destroy the quality of life of a large area,” [Mukilteo City Council President] Randy Lord said.

If the choice is really “commercialize Paine Field” or “extend Snoho light rail,” I’ll line up in the latter column.  But color me skeptical that’s the real choice.

3. In the stories there’s a lot of emphasis of driving to Paine Field rather than all the way to Seatac, and in fact most sprawling Metro areas have multiple airports. However, the other driving factor is airport capacity. We just built a third runway at Seatac to accommodate more planes, but unless carbon and fuel prices again make flying the privilege of the rich and the business traveler, it won’t be enough forever.

If we really want to avoid the need for a new airport somewhere, the answer is high-speed rail. There really is no replacement for flights to Tokyo, but there’s no good reason for people to fly from Portland to Seattle given good rail options.  Those flights take up just as many landing slots as an intercontinental one.  Even for someone from Portland or Bellingham transferring at Seattle for longer flights, there’s no good reason they couldn’t use dramatically improved Amtrak Cascades service. If you really want to get serious, I could beat an old hobby horse and say that a transfer point at Boeing Access Road would make this a convenient proposition.

70 Replies to “Paine Field”

  1. We just built a third runway at Seatac to accommodate more planes,

    Actual I think the reason for the third runway was to decrease flight delays during inclement weather rather than increase capacity. Airlines don’t really factor in weather related delays into capacity. They just hope for the best and then scramble to get back on schedule. On a clear day the takeoff and landing intervals are the same with or without the third runway.

    1. Actually, the real reason we built the third runway was to increase capacity. Reducing flight delays and improving safety were the reasons presented publicly in order to overcome opposition from the anti-growth movement. The public in the Puget Sound region, by and large, is simply not interested in subsidizing growth, and increasing airport capacity is one of many ways that regions subsidize growth; building light rail is another.

      1. The “third runway” is really just the new second runway. You don’t see three runways in operation unless it is very, very clear out.

  2. I agree with you on high speed rail, as it is clearly a solution to overburdened airports in many parts of the country (California, Northeast, etc.).

    That said, I strongly support commercial service at Paine Field. Seatac may not be at full capacity, but will be in the future. The drive from Lynnwood to Seatac is 45 minutes without traffic, and Everett is much worse. It makes sense to add some air capacity in the north Sound. This is an airport that sees multiple takeoffs and landings from 747s, 777s, and now 787s on a daily basis. A handful of commuter flights will not make or break this neighborhood. Even 50-60 daily flights would not have a significant impact given the current activity.

    Plus, if Mukilteo residents want to talk about discouraging Sea-Tac style development, I suggest they look in their own backyard first. The Mukilteo Speedway is already a hideous commercial strip of strip malls, fast food restaurants, and motels. Same with nearby Hwy 99 and Casino Road.

      1. The flight paths primarily follow lines of likely least resistence – the poor (Central Area) and student areas (U-District). I see next to no planes flying over Bellevue or Redmond by the way – neither city is really on the flight path from the north or south – so am not sure why you threw those two into the mix. If you look at the main flightpath into London Heathrow, it is chiefly over the poorer areas of the city south of the Thames than over the more expensive ‘City’ and other high value residential areas. I do not think that our Queen in England would be terribly troubled by aircraft noise even if she didn’t probably have double glazing in Buckingham Palace!

      2. FYI, I live near Rose Hill Junior High in Kirkland. I can hear planes flying over every 10 minutes or so. Of course, it is not as crazy as Seattle central district/u-district where you can see planes one following another.

      3. I really enjoyed the non-re-engined DC-8 freighters that would come howling in at Oh-dark-thirty past my apartment in Belltown twenty years ago,n enroute to BFI. And I lived there because it was dirt cheap. I cannot imagine how “fun” it must be to be sitting in a half-million dollar leaky, moldy condo tower today and enjoying that “alarm clock”. Good thing the DC-8’s are parked.

      4. Then you haven’t flown much. Usually the planes come north along the east edge of Lake Washington then turn west across the north end of the lake then make their southern base leg turn over Lake City and shoreline

      5. They don’t really fly over Bellevue or Redmond though – at least I have never picked up that they do and even if I don’t fly much (and I don’t), I can still see fortunately and I have not seen much air traffic over either city. Planes are so much quieter any way that you don’t really notice them until they are on final approach. I like watching them anyway. They are part of our rich history.

