Sunday, May 12, 2013

Editorial: Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) experiences some understandable growing pains with Frontier expansion

By Times of Trenton Editorial Board
on May 12, 2013 at 6:32 AM, updated May 12, 2013 at 6:33 AM

Who could have anticipated a year ago that traffic — in the air and on the ground — would be an issue at little Trenton-Mercer Airport?

In that time, Frontier Airlines and its plan to establish the airport in Ewing as its East Coast hub have invigorated the long-dormant facility. Hailed as an economic stimulus for the region and a convenience for travelers in the Mercer region, the rapid growth also has presented some challenges.

The debacle of sequestration was expected to shut down the airport’s control tower next month, but county Executive Brian Hughes said last week federal appropriations are expected to keep it staffed and operating.

Confusion over parking is emerging as another issue, resulting in a significant number of tickets greeting Frontier passengers on their return to the airport.

There are enough parking spaces at the airport to accommodate passengers — three remote lots offer 440 spots, in addition to 870 that are within walking distance of the passenger terminal. Though the county has installed signs and notices directing drivers to those lots, and a shuttle transports passengers to the terminal, ticket writers are still busy.

We’d suggest amplifying those directional efforts until passengers get used to the layout and parking regulations. Perhaps instead of issuing tickets, warnings could be issued for a grace period, say until the end of June, to reinforce the rules as well as recognizing that many drivers are using the airport for the first time.

As service and ticket sales expand, we hope the county will continue to refrain from charging for parking. In addition to the short lines and easy access, free parking is one of the airport’s major draws. While parking fees may be appropriate in the future, for the time being it’s best to nurture growth with a minimum of restrictions.

That philosophy seems to be at odds with a group of Lower Makefield, Pa., residents who object to the noise of departing flights. The group known as Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management is seeking a federal order that Mercer County conduct an environmental review of the airport operations.

The airport, which has been in operation for more than 80 years, should be no surprise to the Bucks homeowners who live across the river from the facility. And an average five flights a day hardly constitutes the flood of activity characterized by the attorney retained by the residents.

The bottom line is that the Trenton-Mercer Airport is a work in progress. As such, growing pains are to be expected. And it would be premature to cut back on that growth until it has a chance to develop


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