By Philip Newman
“Nationwide, 26 percent of all fights arrived late or were canceled,” DeCota told the Port Authority Board at a meeting in Manhattan last Thursday. “These delays have significant economic impact for the national economy, costing more than $9 billion in productivity each year.''DeCota reported that LaGuardia Airport had the nation's worst record in the United States, with only 58 percent of flights on time, followed by Newark Liberty at 59 percent and Kennedy International Airport with 63 percent. The Port Authority oversees the city's three airports.Although the weather is the leading cause of late flights, the volume of flights, the capabilities of both the aircraft and air traffic control systems and lack of capacity are leading causes.”The most important way that we are working to address delays is to increase airport capacity,” DeCota said. “Over the past 20 years, the Port Authority has invested $15 billion at airports and the current capital plan includes an additional $6 billion for more capacity.”DeCota said the Port Authority has added 2,300 acres of land and an 11,000-foot runway as well as a seven-gate terminal by taking over Stewart Airport in Westchester County. It is expected to take some of the flight and passenger load off JFK and LaGuardia.”Further, while all planes play a role in small communities air service, we have also been investing in our airports to allow for new, larger aircraft that will make more efficient use our airfield,” DeCota said.DeCota said the authority spent $179 million to assure that JFK would be ready to handle the massive, double-decked Airbus A380 when it arrives this year and “we have already equipped LaGuardia to handle planes as large as the Boeing 767 and Newark to accommodate the Boeing 777.””We are also working with the Federal Aviation Administration to expedite implementation of the 77 procedural, technological and capital recommendations of the federal Flight Delay Task force formed last July,” DeCota said.The FAA has proposed limits on the numbers of flights per hour at Newark and JFK to reduce delays.The Port Authority had told “federal policy makers we are opposed to measures that would restrict activity and reduce air travel options,” DeCosta said.On another front, the Port Authority has approved a study into the possibility of a single card that would pay transit fares anywhere in the New York City metropolitan area.The Port Authority board of commissioners has authorized an agreement with MasterCard Worldwide and NJ Transit to develop and test a “tap” payment card and other devices at all 13 Port Authority Trans-Hudson stations and two connecting NJ Transit bus routes, said Diana Beecker, the authority's technology officer.Beecker told the Port Authority board that under the plan, MasterCard customers could also use specially programmed key chains or even cell phones to pay fares.”Our vision is to increase mass transit capacity, improve reliability and simplify fare payment to attract even more people to mass trasit,” said Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia.Port Authority officials said the project to develop the universal fare card would begin next year.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.