BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE: SEPTEMBER 25, 2000 ISSUE

Readers Report

There Is More Than One Way out of Airport Hell

Similar to the futility of solving highway congestion, laying down more concrete is not a long-term solution to ''Airport Hell'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Sept. 4). The Europeans and Japanese have years of experience showing that high-speed rail works and is a viable alternative. Closer to home, even much-maligned Amtrak has a better on-time performance record and fewer canceled trips on its own property (Northeast Corridor) than most airlines. With trains, weather has less of an impact, there are no airport security hassles, it is downtown-to-downtown, and it's downright relaxing. You're not crammed between two burly passengers with the seat back parked under your nose. You're not stuck with nothing but pretzels and unable to work or read because the air is too bumpy.

Following a particularly bad shuttle flight in 1982, I haven't flown on business trips in the Northeast Corridor since. By train, I have never experienced more than trivial inconveniences or delays. I dream of the day I can take a similar train to Raleigh or Charlotte, N.C. There are many people, like me, living in hub cities, who would like the option of high-speed rail travel to destinations less than 400 miles away. One high-speed train can hold three planeloads of passengers traveling between Chicago and St. Louis. The train can do it at less cost with less energy and greater comfort in about the same downtown-to-downtown travel time.

Why couldn't we divert some of the billions we spend on airports to build dedicated high-speed rail lines, reducing flights between their end points? There is a growing divergence between the wishes of travelers and those of airport and airline lobbyists. High-speed rail in the U.S. is long overdue.

Robert H. Leilich
Springfield, Va.

Airlines are overbooked; airports and highways are congested. Now might be the time for another national program similar to the manned moon mission. We as a people like to set a goal and accomplish it. A goal to provide an alternative means of travel that is reliable, efficient, comfortable, and cost-effective would be such a program. The Interstate Highway System was conceived in the 1950s, when automobile traffic was much less. Now is the time to envision a high-speed passenger rail system, initially between large cities and then to smaller markets.

Using the medians and land adjacent to the interstate highways for the right of ways and limiting their use to passenger trains would allow for the development of an alternative to airlines and the automobile. Money from highway, gasoline, and airport taxes to fund this system and the creation of an agency similar to the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor its development would allow faster construction. When people consider the time lost in traffic and in driving to an airport, crowded airlines, and weather delays, high-speed passenger rail service becomes a viable alternative.

Louis Schultz
Portsmouth, Va.

A larger problem is quickly arising: growing orders for regional jets. Although these jets offer more convenient service to smaller communities than the turboprops they are replacing, they require the same en route separation as 747s and the same runway and terminal airspace separation as MD80/737s, which carry three times as many passengers. Turboprops can use shorter or crossing runways and rarely use the upper airways that jets require and thus haven't contributed to congestion.

Our larger airports are maxed out handling the current fleet of larger aircraft. This is where the various government agencies are going to have to work to decide how these aircraft are used and where the future funding for airport expansion will go. Underutilized airports around large metropolitan areas, such as Teterboro, N.J. serving New York, may not be happy with the increased air traffic, even though it will give smaller communities access to these large markets while leaving LaGuardia and Newark to handle the larger-volume aircraft.

Pascal G. Houcke
Richboro, Pa.



''Green'' and ''Growth'' Are Not Mutually Exclusive

You are to be commended for pointing out the New Economy's effects on economic policies (''Al, George--What about the New Economy?'' Editorials, Sept 4). But another effect is even more interesting: the potential for economic growth and environmental improvement to go hand in hand.

Even before the advent of the New Economy, states and countries with aggressive environmental protection policies had high economic growth and more job creation. But more recently, we have seen how many types of environmental policies, particularly those promoting advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy, can advance prosperity and innovation. For example, efficiency standards and incentives have induced the U.S. refrigerator industry to reduce energy consumption by three-quarters between 1975 and 2001 while also cutting real costs, despite increases in size and features.

The savings to the economy are 60,000 megawatts of reduced need for electric supply and a concomitant reduction in emissions from power plants, which cause global warming and harm human health. And constructing those 60,000 Mw would have cost $50 billion, vs. the industry's smarter investment of about $1 billion. Similar success stories have occurred in clothes washers, windows, fluorescent lighting, and home heating.

Smarter companies now realize that protecting the environment promotes profitability and growth. The sooner business and government recognize this, the better chance we have of realizing win-win solutions.

