Saturday, September 6, 2008

Short hop air service: the flying cars of the present

Today's LA Times has a story on a new air service specializing in short hop travel. I wrote about the possibility of this type of service being a viable transportation choice for my Master's degree and I'm pleased to see it has come to fruition. The service is advantageous for many trips within a metro area that could only be reasonably taken by car. In LA, there are two factors that make this service appealing. First, the metro area is huge. You can drive for 100 miles and still be in the urbanized region. Second, congestion can be terrible. In the story the author notes that a journey from John Wayne airport in Orange County to Santa Monica airport took 1.5 hours by car and only 35 minutes by plane. You can imagine that there are many people who value their time highly enough that the $95 ticket for the flight is worth the cost.

This service takes advantage of the fact that 85% of people live within 20 minutes of an airport. That's a lot of potential terminals. I suspect that this will have a niche market, much like helicopter service to the airports in Manhattan, but there is more interest in this as a potential mode than you might initially expect. James Fallows wrote a book about it, and NASA has been pursuing personal aircraft vehicles as a transportation technology of the future. As our physical infrastructure gets increasingly degraded and congested, looking to the sky is a great idea for many trips. I'm all for anything that gets us closer to flying cars, though the environmental problems of air travel still need to be worked out.
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