Sunday, January 4, 2015

COMMENTARY: Counterpoint: Expanding Carlsbad airport threatens our peaceful, easy feeling

Sunday, January 4, 2015 6:00 am

By Darius Degher

We Americans sometimes assume that growth and expansion are purely positive. They are not. Just consider your own waistline. Or class-size in schools. “Bigger-is-better” is nothing but a hoary old dinosaur. In this age, our greatest challenge is to slow the rate of climate change, and that means being savvy about how we grow and expand. If we fail to do that, the other political issues won’t matter anyway. So, all growth must be justifiable.

The expansion of McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad is an example of growth that cannot be easily justified, of growth based on little more than inertia.

McClellan Airport is about short trips, to places like L.A. and San Jose. But short trips by air are not likely to have a long shelf life. There’s a reason why European business travelers consistently choose rail over air for trips of under 500 miles: they have fast trains. On trains, there’s no time lost checking in. You end your trip in the city center. And it’s easier to get work done. When the trains are fast, rail travel simply takes less total time than air travel. Most importantly, it’s also a lot greener. The California High-Speed Rail project is underway (http://www.hsr.ca.gov): when it’s completed, short flights will start to become obsolete.

So, most likely it’s only a matter of time before McClellan-Palomar Airport downsizes anyway, due to even further lack of demand than it’s currently experiencing. For this reason, it’s a questionable time to consider expanding it.

And the effects of airport expansion would not be limited to Carlsbad. The noise and pollution from more planes would undermine quality of life in surrounding towns as well. I live in Leucadia, and I’m already cursing the jets that disturb my quietude. If expansion advocates have their way, air traffic would increase, and in 30 years, who knows, there could be 737s circling over Moonlight Beach waiting to land in Carlsbad. Let’s just say no. I love our little corner of the world as it is, without the noise and pollution of more jets.

And what about property values? Proximity to flight paths is one of the surest ways to decrease property values. Just ask the residents of central Phoenix, Ariz., over whose homes a flight path was recently diverted. They’re now up in arms about it, worried about the value of their homes. Sure, that’s a bigger city and a bigger airport, but the same dynamic would exist here, just on a smaller scale.

If conservatives are concerned about business, consider that more jets would be a problem for tourism as well.

Ted Owen, CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, speaking about the recent cancellation of United Airlines’ daily service to Los Angeles, said: “People come to our area to get away, not to have the fastest connections.”

He’s absolutely right. Visitors do not come to our little world of surf shops and yoga studios to find the same noise they left back home. No, they want peace and quiet – just as we residents do. We should cultivate and protect our laid-back image, not threaten it with more jets.

Proponents claim a longer runway would allow for newer jets and would thus decrease noise. I’m not sure I believe them. When winds blow offshore, isn’t it necessary to land planes from the west, against the wind? This is what happens at other West Coast airports. This would mean planes flying over the beaches whenever the wind is from the east. That would certainly not reduce noise at our most cherished local resource, the beach.

For transcontinental travel and other longer trips, there’s no substitute for the big old jet airliner. Looking down from six miles in the air still awes me whenever I do it. But trips around California and the Southwest, will, in the near future, be made by rail. We should keep Carlsbad’s airport small, primarily for private planes. Let’s stay focused on trains—they’re smarter, quieter, and greener.

Opinion/Commentary:   http://www.seasidecourier.com

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