      6. @Tim
        I’ve recently flown into SeaTac by going right over the top of Bellevue (which was quite a view), then around to Seattle for the north approach.

        I live in the U-district and work on Beacon Hill and I don’t mind the planes at all, it is just part of the background noise of the city. I’m more annoyed by the freeway noise and car alarms.

        I also get lots of seaplanes circling near my apartment, which I think is just neat. I haven’t seen many other cities were small planes buzz the top of buildings all the time.

      7. Yeah, we honestly didn’t realize plane noise was going to be an issue for us up here on Beacon Hill, because it’s not close to the airport. Turned out, we’re directly below the flight path and it can get loud. Luckily, we’re pretty noise tolerant, and the noise levels have improved over the years anyway. But it’s not as simple as saying “don’t live near an airport.”

        While I was typing this post, a plane flew over the house. ;)

      8. Quite so! All of those folks who moved into the known flightpath into SeaTac’s Third Runway and then started to complain about it are being totally disengenuous and wasting everyone’s money – to prosecute and to defend.

      9. There isn’t really a new “flightpath into SeaTac’s Third Runway”. All of the runways are parallel and run north/south. Takeoff and landing direction is determined by wind direction. The third runway was built to meet FAA regulations for separation of planes under reduced visibility.

      10. This is an impossibly arrogant position to take. It is also the very definition of NIMBY and the primary cause of sprawl.

        Don’t like crime and failing schools in the city? No need to waste all that energy trying to fix the problem, just move to the suburbs!

        Don’t like traffic? Just move closer to where you work! Never mind if you’re married to someone who works 30 miles away from where you work. Never mind if there is no affordable housing where you work. Never mind that your just move away “solution” is in direct contradiction to your advice on how to deal with the first problem

        If you don’t like airplane noise, just move. Never mind that you love your neighborhood. Never mind that all your friends and family live there. Never mind that your neighborhood was established long before commercial aviation even existed.

        By that logic, why should we build urban parks? They’re terribly expensive. If people want to go outside, they should just move to the country!

        The central point you are missing with this “just move away” attitude is all the other things a person has to give up in order to move. People live where they live for a reason. Moving away is not nearly as easy as you imply. You are also, consciously or unconsciously, pushing the belief that the best way to solve community problems is to run away from them.

        The attitude is also dripping with classism. A lot of people can’t afford not to live near an airport, or a freeway, or a rail yard, but who cares? As long as the white middle class can afford to move away from nuisances, there’s really no problem, right?

      11. Call me crazy but I think most of the real objections to commercial service at Paine Field could likely be addressed with agreements similar to those at SJC and LGB. Require that airlines use modern quiet aircraft such as the Q400 (not just older MD-80s or 737s with hush kits). Limit the operating hours like SJC and LGB. Also limit the total flights per day like LGB.

        Now there isn’t much that can be done to enforce these restrictions other than by the carriers agreeing to them since Paine has received Federal funds in the past an must accept all air traffic that wants to use the airport as a result.

      12. I agree that it is very possible to mitigate much of the impact, but doing so requires that the decision makers to decide that doing so is important. Mitigation is often a fair compromise. The attitude I am objecting to is the suggestion that mitigation is not required because people can just move somewhere else.

        However, as you point out, it is quite difficult to enforce these mitigations, and there have been far, far too many examples of communities that were promised mitigation, but then never received it. It is completely rational for citizens to be suspicious of promises of mitigation. Perhaps one way of reducing public opposition to infrastructure projects would be to start actually keeping promises made to communities, but that would be expensive. Setting aside the moral argument for a moment, when decision makers decide to reneg on promised mitigation, they ought to consider the impact that has on public trust of government and how that decision contributes to the kind of political stalemates we keep running into.

