For more than a century, America has been the global leader of the aviation industry. But these days, the government-run parts of the industry are inefficient and falling behind, including airports, security screening, and air traffic control (ATC).
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Scott McCartney reports on the superior air traffic control (ATC) system north of the border. American aviation is suffering from a bureaucratic government-run ATC, while Canada’s privatized system is moving ahead with new technologies that reduce delays and congestion.
Washington, DC opened its long-delayed streetcar for business on Saturday. Actually, it’s a stretch to say it is open “for business,” as the city hasn’t figured out how to collect fares for it, so they won’t be charging any.
Since Margaret Thatcher’s British reforms in the 1980s, more than $3 trillion in government businesses have been privatized around the world, and few have been renationalized. Privatization simply works.
Two decades ago, the Clinton administration proposed restructuring our air traffic control (ATC) system. The idea was to create a self-funded outfit separate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The problem was that “The FAA has been a big, bungling bureaucracy,” noted the spokesman for the controllers’ union in 1994.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration proposed restructuring our air traffic control (ATC) system, creating a self-funded organization outside of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The idea went nowhere in Congress at the time.
Five years ago, Bob Poole and I wrote that Canada’s privatized air traffic control (ATC) system would be “a very good reform model for the United States.” U.S. policymakers—including the chairman of the House committee that oversees ATC—are now coming around to that view.
Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin is congested, so obviously (to some people, at least) the solution is to run passenger trains between the two cities. Existing tracks are crowded with freight trains, so the Lone Star Rail District proposes to build a brand-new line for the freight trains and run passenger trains on the existing tracks. The total capital cost would be about $3 billion, up from just $0.6 billion in 2004 (which probably didn’t include the freight re-route).
Congress faces a deadline at the end of July to extend federal highway funding. Policymakers are likely to cobble together a short-term fix for the funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), rather than enacting a permanent solution.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has another failure on its hands. In recent tests, undercover investigators smuggled mock explosives and banned weapons through U.S. airport checkpoints 96 percent of the time. According to ABC, “In one case, agents failed to detect a fake explosive taped to an agent’s back, even after performing a pat down that was prompted after the agent set off the magnetometer alarm.”