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.