      13. The problem with mitigation is this: There is already a mitigation agreement in place, this is why Mukilteo residents are fuming. We’ve been here since the annexation of Harbour Pointe and have seen the traffic on 525 explode as developers rushed in to build upscale housing mixed with high density rental properties. Our town hosts the ferry, (busiest in the system), Burlington Northern, and two major commuter highways. We have nowhere else to move to, as many residents are Boeing employees, or military working on Whidbey. With ten schools in the direct path of aircraft takeoff or landing patterns, retrofit for noise on these facilities alone would cost a fortune. MSD built five schools after the 1991 squabble which resulted in a third runway at SeaTac, and the renewal of the Mitigated agreement — which has now been ignored by the speculators who’ve bought commercial property on Airport Road. Sorry folks, but as SOC says: ‘A deal is a deal’, and a greedy few are not going to ruin our tenth best place to live in the country withour a huge fight. See you in court.

      14. Have a little sympathy for these people . . . sometimes the airport changes its flight path as it did over Bellevue when it adopted the “4 post” plan some years ago. Prior to that the “right turn” option didn’t exist and traffic went out over the sound for the most part. Yes, I knew there was an airport when I moved here in 1987. No, there was no flight activity – who would have thought it being 15 miles from the airport?

        But I agree with other comments that the newer planes are extremely quiet and not as annoying as the older screamers that flew over every 2 minutes on a sunny day – you could tell what the weather was like before even getting out of bed!

      15. Good point, Jeff, but we need to remember that noise is only one of many concerns. Jet exhaust is not a healthy thing to be breathing, and living under a flight path exposes residents to a lot more air pollution than they would experience elsewhere.

      16. Needlessly glib, Gordon.

        And illogical since the residences purchased property and signed leases *before* the airport would expand.

        And illogical since they’d have diminished home values as a result of the pending expansion.

        But should some noxious land use befall your home, I hope you find your own logic helpful.

    1. Totally agree with your comment. It becomes a burden to drive from Everett to Seatac, especially during morning hours on a week day for a business trip as an example. And if Paine Field is continuing to be Issue, then where would a second airport be? As mentioned most high populated metro areas have secondary airport not to mention a complete light rail system to get you there.

  3. you think you’re seeing NIMBYs for this? just imagine what you’d see if they try to gobble up land to build a dedicated HSR line … people would revolt.

    1. Why, just GOOBLING up the landscape! As much as a *score* of acres per linear mile of route!


  4. Ofeering flights to Spokane and Portland from Paine field is indeed silly. Improving rail service to both cities is really the only valid answer here. Short plane hops are largely a waste however you look at it.

    Beyond these two cities, I am sure that Snohomish County could do with a welcome economic boost and especially as Boeing is getting to be so disruptive these days to the social fabric of the area.

    As for capacity at SeaTac, the airport is nowhere near capacity as both air traffic and passengers have been declining for some years now – as at most American and world airports of any note. SeaTac should remain the premier airport for the region as a whole and as the airport of transfer for domestic travelers connecting through the airport to points beyond. Lufthansa has or is about to shut down their Frankfurt-PDX run but still has its SEA-Frankfurt service. Same with London, Amsterdam and Paris to name a few whose airports are not servicing Portland, but they are Seattle. Paine Field would not compete with these longer international opportunities but could add to the overall balance of flights in the region to medium range destinations.

    1. Tim,

      I completely agree with your last paragraph. If you look at the LA area, you can see how this works just as you describe. LAX is the international/hub airport and SNA,BUR,ONT,and LGB are secondary airports that provide domestic point-to-point traffic.

      PAE will never become another SEA, but is a perfect airport for domestic point-to-point traffic.

      1. I think a better comparison would be to SAN (San Diego) and CLD (Carlsbad).

        The populations and densities are a little more similar.

        Yes, SAN has TIJ nearby, but the “impediment” of using an airport in Mexico today for some in San Diego are equal to the use of YVR by Seattle area because of the distance from Seattle to YVR.

        Also, TIJ does not have nearly the variety of international flights that YVR does.

    2. As for capacity at SeaTac, the airport is nowhere near capacity as both air traffic and passengers have been declining for some years now

      According to the Ports statistics the number of flights has decreased but the number of passengers continues to rise as carriers are forced to be more efficient (larger planes flying full). Likewise with air cargo; more pounds are being moved with fewer planes and the value of the goods increased. Of course all travel has declined with the recession. Moving people to, from and through the airport is a big part of capacity and Link certainly aids in that respect.