David B. Goldstein
Energy Program Director
Natural Resources Defense Council
San Francisco



The Wrong Way to Wipe Out Poverty

I could just plainly disagree with ''Compassionate conservatism: Look beyond the label'' (Economic Viewpoint, Sept. 4). I could express my disappointment with the suggestion that pure capitalism is a perfect paradigm, the ''tampering'' of which only hampers the success of a country. It is even more troubling for me that Robert J. Barro insufficiently links evidence to his claims. His idea that the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, makes the economy stagnant is ridiculous. The economy is far too complex for a single variable to clearly influence its progress, regardless of a law's similarity to policies in other countries with less successful economic histories.

Average personal income does not measure the wealth of a nation if there is such a grotesque standard of deviation as there is in the U.S. Does Professor Barro desire conscience and responsibility to vanish from the American consciousness? Should we shrug off the needs of the poor? If there needs to be a big government to help ensure that more Americans can enter the workforce, then so be it. At least it will be a democratic government, but perhaps Barro's democracy need not include the voices of the disadvantaged.

Seth Dolman
Northfield, Minn.

According to Barro, ''the most important determinant in reducing poverty is raising the average income.'' It is typical economist-think, focusing on macroeconomic aggregate statistics. Doubling the income of every millionaire will raise the average income without any effect on poverty. The only way to reduce poverty is to increase the income of the poor. How to achieve that is another question.

Thomas T. Semon
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Economists live in a very different world from most of us. Barro argues that ''the most important determinant in reducing poverty is raising the average income of a country, not reducing the degree of inequality.'' Should I be pleased when Bill Gates, Sandy Weill, or some other highly paid CEO negotiates an even larger compensation package for himself? With the compensation gap between CEOs and average workers hovering somewhere around 430 to 1, simple math tells me that Barro is off base. The rich getting richer does not logically or in reality mean that the poor will be better off.

Stephen Viederman
New York.



Bashing Business Just Doesn't Wash Anymore

''Will bashing business keep paying off for Gore?'' (News: Analysis & Commentary, Sept. 4) missed part of the story. The business community that Gore is so quick to criticize helped finance the recent Democratic convention. It was also solicited to donate funds toward recapturing the House and Senate.

Liberal populist Democratic Party corporate bashing from the last century is no longer a winning strategy. Economic prosperity over the past decades has resulted in a majority of Americans owning stock and mutual funds. Even liberal labor unions invest members' pension funds on Wall Street. Interest in the success of our business community now cuts across all economic classes and political parties.

Larry Penner
Great Neck, N.Y.



Internet Success Is Driven by Demand

''Models from Mars'' (Finance, Sept. 4) describes a number of failing Internet business models--all resulting from the top-down strategy of throwing money at an idea and hoping it works.

I am just a guy who started working from a spare bedroom in Hawaii, and I have built a mousetrap that is working too well. I was a Web-hosting provider and programmer in 1998 when a client, a technical recruiter, showed me some ''smart'' search techniques to find resumes on the Internet. I automated these techniques, expanded them, and wrote a Web site (flipsearch.com). I stumbled upon a hot tool in a hot sector of a hot market, and the business has been in the black from Day One.

Internet successes are grassroots and demand-driven, not top-down and capital-driven. The question should be: What are real needs that can be supplied over the Net? It's not: How can we hype some silly notion and persuade consumers to pull out their credit cards?

Mike Clark
Coconut Island Software Inc.
Keaau, Hawaii



''Attention, Kmart Managers''

Charles Conaway's grand scheme to revitalize Kmart Corp. is welcome (''It doesn't get any bigger than this,'' The Corporation, Sept. 4). But before he implements it, I suggest he spend more time undercover visiting stores. Go after the buying experience. Try to find a clerk who knows--or even cares to know--the merchandise. Then grab a few magazines to read in those half-hour long checkout lines. Kmart's whole business philosophy has to change.

Avrum Fine
Lawrenceville, Ga.



''Riding high on little wheels'' (Marketing, Sept. 4, 2000)

''Riding high on little wheels'' (Marketing, Sept. 4) misspelled the brand name Xootr, a kick scooter made by Nova Cruz Products LLC in Lee, N.H. The article also misidentified the inventor. He is Karl Ulrich, president of Nova Cruz and currently on leave from the faculty of the Wharton School.





_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

LETTERS:
There Is More Than One Way out of Airport Hell

''Green'' and ''Growth'' Are Not Mutually Exclusive

The Wrong Way to Wipe Out Poverty

Bashing Business Just Doesn't Wash Anymore

Internet Success Is Driven by Demand

''Attention, Kmart Managers''

CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS:
''Riding high on little wheels'' (Marketing, Sept. 4, 2000)

INTERACT
E-Mail to Business Week Online


 
Copyright 2000 Bloomberg L.P.
Terms of Use   Privacy Policy