Build Airport Capacity or Manage Flight Demand?

A new article by Megan S. Ryerson & Amber Woodburn is out: Build Airport Capacity or Manage Flight Demand? How Regional Planners Can Lead American Aviation Into a New Frontier of Demand Management Journal of the American Planning Association Volume 80, Issue 2, 2014


Problem, research strategy, and findings: To address air traffic congestion, airports can manage flight demand or expand capacity; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires an environmental impact statement (EIS) to evaluate feasible alternatives to capacity expansion. The FAA also funds regional planning agencies to conduct optional regional aviation systems plans (RASPs). We study the extent to which airports investigate demand management in lieu of increasing capacity and if RASPs play a role in doing so. Of the 17 EISs for major airport capacity expansions between 2000 and 2013, only Boston (BOS), as influenced by the local RASP, fully assessed demand management. We find three barriers to airports evaluating demand management in their EISs: narrow project objectives, uncertainty over the FAA’s stand on demand management, and economic development concerns. RASPs can help surmount these barriers because they are not constrained by the EIS’s narrow objectives and can comprehensively evaluate demand management alternatives.

Takeaway for practice: Demand management in aviation, as in surface transportation, holds potential for cost and other savings. Strengthening the role of regional planners in the airport planning process would lead to greater consideration of demand management and may bring innovative solutions to airport congestion. We recommend: a) the FAA play a more direct role in funding regional aviation planning and creating regional aviation planning coalitions; b) regional planners collaborate early in the airport EIS process; and c) planners encourage the FAA to make demand management a mandatory alternative in an EIS for airport capacity expansion.

Pricing before concrete. Pricing before concrete. Pricing before concrete.

One thought on “Build Airport Capacity or Manage Flight Demand?

  1. Wow!! Why not completely ignore free market principles? However, if the airport costs of current fares are somehow being subsidized and the added revenue from “managing” demand were banked for future capacity additions, then perhaps this method could make sense. But, there is also no discussion in this proposal about what the economic impacts would be on the area served by a capacity rationed airport.


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