  5. As someone who lives next to Sea-Tac Airport, I laugh when I hear these people complain about all the noise from these new flights. I can see the airplanes from my living room window, and I notice the noise maybe five times during the day, and I don’t have the port noise package in my house.

    Modern airliners are quiet relative to their older syblings. Horizon’s Q400 are very quiet, even when they fly right over your house. The most annoying aircraft I experience at my house are the little Cessnas that fly over going east and west across Sea-Tac. The airliners are quiet compared to the little guys at 1500 feet.

    To all the NIMBY’s….if you don’t like airplane noise, don’t live under the flight path, or next to, an airport. You know it was there when you moved in. Trust me when I say that you will barely even notice the increased flights at PAE. Road noise is a more constant and annoying noise that that of an occasional airplane.

    1. While I disagree with your condescending attitude to citizen activists that are concerned about preserving and improving the quality of life in their community, you do make a very good point about road noise relative to flight noise. I recently moved from being adjacent to I-5 to being directly under the Sea-Tac flight path and there really is no comparison. It is much, much quieter under the flight path.

      1. Tony,

        condescending attitude to citizen activists that are concerned about preserving and improving the quality of life in their community

        Funny – this statement can well describe those critical of what are commonly referred to as “NIMBY-types” in transit land – folks opposed to things like transit tunnels and light rail lines and bus service cuts.

        I guess it depends on your particular brand of “citizen activist” and whose “community” they’re looking to “preserve and improve”.

      2. Actually Jeff, I’ve been pretty consistent on this point. I strongly disagree with the majority opinion on this blog that we need to bowl over local communities for the “greater good” of building fancy light rail toys. However, in North Seattle at least, most residents want light rail in their neighborhood. They see Link construction as frustrating and would like to see the construction impacts mitigated, but on balance they’re willing to put up with the impacts because they value the benefit that they will receive once light rail is operational. The Roosevelt Neighborhood actually lobbied to move their planned light rail station away from the freeway on-ramp and to the center of their neighborhood, dooming them to much greater construction impacts, but they lobbied for it because they saw the benefit of putting a train station in their neighborhood. North Link is not a question of regional interest vs local interest. North Link is win-win, good for the region and good for the neighborhoods. That, unfortunately, is a rare condition.

        With respect to Southeast Seattle, I agree with you here as well. We should not have put Link through the Rainier valley. Why? Because, unlike North Seattle, the citizens of Southeast didn’t want it. They understand that light rail is a tool of gentrification and they understand the downsides of surface rail (as does Bellevue, which is why they are opposed to ST’s current preferred alignment for East Link). Meanwhile, you have a community over in West Seattle that is begging for rapid transit. If West Seattle wanted it and Southeast Seattle didn’t, why did we put it in Southeast again? Because of the same condescending attitude pushed by this blog that people don’t understand their own interests and we need to force them to accept our agenda for their own good.

      3. “We should not have put Link through the Rainier valley. Why? Because, unlike North Seattle, the citizens of Southeast didn’t want it.”

        Sorry Tony, but that’s not true. I’m sure the Save our Valley folks would like you to believe it, but it’s not. The original alignment suggested in the early 90’s went through SODO and the Duwamish en route to the airport. Rainier Valley business and community groups successfully lobbied to have the alignment moved to the valley to increase transit service for the people who most need it. The original $13 billion dollar plan included elevated light rail through the valley, but that plan failed to make it to the ballot. The next plan, the one that was approved by local governments and made it to the ballot, included at-grade light rail from Columbia City south. It wasn’t until this plan was approved by the voters as Sound Move that the Save Our Valley folks came out of the woodwork to oppose light rail in the valley. Just because some people in southeast Seattle were opposed to it doesn’t mean that the community as a whole didn’t want it. The citizens of Seattle who voted to approve Sound Move knew full well that the project included at-grade light rail in the valley

      4. Tony,

        You complain about “condescending attitudes” but you can’t help yourself but to dismiss our advocacy for “fancy light rail toys”. In the past you’ve talked about our “blind advocacy” as if we read half an ST brochure once and now are just typing random pro-rail slogans into WordPress. Perhaps if you use fewer meaningless but pejorative terms for our policy objectives there will be less condescension on the blog, at least under your name.

