A New Way To Fly?

An interesting development is reported by the Sacramento Business News.  Surf Air, a private membership airline headquartered in Santa Monica and flying out of the old McClellan AFB,  is flying round-trips between Santa Rosa, Hawthorne and San Carlos beginning next month, and will add service between Monterey and Hawthorne and San Carlos in July.  On August 24,  they’ll begin round-trips between McClellan and Hawthorne, San Carlos and Santa Barbara. Then in November they’re adding service between Palm Springs and Burbank and Oakland.

A private airline? Affordable?? Well, maybe.  Surf Air’s customers pay a flat monthly fee starting at $1750 for membership and unlimited flights.  If you’re doomed to fly more than three or four times a month, it starts looking downright reasonable.  Add in the sheer pleasure of not having to deal with the major airlines and…well, I’d sure like to try it.

In another development, Pen Air, which is supposed to start service beween Crescent City and Portland later this year, is making nice with the Redding airport folks and has been heard to say they are interested in flying out of AVC.  We’ll see. Stay tuned. 

END

No Silver Lining

I was surprised,  as was airport management, apparently,  to hear that the Silver Lining restaurant at the Humboldt County Redwoods whatever airport is closed. That’s a big step backward for the folks who have been promoting the airport and while I don’t think many flyers would cancel a flight because their destination didn’t have a coffee shop, it still doesn’t say much for the infrastructure we offer our visitors.

According to the NCJ,  an attempt will be made to find another operator.  That might be difficult.  Most airport restaurants overlook a busy runway where diners can observe takeoffs and landings more often than four times a day. Maybe the County should contract with Dell’ Arte or Access Humboldt or someone else who can produce a light show to resemble a busy airport. At least it would LOOK like the return of normalcy. Stay tuned. 

Planes and Trains- Transportation Updates

AIR- Redding gets a grant.  Redding has been awarded a $450,000 grant from the Dept of Transportation in the form of a revenue guarantee to help SkyWest defray the cost of replacing their current turboprop (Embraer Brasilia) service with Canadair Regional Jets, according to the Redding Searchlight Record. The grant requires a $50K match and does NOT guarantee that jets will return to Redding but is a necessary first step in that direction. SkyWest recently pulled out of Modesto and is discontinuing service to Chico in December.

RAIL-HSR is on the way.   The California High-Speed Rail Authority took the first step toward actually buying trains, opening bids for a billion-dollar contract to build trains and maintenance facilities. Siemens, which has a location in Sacramento, will be among the bidders, and interest from Chinese and Japanese manufacturers is expected to be strong. The specs are that the trains must be able to deliver passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours. If Siemens prevails, the economic benefits to the Sacramento area would be substantial.

MORE RAIL- The Economist reminds us that HSR is nothing new, in fact it’s been around for 50 years, just kinda slow in coming to California. Fifty years ago this week the Osaka-Tokyo line commenced operations and has “since whisked 5.6 billion passengers across the country without a single serious accident.  Punctuality?  The average delay is  less than a minute.” Japan’s HSR, at 200 mph,  is actually pokey compared with China’s Shanghai maglev  (430 kph) or the maglev being developed to update the Tokyo-Osaka run to a speedy 500 kph, about an hour’s time. This will cost $47B, but the Japanese have a government that is willing to invest in infrastructure. 

STILL MORE RAIL- Closer to home, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Appellate court found that the North Coast Railroad Authority and its partner the Northwestern Pacific Railroad can expand freight service without further environmental review.  Specifically, the panel found that freight rail traffic is interstate commence and not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act.  The envronmental groups that brought the suit, Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, had not announced at press time whether they would appeal. The NCRA’s next step is to raise $5M to rehabilitate the tracks between Windsor and Cloverdale and to recruit customers for the freight service between Napa and Windsor which currently runs twice a week. 

END

Aviation Update July 2014

Don’t read this if you’re looking for good news for airline passengers. A friend of the blog compiled the following links which show that no matter how bad it gets, there’s always room for worse.

