September 28, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Time for airport effciency
By†Jody Reese

Manchester city government continues to expand areas of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport that serve passengers despite fewer and fewer riders.

The latest move is to expand parking by 2,500 spots. Over the past few years, city government has added a new runway and a new flight control tower.

Unfortunately, the factors that turned Manchesterís airport from a sleepy turboprop stop to one of the busiest in New England have begun to reverse.

Manchester was lucky enough to get Southwest Airlines, which led a nationwide revolution in low-cost flying. Southwest coupled with the traffic problems caused by the Big Dig in Boston led more and more people in southern New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts and southern Maine to fly out of Manchester instead of Boston.

Now that the Big Dig is almost complete and getting to the Boston Airport is much easier and all airlines have basically become low-cost, Manchester doesnít hold a competitive advantage. The result has been declining passenger numbers at the Manchester airport. Given that Manchester isnít attracting more passenger airlines, itís unlikely that this trend will turn around.

So why does Manchester need another 2,500 parking spots? It doesnít.

Airport director Kevin Dillon should stop focusing on growth and turn his attention to running an efficient airport that returns more value and money to city government. Itís likely that more growth can be pulled out of freight transport, but thatís a slow-growth segment of the market and one that doesnít need any parking spaces.

Itís easy to get caught up in growth especially if growth is all a city has known. However, as we have seen, that growth will slow and Manchester needs to have a plan for that.

Recruiting more police officers
In a recent committee meeting on hiring more police officers, Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne said that paying officers more money isnít enough to find more qualified officers.

ďIt has to be in your blood to be a police officer,Ē he said.

While that may be true, we live in a free society that allows people to take jobs in any town or city, and just like the private sector, the town or city that pays the most gets the best police candidates. Why would we expect our police officers to choose working in Manchester over Nashua for less money? I wish that people didnít consider salaries in taking jobs or choosing careers; it would make it easier to find qualified Hippo reporters and designers, but the reality is that people want better lives and that is reflected in a desire for better pay. Police are people too; letís not forget that in this debate.

Parking matters
It has been a while since I complained about parking downtown, but itís still a problem. Recently, some out-of-town consultants suggested Manchester had plenty of parking sports. But anyone actually downtown knows that this is not the case. If we are ever going to attract second-floor-and-up tenants to downtown, then another parking garage is needed.

Perhaps we could use the money for the unneeded airport parking sports for the needed spots downtown. Now that would be city government synergy.