        Anyway, why are you stopping at the neighborhood level? If the “greater good” has no weight, why not have house-by-house veto power over the link alignment?

        Moreover, an excessive focus on the interests of current residents ignores the interests of future residents of the very same neighborhood. After all, new density will trigger all kinds of inconvenience for people today but will provide opportunities for more people to live there that currently can’t and don’t get a voice. I’m not going to presume to speak for future generations, but I moved in to the Valley at the tail end of the construction, so I didn’t pay many costs in inconvenience but I reap 100% of the benefits. I won’t be the last one to get that deal.

      5. As an actual resident of SE Seattle, I can tell you that the Save Our Valley folks did not speak for all of us, thank you very much.

      6. I suspect those groups making a lot of noise about East Link are far from the majority just like the “Save Our Valley” or ACRS don’t represent a majority of those living in SE Seattle.

        Indeed lost in the objections of some groups (including now the Bellevue City Council) are the cities, businesses, groups, and individuals who want East Link. For that matter the Bellevue City Council and others who object to various alignments in SE Bellevue and Downtown Bellevue for the most part seem to want link in the Bel-Red corridor.

        Do remember that one of the tactics groups opposing or supporting some action or another use is to try to give the impression that they speak for the entire group or community they purport to represent.

      7. Zed, litlnemo and Chris:

        You all make very good points and I am happy to concede all of them. It is very difficult to evaluate what “the people of Southeast Seattle” want in aggregate. There is no doubt that there are many people in Southeast who did want Link and who are happy to have it now. There is also no doubt than many Southeast residents do not want the gentrification, density, and reductions in bus service that will follow Link. The Save Our Valley movement is not the only Southeast voice that had concerns about Link.

        That said, it was wrong of me to generalize and I apologize for doing so.

        I will also grant that perhaps, on balance, more Southeast residents support Link and everything that comes with it than oppose it. I was mainly using this as an example to highlight the principle that we should consider local concerns in our planning. I did not mean to mischaracterize the position of Southeast residents as it appears that I have.

        However, the very fact that Link was moved TO the Rainier Valley precisely because of the lobbying of local activists is, if anything, an argument for deference to local concerns and proof that win-win solutions do in fact exist that are beneficial to local areas and the greater good. The best way to find those win-win solutions is to listen to the people and do everything we can to incorporate local concerns into regional planning. We will not always be able to do so, but we should at least try.

        With respect to Bellevue, my point is that they have legitimate concerns. We are better off trying to incorporate those concerns into the planning than to simply give them the finger and say “you don’t speak for the people, even though the people elected you to do so.”


        “Fancy light rail toys” was meant as a joke. However, I can see that in the context of a serious post criticizing what I perceive to be a core philosophy of this blog, it was misplaced and could easily be misconstrued. I apologize for the confusion.

        For the record, I strongly support light rail. I do consider the construction of light rail to be part of the greater good and at times it is necessary to overrule local concerns for the greater good. However, I perceive this blog, and the original comment that I was responding to, to hold the attitude that we, in our current system give too much weight to local concerns and not enough to the greater good. On this point I disagree. I believe the balance should be struck far more on the side of local concerns than it is now, especially with respect to transportation systems.

        With respect to your slippery slope argument, there is no warrant to jump from advocacy that neighborhood level concerns be incorporated into regional planning to giving every household veto power over regional projects. Optimal constitution theory says that decisions should be made at the most local level possible while still accounting for relevant externalities. It is impossible to effectively regulate something with externalities at a level of government below the level of externality. It is, on the other hand, possible to regulate issues with less externalities at higher levels of government. Optimal constitution theory tells us however that while it is possible to do this, it is inefficient to do so. That is to say, regulating at a lower level of government is a Pareto Superior policy if the act being regulated does not have any significant externalities beyond the borders of the regulating jurisdiction.

