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Will a ban on using fees to pay for airport bike parking fly?

One of the hurdles to passage of the next transportation bill is the even-longer overdue reauthorization of the Federal aviation program – this was being debated in the Senate today. In the last Congress, we were disappointed to learn that Senator McCain (R-AZ) proposed an amendment to the bill to prohibit the use of Passenger Facility Charges to provide bike parking at airports, which seemed like a singularly mean-spirited and unnecessary thing to do.

The PFC (oh yes, we know the aviation lingo as well) allows the collection of up to $4.50 for every passenger at commercial airports to be used for projects that enhance safety, security or capacity at airports as well as noise reduction, etc. Intermodal projects are funded with this levy at airport terminals and on access roads – and it’s no trivial sum of money. In FY2009, close to $2.5billion was collected through PFCs.

Bike parking at Portland Airport; Photo: BikeMontclair via Picasa

Bike parking at Portland Airport; Photo: BikeMontclair via Picasa

Lo and behold, Senate Bill 223 in the 112th Congress, Section 207(b), contains the language proposed last time by McCain. For some reason, either McCain or someone else has decided that bike parking at airports is worth singling out for exclusion; that it doesn’t somehow count as an “intermodal” facility; that it should never be part of the airport experience. One can only speculate as to why.

Source: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

Source: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

Bicycling to the airport may never be a major means of access given the nature of air travel and the trips people make by air (but it does happen — including by airport employees). Even cycling meccas like Copenhagen (CPH) and Amsterdam (AMS) airports have a limited number of people riding to and from them – but it certainly isn’t precluded or deliberately made more difficult, and nor should that happen at US airports. Demand may only require a few bike racks and maybe a locker or two for longer term storage in more accessible airports – not exactly the kind of volume that would eat deeply into the $2.5billion fund.

Hopefully, as the bill progresses we can find a way to strip this provision from the bill and restore equity to the funding of landside airport facilities.

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