1.  You’ve noticed the carriers imposing more and more fees along with the regular airline fares? Try 1200% in the past seven years, like from $2.4 B in fees in 2007 to $31.5 B in 2013.  More carriers are counted in the later figures but the fees are all coming from the same source: you. 60% of these fees are from the sale of frequent flyer points, 25% for baggage fees, the rest from such services as early boarding and extra-leg-room seating fees. Here, courtesy of Yahoo Finance is a full accounting.

2. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that TSA is also raising its fees. The current fee is $2.50 for non stop and $5 for a connecting flight. The new rate is $5.60 per flight with any connecting longer than four hours counting as a separate flight. That may not sound like much but it adds up, especially when you miss your connection due to delays  leaving  ACV and end up with a ten-hour layover at O’Hare. Here is an account from USA Today.

3. The impact of the war in Ukraine and its spinoffs will be enormous and it is probably too early to assess. The route changes resulting from the war are coming at a time when fuel prices are at an all-time high. When the carriers are squeezed, guess who they’ll pass the increase onto?  The Hindu Business Line newsletter carried an analysis but the link is no longer available. Time moves quickly in the Middle East. 

LOCAL UPDATE: The  Airport Advisory committee did not have its meeting as scheduled yesterday for lack of a quorum but Emily Jacobs reported that there was “some” interest in serving ACV demonstrated by other carriers at the confab in Edmonton. Someone reported that Santa Rosa is improving its runways in anticipation of DIRECT FLIGHTS TO HAWAII.  Wouldn’t  that be great? Yes, it would.  

IT COULD HAPPEN HERE! Modesto loses passenger air service.

Today is the last day SkyWest Air will serve Modesto City-County Airport, leaving Modesto without regular air service for the first time in at least 20 years. Modesto, with a population of 203,000, has twice the potential ridership of Humboldt and Del Norte counties combined. The Modesto Bee has a brief writeup, also carried in the LA Times..

The airlines have been complaining about supposedly onerous regulations which are driving up their personnel costs. These new rules, in effect since January, require pilots to be allowed ten hours of rest between shifts, up from eight. From a passenger’s point of view, a rested and alert pilot is invaluable. To the FAA and to the carriers, it’s just an added expense in a time when the emphasis is on packing the planes as full as possible.

The FAA in particular has been a monstrous employer for years.  The PATCO strike was largely brought about by the FAA’s inhumane scheduling of the air traffic controllers in a bizarre six hours on, six hours off schedule which afforded no one enough rest. At LAX the ATC’s rented apartments as crash pads since they didn’t have enough time to get home to the Valley for a real rest. Reagan of course destroyed PATCO. I don’t recall the name of he successor union but it sounds as if improvement has been slow to come.

This leaves ACV competing with  Redding, Modesto and God knows who else for air routes which will have to be secured by pledges of customer revenue. Sound familiar?

CORRECTION: In the earlier post on the Airport Advisory Committee I erroneously stated that the trip to Edmonton in which Gregg Foster and Emily Jacobs will be pitching for additional service to ACV was happening on June 3. They’re leaving on June 23rd instead and they have their work cut out for them. The Fly Humboldt Facebook page has further info on the Edmonton meeting. Let’s hope for the best but Modesto losing ALL air service? That’s scary for people who intend to continue to conduct business by commercial airline flights.

“Fighting Intensifies Following Election”

My heart sank when I read this. It CAN’T get any worse, can it?  Then I realized I was reading about Ukraine. Here, to give you something to think about besides the elections are accounts of two meetings in the last 48 hours, the County Airport Advisory Committee and the Humboldt Harbor Working Group.  On the  latter website, look up at the banner and click on “Community Forums” to see what’s coming up.

The Airport group meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month, currently at the Prosperity Center, 520 E Street. Eureka. I won’t give a blow-by-blow description because they have a very competent secretary, Mr. Fenton,  who provides minutes of the meetings, so here’s just a few of the juicier items that came up.

-The Quest For Another Carrier.  A small delegation from ACV ( Gregg Foster and Emily Jacobs, according to the Fly Humboldt Facebook page) staff will travel to Edmonton for a meeting on June 3 with THREE major airlines. These meetings were described as something like Shark Tank with numbers and load factors being bandied about. Apparently we were the only small airport to get meetings with THREE possibles, so that’s good work. This is against a backdrop of United cutting service to Vegas and cutting a Portland route which also serviced Eugene. Not specifically addressed at the meeting but clearly on everyone’s mind was trend by UAL and other majors to dump their low-volume routes in favor of jumbo jets (the “Dreamliner”) carrying big crowds to big cities. We wish the ACV folks well in Edmonton.  If you’ve ever been there, you know they’re not going for fun.