        Given these principles, we can evaluate the optimal level decision making aggregation to pick a light rail alignment. For simplicity, we will consider three levels: regional (i.e. Sound Transit), neighborhood / district (in this case Southeast Seattle, West Seattle, and Duwamish), or individual (your household veto example). The question becomes what is the level of external impact that a light rail alignment has. It is obvious, beyond any argument, that a light rail alignment affects much more than any single individual. At a minimum it affects an immediate neighborhood and it generally affects an entire district. This alone is sufficient to reject your slippery slope example of individual household veto. The issue affects the entire neighborhood, therefore the decision must be made at that level or higher.

        The real question however, is whether the decision affects areas outside the neighborhood / district, and thus mandates that the decision making be aggregated to the regional level rather than left to the local level. The simple answer is, of course, yes, whether light rail runs from downtown to Sea-Tac via Southeast, Duwamish or West Seattle does impact areas outside of those neighborhoods, so the regional decision makers need to be involved. However, the region has some flexibility. The regional interests are served at a similar level with each of the three possible alignments, not exactly the same, but the marginal impact on the region as a whole of one particular alignment over another is nowhere near the marginal impact (positive or negative) on the local areas. In short, it matters much, much more to Southeast Seattle than it does to everyone else whether Link goes through Southeast Seattle on its way to Sea-Tac or uses some other route. Thus, in this situation, some level of deference should be made to the local concerns. Zef pointed out that this was in fact one of the driving factors in putting Link through Southeast: lobbying from local businesses and residents. If Zef’s retelling of the story is accurate, then this is exactly how it should be. I cannot evaluate this as I have only come on the scene in the last couple of years and have heard no shortage of complaints from Southeast neighborhood activists. Whether these people speak for the neighborhood or not is another matter.

        The general point I am trying to make is and has always been that far more often than most people think, there are significant opportunities for win-win: opportunities to achieve regional interests and local interests at the same time.

        Often, the process of seeking these win-win solutions can result in decisions that are better for both the region and the neighborhood than any of the original options were. At other times it is possible to generate an enormous local benefit at a trivial regional cost, or to do the opposite and generate an enormous regional benefit at a trivial local cost, one that can be more than offset by a minimal level of compensation.

        However, the only way to find these win-win solutions and to ensure that when tradeoffs do need to be made, that we are always trading the smallest cost for the biggest benefit is to listen to and respect both local and regional concerns, to get neighborhoods and regional decision makers sitting down at the same table and really listening and problem solving in a collaborative manner. This kind of decision making is definitively not aided by condescending attitudes like “if you don’t like noise … don’t live near an airport”. In fact these sentiments are the primary source of the stalemates that plague Seattle politics. When one side blindly dismisses the concerns of the other, it certainly doesn’t encourage those “NIMBYs” to consider the impact they are having on other people.

      8. Tony,

        Thanks for a very thoughtful and grown-up comment.

        I don’t have a problem with most of what you’re saying; the only comment I’d make is that DT Bellevue, unlike SE Seattle and Tukwila, is a regional destination. Therefore, there is an unusually large interest for Seattle and Redmond residents who might use Link to work or go shopping there.

        But of course Bellevue has a legitimate voice in the process, and indeed there’s been a lot of back-and-forth to date, especially with the last Council.

        With the Wallace alignment violating most transit planning principles and the good faith of a Kemper Freeman slate certainly open to question, rail advocates are right to treat the Wallace plan with great caution.

      9. Tony,

        Wasn’t aimed at you – just observing. Comments on this site denigrating the body mass index of a middle aged woman on the east side at a meeting a couple of months back comes to mind.

        There does seem to be a trend to demonize – or at the very minimum – denigrate one brand of community activist in favor of another. The way of the world, I guess.

  6. I’ve always found attractive the idea of an “Outport” in Moses Lake, centrally locatd with HS rail extending East to Spokane and West to Seattle.

    Central Washington could use the boost, and it would sure ease the pressure particularly in the PS area.

    1. I like the HSR part. But it seems ridiculous to put an airport so far away, even by HSR, from a major city.

  7. One of the primary reasons that Bellingham Airport is seeing a robust growth in domestic air carrier flights is because Paine Field has never been an option.
    Flights to Calif, NV, UT are growing because reaching SeaTac is such a pain from the NW burbs.

