We Had Air Service In Athens?

The Athens Banner-Herald is reporting that Mesa Airlines is shutting down its subsidiary, Air Midwest. So as of this Friday, Athens will have no commercial passenger air travel available. Wow, we had commercial air service here? No way. Commercial air service, to me, means economical, timely flights that actually take off and are not consistently canceled. It means being able to get where I need to be when I need to be there. This has never been the case from Athens Ben Epps Airport. So Mesa Airlines, a company that has been trying to dump the service for some time, now can do it because they are just shuttering the company.

Unable to cope with skyrocketing jet fuel prices, not even the Federal subsidy could keep it afloat. Meanwhile, the Athens-Clarke County government continues to court other airlines to offer service from Athens, including an air shuttle to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. When will the local government officials take the blinders off and realize that such a service is not going to be viable or convenient. I am not saying that it would not be nice to clear security in Athens and hop over to Atlanta to catch a flight. I am saying that it will be the same problem we have had for years in Athens: there will be no way to make such a service commercially viable if business travelers are hog-tied to the schedules from Athens instead of when we need to travel.

It is time for ACC officials to give up the ghost. Air service from Athens is not realistic, especially in the uncertain economic times we are facing. If an airline cannot keep operating, even with a government subsidy, then the light bulb should go off. The ACC recently cut off Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to some non-profits because results were not being delivered. This same logic should be applied to all parts of the government. The Commission needs to stop wasting time and money chasing after windmills. Oh wait, windmills might provide better benefit in the long run.

Related Link(s)

Athens Banner-Herald: Flights Will End In Week


Winfield J. Abbe said...

The Athens Clarke County Ben Epps Field was there first, before the development around it. The government has the power to prevent development in the interest of public safety through the use of zoning laws. But instead, the government has permitted extensive development of homes, businesses, schools, apartments, etc. in and around the airport. This development has created a very unsafe situation. A plane crashed a few years ago in Cedar Creek Subdivision and nearly killed a former Commissioner and others. They were just lucky. Most crashes occur during take off or landing. This government is very hypocritical. While it purports to have public safety as its raison d'etre, it has totally failed to limit development in and around the airport to maintain a safe environment since it has placed tax revenue above public safety. The fact that they have a relatively good past record is irrelevant since the probability of future accidents is independent of history. As the post also noted, there is not enough demand for commercial service anyway. The airport is basically a toy for the rich or those wealthy enough to own airplanes. This is a minority which is being subsidized by public tax funds. Money could be saved and the county made safer by simply shutting down this unnecessary moneywaste. Certain people behind the scenes in Athens want to feel like "Big Shots" with other people's safety and money. This unnecessary airport must be shut down immediately just like the similarly wasteful public bus system which is subsidized to about $1.5 million every year of forced taxation from property owners since the government won't raise fares to cover costs. It would be much more cost effective to buy one of the local taxi companies instead. The buses run around with about 1 to 5 passengers, wasting precious fuel, polluting the air with diesel exhaust and dangerously and unsafely blocking traffic lanes. A bus was rear ended recently on Danielsville Rd. but the newspaper did not make clear the damage or injuries. But they could be substantial. It is illegal for automobiles to stop in traffic lanes and block them. The Athens Transit website has still not posted up to date information on the amount of subsidy provided to it from forced taxation of property owners in Athens. Evidently it seeks to fool people about the amount of this subsidy, about $1.5 million per year.

Unknown said...

Winfield, my understanding is that the University also supports "The Bus" through a fee, so that UGA students, faculty, and staff can ride free.

Bus revenue breakdown:

As for ridership, I am not sure of the numbers, but here is one regarding UGA people:

In my opinion, "The bus" is one of the most valuable services ACC offers (although it needs improvement). I do not see how the taxi service could be a viable alternate (although it needs to be fixed, too).

The bus routes should be broken up into the shorter routes to get people to main business zones (downtown being one) and then longer routes which cover all of the less populous areas.

Unknown said...

oh, and I should point out these figures are kind of old, I couldn't find recent stats online.

Adrian Pritchett said...

And Winfield, I guess you're going to keep repeating your complaint about only "1 to 5 passengers" on each bus despite the complete inaccuracy of that statement. As I've said before, they get full at peak times, leaving room only for standees or even rejecting riders at times. But you can keep repeating this inaccurate statement all you want.

Christopher Byrne said...

Not to defend Winfield, but in 14 years of living in this town, I have never seen a bus with more than 2-3 people on it. Those that are full, are they student routes?

Unknown said...

When I lived in boulevard, I knew quite a few regular bus riders (besides me). None of us were students.

According to ATS:
"The largest volume of traffic served by ATS is the University of Georgia (UGA) student population. Routes 12 and 14 are predominately serving off-campus student housing. These two routes are among the most productive in the system. Other segments of the population who depend on transit are those who do not have access to automobiles and must reach jobs, shopping, or medical needs."


Amy said...

I was trying to take the Number 9 to work one day and the bus went flying by me standing at the stop. I called the number on the sign and the dispatcher told me the bus didn't stop for me because it was full.

They were very apologetic and sent a van to come get me and take me to my destination.