-Infrastructure issues at ACV are going to be critical as the new Courthouse spurs expansion. Right now there isn’t even a safe way for pedestrians to get from the Holiday Inn to the airport without running across Airport Road with their baggage and limited visibility. HCOAG was at the meeting yesterday to present their initial plan for ground access. This will be a high priority since killing tourists  is bad for business. The remarks was made that “We have so many needs,  and not much money.”  The word “insurance” was used at least 30 times during the meeting, just another factor in a complex operation. They will be working with Moser Properties to develop safe pedestrian and bus access

-The FAA is not the easiest agency to work with.

-The proposal to rename the airport the gawdawful “California Redwood Coast -Humboldt County Airport” is alive and well and the Committee will be writing to the BOS and to Jared Huffman soon for backing. Those of us who want to stop this abomination should act quickly.  This County has already provided enough fodder for the late-nite comedians.  Maybe the FAA will save us from ourselves.

EAST-WEST CONNECT- Ryan Burns was at the sparsely-attended Harbor group meeting and provided his usual excellent reportage on LOCO so I won’t duplicate him, not that I could. Bottom line is they’re looking for $300,000 for another study and have already been turned down by CALTRANS.  This will be a long slog, but I’m a north-south advocate, so what do I know?

The Consumers’ Guide to Summer 2014- Bring Money

-To no one’s surprise, the courts have approved the merger of American and USAir, which creates the world’s largest airline. Meanwhile, United, our sole air carrier thru their sub, United Express,  was the ONLY major air carrier to lose money this past quarter. To add to UAL’s problems, two of the runways at SFO will be unavailable this summer, leading to lots and lots of delays and consumer unhappiness for the unprepared.

What to do, what to do? Driving to Redding won’t help.  They only offer three flights a day to the beleagered SFO, again thru United Express. Driving to Medford gives you access to Horizon, SkyWest, United Express and Allegeant which offer nonstops to Portland, Seattle, LAX, Denver, Salt Lake City and , seasonally to Las Vegas. Lots more choices, but a four-hour drive, which more and more people are doing from what I hear. Then there’s Sacramento, which offers many choices including direct flights to Mexico. Don’t forget your gas will cost $4.50 according to some predictions. Bargains will be hard to come by so be sure to share with us if you find any.

- According  to The Economist  China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy later this year, partly as a result of their relaxing the one-baby rule. Does this bother you?  I see it as an enormous opportunity for Americans in the baby businesses -baby clothes, cribs etc. Their disposable income is rising so fast that the cheap COSCO stuff sold at KMart won’t be good enough for them. Humboldt County has never had a garment industry to speak of but wouldn’t it be nice if someone figured out how to make baby or children’s clothes our of that nice soft hemp cloth?  Someone local?

-Greg Gehr an FOB -Friend of the Blog- shared a link to Titan TV as an alternative to whatever comes out in this week’s URGE. I was pretty impressed especially as it gives more info, like is the show new or a repeat. Definitely useful. Thanks, Greg!

-Another FOB shared this about Northern Redwood Federal Credit Union, an institution I have not dealt with but considering my recent travails with Coast Central I just might look into them. Their Visa Classic Credit Card offers a 1% cash back applied as a credit to your savings account. They’re at 1270 Giuntoli Lane in Arcata and the phone is 800-822-5903. Jenna Cardoza is their Operations Officer and you might want to check them out.

- Finally just a peek into the future. The Eureka Fair Wage initiative is felt by its backers to be a sure shot for qualifying for the ballot in November and you’ll be hearing plenty about it  before them because it is already a bone of contention between the two 4th District Supervisorial contenders, Kerrigan in favor and Bass against. This is an enormous issue for Eureka so pay attention!  There should be some lively debate and it may well affect YOUR pocketbook.

See you later. Gonna be a busy summer!