    1. This is true, and increased commercial air traffic at Bellingham Airport represents a great economic development opportunity for that region. Paine Field would take that opportunity away. Whatcom County is not part of the Puget Sound Region like Shohomish County is. Whatcom needs an airport, Shohomish has one, it’s called Sea-Tac.

    2. actually … most of that can be attributed to it’s proximity with Canada … where the fares are more expensive … many people simply cross the border for their trip to vegas etc …

      1. Bellingham is a twofer. It serves as both a regional airport for NW Washington and as a alternate airport for the YVR region.

      2. Exactly! Bellingham’s growth over the past couple of years shows how Snohomish county could benefit from having an alternate airport for the central Puget Sound region. Maybe having a secondary airport at Paine Field would hasten plans to get light rail to Everett and do so further west from the I-5 corridor so it can serve this airport.

    3. Wait are you saying that people from Snohomish County drive to Bellingham Airport rather than Sea-Tac?

      1. No I didn’t say that, but Smokey Point is just as close to Bellingham Airport as it is to SeaTac, and the drive is a heck of a lot nicer. So yeah, some people do go north, instead of south to catch a flight.

      2. I actually live in north Snohomish County. I can’t tell you how often I have longed to take a flight from Bellingham rather thatn SeaTac. The drive south can be a nightmare. I immagine the flight from Bellingham south is fantastic! Unfotunately the fares are more expensive from Bellingham than from Seatac.

      3. Heck, some people from King County drive north to BLI. During Skybus Airlines’ short life span, my brother used to fly between Columbus and Bellingham in order to save circa $200 over a Columbus-Seattle round trip. My dad would drive up to BLI, pick him up, and drive him home (to Seattle). If Paine Field had been an option for Skybus Airlines, they might have used it. Also, let’s not forget Southwest Airlines’ failed proposal to operate to/from Boeing Field. I bet they would jump at the chance to operate from Paine Field.

  8. This is a ground transportation issue, not air. Light rail to the airport will get people to Seatac faster, and as the last comment by Shawn alludes to, pricing at Paine Field would never compete with price and options at Seatac. The county should not turn their back on the promise they made to not have commercial aviation at Paine Field. This was a promise that led to the rezoning of housing for what is now about 11,000 people in Mukilteo. The county explicitly permitted this housing after agreeing to a future role and vision for Paine.

    The other problem with the addition of commercial air service at Paine Field is that it opens the door to basically unlimited operations. Chris Stefan, commenter above, is right– agreements that limit flights and times would help– but there’s no way to guarantee that would always be the case. Why should citizens trust these agreements as the County proceeds to trample over their old promises?

    1. Because it was a promise they had no right making. They are not in control of that decision.

      1. To expand on what Burien Ben said the county can’t prevent commercial air service from using Paine Field because the FAA is in charge of that decision due to the Federal money the County has chosen to accept for Paine Field in the past.

        The County can refuse to pay for a terminal and has some control over ground-side improvements but they can’t prevent use of the airport and can’t prevent the airlines from making improvements Federal law would require for scheduled passenger service at Paine Field (TSA screening, etc.).

        While it may seem a “betrayal” for the County to negotiate agreements with the airlines who want to offer service from Paine Field they don’t really have a choice and should try to get the best deal for the residents of the county that they can.

        One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is one of the factors other than ground transportation issues that is likely driving the airlines to consider this. All of those expensive improvements at Seatac the Port has made in recent years are funded by fees levied on the airport tenants. This means Seatac has fairly high fees per-passenger and per-landing.

        Another thing to remember is the number of cities who would kill to have two carriers offering flights to 3 cities from their airport, even in areas where there is another major airport within 30 miles.

  9. This is a post that got lost in the woods and fell off a cliff- and we learn in comments that a lot of people here may be interested in rail transit, but they believe in airplanes and sprawl.

    Expanding operations at Paine Field requires tax money for a mode of transportation which is inherently loud, expensive, dangerous, and obsolete. What should be done is to quash Paine Field and spend that money linking Seatac with Snohomish County. That would be an investment in the future.

