Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tampa airport sustainability workshop trip report

The Eye participated in the Tampa International Airport Sustainability workshop Tuesday night held at HCC.  We decided to attend since TIA is one of the great airports in the world (as a former frequent flyer with gold status or better on 3 airlines at once, I know something about airports), we want to keep it that way.  The airport is a great asset to the region.

It was a nicely attended workshop, about 36 attendees.  We socialized a bit early, met Al Illustrata, VP of Facilities and Administration, Alice Price, the new Project Director over the sustainability efforts, and Janet Zink, public relations.  She's actually been at TIA for almost 2 years after years as a reporter at the St. Pete Times.

The Tribune's Ted Jackovics actually filed a report on the event.  Hi Ted.  Sorry we missed you at the workshop.

Al Ilustrato kicked off the event with some Powerpoint slides on some of the high level objectives of TIA's sustainability efforts so far, and their plans to do more, within the context of their overall 20 year, $2.5 plans.  The core of the sustainability efforts are managed around the "people, planet, profit" triad -- social, environmental, and economic drivers.  After all "It's the right thing to do."  Al also mentioned they'll likely have to settle on a subset of the priorities that will be identified, and the input from the workshops will help shorten the list.  They can't afford everything, despite the funding from FAA grants for their sustainability efforts.  According to last year's press release from then Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, TIA received a grant of $607,500 out of the $5.4 million the FAA is providing to 13 airports to "help airports to operate more efficiently and be more environmentally friendly."

We actually generally agree.  The airport does many things right.  Being good stewards of their surroundings is the right thing to do.  TIA is among the best airports in the world.  Let's keep it that way.

Tampa airport, among the best
Meanwhile, Ted reported:
That was the message Wednesday from area residents who gave their input for the airport's first master plan addressing natural resource use and social, fiscal and environmental practices.
A recurring theme among three dozen participants in the two-and-a-half our session at Hillsborough Community College was that the airport should take a leadership role in the region by focusing on sustainability issues.
Yes there were 36 participants, as we did participate in some focus group polling exercises, and 36 voters registered on most of the questions.  Of the 36, 12 were from various government agencies, 5 were from environmental groups, there were 6 - 8 consultants (more than Hillsborough County Aviation Authority staff), and several folks representing various business interests in the airport (although not tenants nor vendors... they will have another workshop).  I'm not quite sure this audience is totally representative of the citizens of Hillsborough County or TIA passengers.

After the polling, we broke out into 3 different focus groups, and the consultant teams rotated around and attempted to facilitate some deeper discussions on several of the questions from the poll.  This part was interesting.  There were some good ideas, and some not so good ideas.
  • Help rehabilitate "parcel 5", which is some airport land, just west of the airport, bordering upper Tampa Bay.  Initially I was a bit skeptical, but the solutions offered were reasonable, and I don't really need to see more development on that plot either.
  • Use goats to maintain the grassy areas.  If that does not work, use sheep... they'll eat anything.  No one mentioned whether we would need sheepherders or not.  No one from PETA was there.  Apparently Atlanta, San Francisco, and Seattle are using some goats.  I fly to Atlanta today, so I'll check for goats.
  • Transit all over.  Lots of folks want rail solutions. I don't want to wait.  We can have bus solutions today, including circulators though TIA and the Westshore district, which is the hottest business district in the Tampa Bay area.  Do it now.
  • Better air quality and climate change.  I don't like jet fumes too much either, but we're not going to affect climate in the few hundred acres of TIA.  Tampa air quality is good today.
  • Water quality.  Various options were discussed on capturing runoff and reclaiming.  This is important given TIA proximity to the upper Tampa Bay.
  • Don't use CFL bulbs, they're bad due to mercury.  Use LEDS.  Did you know you can get LED bulbs with lenses now and direct the the light for more efficient lighting placement?
  • Solar all over.  I'm ok with some solar panels on roofs.  I really don't like them where I can see them.  Visual blight, reflective glare to the pilots... and they also interfere with biodiversity.
  • Recycling, bio-digesters, local food sources, walking trail, kinetic energy rocking chairs to charge mobile devices, women and minority businesses, community outreach, ...
Of course, no one mentioned costs or benefits.  Except me, so at least I got that in.

The breakout sessions had bit of a feel somewhere between my childhood Christmas wishlist and a late night college bull session discussing life, the universe, and everything. While the brainstorming is good to some extent, my own (traveling!) consultant days taught me not to get too far from reality in developing requirements (aka wish list). If consultants are just dreaming up wish lists with clients, but not balancing with feasibility, budgets, and timelines, you'll end up with disappointed clients. There was a little of that balance, but clearly it was light.  Hopefully as they prioritize the results from the workshops and the other research they will do, they'll bring things back into check.  

Pretty interesting night.  Some good ideas, some we definitely support, some ... meh.

There will be more meetings that will be scheduled next year if I recall correctly.  So keep an Eye on the Tampa Airport Sustainability page.  

Traveling by air these days is not much fun.  Airlines annoy me with all the fees (cannot even get a seat for my flight today, and I booked it days ago), TSA, etc. etc. I'm actually driving more to avoid these annoyances.  

However, when I fly, TIA is the best.  My destination airports are put to shame.  

Let's keep it that way.

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