The Week in North Coast Business- A Golden Opportunity on the Waterfront; More Airport News

FISHERMAN’S TERMINAL RESTAURANT/MARKET

Ever wanted to run a restaurant?

Check this out: “The City of Eureka is soliciting proposals  from qualified restaurant/cafe’ operator(s) to establish a restaurant/cafe’ and retail seafood counter at the Fisherman’s Terminal Building located at #4 C Street and Waterfront Drive.” The announcement from the City continues, “An outdoor patio area for alfresco dining is also incorporated into the space. The restaurant/cafe’ is located at the east end of the Fisherman’s Terminal Building with unparalleled views of picturesque Humboldt Bay, and is adjacent to the newly  constructed C Street Market square, the Madaket docking facility and Ticket Booth, and Old Town”. The announcement adds, “A low-interest loan may be available to a qualified applicant.”

This is a tremendous opportunity for some entrepreneur to play a major role in our waterfront revitalization,  and a couple dozen have already expressed interest.  To receive a complete Request for Qualifications package or ask any questions, contact Judy Harrison, Economic Development Coordinator, by email at jharrison@ci.eureka.ca.gov or call (707) 268-1830.  Here’s some more info from Economic Development. Be patient if it takes them a while to get back to you; there are only four 1.5 people in the section and this is a major undertaking. DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTAL IS JANUARY 31, so get busy and be a part of Eureka’s history! And make some money, too.

AIRPORT TURBULENCE: First, the good news, for frequent flyers anyway. The TSA has opened three enrollment centers to enable frequent airline passengers to pass through security more quickly. Once enrolled in the program, flyers will be excused from removing shoes, belts and jackets and from having to remove their laptops to display to the TSA screeners. What’s the catch? Well, they have to be fingerprinted and pay an $85 fee, good for five years. Where are these enrollment centers? At Sac International, Stockton and- wait for it- EUREKA!!! According to the AP, the centers went online on the 15th and, by the way, they refer to our airport as EUREKA, not that six-word name that I can never remember.

So that’s the good news. The bad is that airport usage from 2007 thru 2012 is wildly inconsistent, with SFO increasing by  27% and Oakland and Burbank DOWN by 31%. San Jose declined by 22% while Sacramento,  which just opened its new $1B Terminal B (“B” for  “Billion” I suppose) has declined by 18%. I find this puzzling. Who wouldn’t rather fly into Oakland or San Jose than SFO, given a choice? With the recession, the choices are realigning and becoming fewer in number. See the “Fly Humboldt” Facebook page  for more info. Also,  Ms. Emily Jacobs, Administrator at ACV, has promised us an update on airline recruitment efforts in the near future.  So watch this space!

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Redding Trying for More Flights, Storage Wars Humboldt Style, and “The Country of the Year”

REDDING WANTS FLIGHTS-  Redding airport officials and civic leaders, including representatives of the mega- Bethel Church,  have met or are scheduled to meet with representatives of United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, American, Delta and Alaska Air with an eye to restoring direct service to LA perhaps as soon as this summer. Shasta County has built up a nonbinding travel bank of $1M and Modesto is hurrying to do the same. Now is the time to start pushing for schedule changes because SFO will be losing one of its runways for several months  due to repairs. Note to self: avoid SFO during that time.  Everyone wants the LAX routes.

The Bethel Church in Redding welcomes 12,000 visitors a year,  many of whom come in by air, but many more of whom come by car from Sacramento or SF. The church has basically taken over their Civic Auditorium. and is a major player in the Redding economy. Think of  all the rental cars and hotel rooms! That’s like 3 or 4 Jazz Festivals.  We’ll bring you an update soon on local efforts to to bring us more service through ACV.  Sorry, I can’t remember the six-word name they want us to call it. I figure this, too, shall pass.

 STORAGE WARS, HUMBOLDT STYLE- A couple of weeks ago I showed up at one of those storage locker sales you see listed in the Times-Standard.  I wanted to see it if in anyway resembled what you see on TV.  The sale was at the Myrtle Avenue Storage Center, the one across the street from John’s Liquors and the taco truck whose name I can never recall but which serves darn good food. A group of about 20 folks were waiting for the sale which was advertised as five units but had shrunk to two by the time of the opening bid.  The facility manager, Chris Mikkelson, went over the rules and then led the folks who were interested to a second-level unit. They trooped upstairs and came back down pretty fast. The upstairs unit went for $25.