    Its almost as appalling to read the comments about “Let’s build an airport here! Let’s build an airport there! It’s good for the local economy!” And it has a chewy center- build a bunch of small destinations and none of them will ever generate enough traffic to justify public transit. As for spreading this form of “economic development” from one end of the Salish Sea to the other, I’m here to be a NIMBY for all of Puget Sound- we’ve had enough, we’ve got enough, we don’t need any more “development”.

    So let’s try that question again- should we spend millions bringing more flight to Paine Field, or should that money be spent building out Link to Snohomish County?

    I think the answer here is pretty plain.

    1. Serial Catowner,

      In some ways I’m with you, but airplanes are “obsolete?” Will transoceanic travel return to the ship soon?

      So let’s try that question again- should we spend millions bringing more flight to Paine Field, or should that money be spent building out Link to Snohomish County?

      As I indicated in the post, I think this is probably a false choice. If the Paine Field thing dies, are people in Snohomish County people going to say “oh well, now it’s time to extend Link a few more stops in a McGinn-style county measure”?. I have my doubts!

      1. Well, maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Personally I’m entirely happy to oppose any more airplanes at Paine Field for a bunch or reasons that don’t involve that particular choice.

        But that is an important choice, and no responsible person who thought about it for very long could doubt the answer- one central airfield and high-speed transit connections. The shortcomings in that solution, i.e., stuff like air freight, are easily handled by existing airport capacity.

        And there’s no reason not to present that as a possible choice. I understand that Snohomish County is essentially looking for a big handout here of some type, but it is perfectly legitimate to advocate for a socially responsible investment.

        As for whether air travel is obsolete- when it becomes obvious that it’s going to end, that makes it obsolete in my book.

      2. I’ll ask it again — do you think people will eventually return to using ships to cross oceans?

      3. Well, I imagine that people who cross oceans for business rather than pleasure will eventually tend more to use the internet for connectivity.

        And as for whether the cruise ship industry is viable, I would say it appears to be very viable. In addition to the types of ships that pull into Seattle, you can also “cruise” in large sailing ships, some of them just luxury cruises and others where the passengers learn to work a large ship.

        Most people don’t realize that the sailing ship died for other reasons than the invention of the steam or diesel engine. For one thing, sailing ships had miles of running rigging, with a relatively short lifespan, and the cost of maintaining the rigging was high.

        Secondly, the end of the age of sail was characterized by ships waiting excessive times for cargo- six to nine months in many cases. This was the result, not of a shortage of cargoes, but of lack of attention by the ship owners to quickly getting cargo loaded and on its way.

        Thirdly, in WW I the submarine took out the remaining square-riggers and most forms of sail-powered marine traffic.

        I don’t see any reason for these three reasons to apply to a new generation of sail-powered vessels, and would not be in the least surprised to find that ships again became the natural way to cross oceans.

      4. Yes. $10/gallon gas and $2000 transcontinental flights are likely in the next 10-15 years. Cruise ships already cost less per day than a hotel + meals + activities in some cases. At least some people would be willing to travel in a comfortable ferry — something less than a luxury cruise but better than spartan. Especially if they have that warm fuzzy feeling of saving the planet.

      5. $2000 transcontinental flights are likely in the next 10-15 years.

        Actually you can easily pay $2000 or more for a transcontinental flight right now if you book at the last minute and want a refundable/changeable ticket. Sure this mostly hits people who have to travel for business, but it is more common than you think.

  10. I am just looking forward to when the airports start to pay property taxes.

    Just like the Sounder and Amtrak Cascades Right-of-Way (BNSF and its predecessors) does and has for over 100 years!!

    1. Airports, for the most part, are publicly owned. Therefore they don’t pay property taxes. Rail right-of-ways are, for the most part, privately owned property, thus they pay property tax.

      1. Funny how that is…so the railroad used their own capital to acquire the land while the airports had theirs given to them??

        (Don’t worry, I know the answer and I know all about aviation subsidies.)

        Well, it won’t matter soon, because after we have to do this to fly:

        most will travel by car.

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