The same can be said for air travel. A decade ago, transport planners were predicting unlimited growth in air travel. Their estimates seem crazy now. Consider what happened with airports in the SF Bay Area. The region’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) predicted SFO would grow to 46 million passengers by 2010 (up from 37 million in 1998). In fact, SFO last year had just 30 million passengers — a significant decline from the 1998 level.
Similarly, Oakland was predicted to increase from to 16 million passengers by 2010. In fact, the airport had only 10 million passengers in 2012. And San Jose airport was supposed to reach 18 million passengers by 2010 — way more than the 8 million passengers that currently use it. San Jose has fewer passengers now than it did in 1998.
These inflated estimates were used to justify some horrendous projects. SFO proposed a controversial runway expansion plan that would have paved over part of San Francisco Bay. Billions are being spent on BART extension projects to airports, on the basis of the inflated passenger demand. San Jose is struggling to pay off a $1.7 billion terminal expansion. And, of course, there is the high-speed rail project. It would cost over $60 billion — in order to relieve “congestion” at California airports.
And what has the MTC learned from all this? Their 2011 updated plan still predicts unlimited growth in air travel.
Correction: Last year’s passenger count for SFO was actually 44.5 million. Even so, total passenger count for the 3 airports is significantly less than predicted.