Then we went to inspect the other unit. It was PACKED, I mean really PACKED, to the gills. Anyone who claims they  can tell what’s in one of these has got to be psychic.  All I could see was the ends of boxes.  The second unit went for $25 dollars. The bidding was not as fast or frantic as they try to make it sound ; I didn’t have any trouble following it. Also the successful bidders were given till the end of the next day to vacate the locker.  Very civilized, as I had envisioned a frantic race to truck everything out immediately.

Mr Mikkelson told me that these units are very seldom vacant and are mostly rented by people in the neighborhood, which cuts down on the number of abandoned units. Anyway, if you have a truck and want to try your luck watch for the ads. This particular facility is a Kurt Kramer property  and immaculately maintained. I don’t think they all are. When I get a chance to follow a winning bidder through the whole process, I’ll report back but I don’t think any fortunes were made the other day.  Good excuse for a taco, though.

“COUNTRY OF THE YEAR” – Well, there’s nothing like losing a contest you didnt’ even know they were having. The Economist has named as it’s “Country of the Year” a place that is dealing with some of the same issues that the Redwood Coast is. This country has legalized gay marriage and drugs -ALL drugs- in the last few months.  It’s 3M citizens don’t make the news very often and on the map it looks like a sort of tumor growing out of the top of its neighbor, Argentina. Yes, I’m talking about- wait for it-URUGUAY.  We might do well to observe the effects of legalization there, if there are any. If anyone is organizing a field trip, let me know. 

Trains, Planes and Buses??!!?

Last week,  a friend who needed to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco decided to try the Megabus.  His verdict? Unequivocal approval.

He took the overnighter which leaves LA’s Union Station at 1145pm and arrived in San Francisco (the CALTRAIN station) at 645am, no stops. The bus was new and immaculate, a double-decker carrying at least 100 passengers. There was free wi-fi and each seat had its own charging station. These buses are green-certified and Megabus is now serving Sacramento and San Jose.

Megabus,  Bolt Bus  (affiliated with Greyhound) and other intercity bus services reflect a national trend.  The Chaddick Institute at Depaul University came up with these figures comparing 2011 to 2012 :

Intercity bus:                    7.5% growth

AMTRAK, available seat miles:  3% growth, revenue passenger miles: 2.6% growth

AIRLINES, domestic, available seat miles: .4% growth

AIRLINES, domestic, revenue passenger miles: 1.4% growth

The entire study is available at their website.  Note that these figures do NOT include the “Chinatown” bus services as they do not have published schedules.

We know that the airlines are strapped, which makes them reluctant to add marginal airports such as Arcata to their service areas. Will we ever have alternates to the current United/ Greyhound monopolies? Not as long as United and Greyhound can get by with the shoddy service they currently provide. I can’t see Megabus being able to fill a double decker bus with our amount of traffic- until and unless United raises its fares to an intolerable level (which they’re pretty close to). A more likely scenario would be for Greyhound to upgrade its service.  Even if Greyhound were to upgrade its buses (by a LOT) there will always be those who, even in our eco-conscious community,  wouldn’t be caught dead riding a bus.  Those attitudes will take a long time to change.

As for me, I’d rather ride a bus or other public transport that I KNOW will arrive at my destination rather than continue to play airport roulette. (“Folks, we’re going to have to land at Redding…no, San Francisco…no, Redding”.)  Even Greyhound doesn’t get fogged out.

A final note: I drove to SF to pick my friend up and was appalled at the state of 101, the potholes, unfinished road with those awful grooves, and especially the situation around Willits.  I had always opposed the Willits bypass because I didn’t think it was necessary- who can object to slowing down through a charming town?  But on Friday at 3pm it took almost an hour to get through Willits.  Then on Sunday it was back to “normal”, just the usual slowing.  I assumed the Friday crunch was due to vacationers headed for the lakes, but that was just my impression. Let’s hope the controversial and expensive bypass will improve traffic speed and safety for the entire community, not just summer vacationers.