Friday, December 30, 2016

From the Archives: Aviation policy expert Robert Poole talks about transportation privatization

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 10, 2010. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016. I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Aviation policy expert Robert Poole talks about transportation privatization

A Cato Institute briefing on Capitol Hill on Friday, April 9, asked the question, “When Does Rail Transit Make Sense?” and featured policy experts Randal O’Toole and Ronald Utt. The event attracted mostly young congressional staff members but also in the audience was Robert Poole, the Reason Foundation’s director of transportation studies.

As it happened, the lead article in the commentary section of the Washington Times that day was written by Poole, in which he argued that the federal government should get out of the business of screening airport passengers. He made two primary recommendations:

“First, TSA should be divested of its airport screening duties. TSA should regulate and oversee security, but each airport should be responsible for all aspects of its security (passenger and baggage screening, perimeter security, etc). Airports would be free to hire their own security forces or contract with TSA-certified firms.

“Second, the cost of airport security should be paid for by those who use airports: a combination of airlines and passengers. This change would cut billions from the federal budget, eliminating the large portion of airport security costs not covered by current airport or airline security taxes. It also would make the costs of airport security more visible to airlines and travelers.”

After the Cato briefing, Poole replied to a question from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the future of transportation privatization.

“It’s very up in the air right now,” Poole said. With regard to surface transportation, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) “wants to basically create a federal czar to have the last word, to say yes or no at the eleventh hour on any proposal for privatizing highways. That’s got the whole industry really, really nervous because nobody wants to take the risk of proposing and researching a project, then having it vetoed at the last minute after they’ve spent millions on putting their numbers together.”

In terms of airports, Poole said, “we have a little boomlet going on right now of cities that want to lease their airport under the federal airport privatization pilot program. I’m guardedly optimistic about that. Midway Airport is the most visible one but there are four others, at least, that have filed applications with the FAA.”

While none of these airports are in Virginia, there is one close by, Poole explained:

“Baltimore has talked about it but they haven’t filed. The state runs the airports in Maryland, and the governor said he would be open to an offer for BWI, which I was astonished to hear, but glad to hear. New Orleans and San Juan are two of the other leading candidates; they have applications filed. It could happen this year.”

Poole recommended that readers interested in transportation privatization issues should check out the Reason Foundation’s annual privatization report and Reason’s Airport Policy and Aviation Security Newsletter.

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