Interview with Air Transport Research Society (ATRS) President, Prof. Anming Zhang and Chairman, Prof. Martin Dresner
The WCTRS Research Newsletter Editorial team took a brief interview of Prof. Anming Zhang, President of ATRS and Prof. Martin Dresner, Chairman of ATRS.
Below is the full interview.
1. A few words on ATRS and WCTRS association.
ATRS was founded by Prof. Tae Oum, the President of WCTRS. Prof. Tae Oum organized our first annual conference in Vancouver in 1997. We have met every year since then, except for the last year due to COVID. Next year, the WCTRS special interest group A1 is hosting a virtual meeting to facilitate research in the aviation field. We organize the aviation sessions (A1 sessions) at WCTRS conferences in addition to our annual conferences. ATRS is a separate organization, but we see ourselves as having a strong affiliation with WCTRS through our continued participation in WCTRS SIG A1 sessions. Prof. Martin has also been very active in WCTRS activities. He represents our organization in a broader context of the transportation community. From that perspective, some of our ATRS members directly or indirectly contribute to the overall growth of the WCTRS, so it is a mutual benefit.
When possible, we try to hold the ATRS conference in the same location or on a similar place as the WCTRS conference. When WCTRS was held in Lisbon, Istanbul, and Seoul, we also held our ATRS conference in Portugal, Istanbul, and Korea. However, this is not always possible because we need hosts who are willing to host the ATRS conference. We would also like to see more participation from large Asian countries like India and China. We look forward to expanding into highly populated countries that will contribute to future transportation growth.
2. A few words on how air transport is affected due to COVID-19 and your vision on how air transportation research and practice looks like post COVID-19.
The spread of a local epidemic to a global pandemic was aided by air travel. So, in the future, we must consider how to cut off this potential channel. Flights should be reduced when there are signs of a local epidemic, both from an operational and an early warning standpoint. The airline industry, as well as international organizations and governments, should thoroughly investigate the virus’s impact because they are potential carriers of the virus. One thing to keep in mind is that the airline industry has been hit the hardest by this pandemic. Many issues, such as government bias, financial support, and so on, have arisen, making it difficult for the air transport industry to survive this pandemic. Because the government has a strong involvement in the aviation industries in some developing countries, this could be a potential opportunity to get rid of state government involvement in this sector.
Further, prior to the pandemic, aviation was at a crossroads in certain areas. Because of the economic impact of aviation in many developed countries, particularly in Europe, many environmentalists have advocated for its reduction as a way to improve the environment. As a result, environmentalists will urge to exercise extreme caution in terms of how aviation develops post-pandemic. There are some equity issues all over the world. People in richer countries can fly around the world and benefit from it, whereas developing countries would like the opportunity to participate in the global aviation system. So, if we say we are going to reduce our aviation footprint, we must consider the impact on developing countries. So, there is a lot of research that can be done in aviation to rebuild industries in a more equitable manner.
The post-pandemic industry development depends on the resilience of the entire aviation supply chain, including airlines and airports. These external shocks may reoccur in the future and take on a new form that we do not yet know or only partially understand. So, the most important consideration is to ensure that the entire system is resilient. The industry will be impacted, but we must try to minimize the damage. Pilots who have spent years training and have been laid off due to the pandemic can be retained or recruited quickly. This can also aid in the normalization of the situation. At the same time, it is critical to balance economic development and investment in industries that will need to facilitate mobility, promote tourism, and promote international trade. For countries such as India to promote economic development, the manufacturing industries that bring products into the country must have freighters and global logistics to move these products quickly in and out of the country. This pandemic may teach us important lessons in these areas.
3. What do you think could be the future base on which the air transport sector can contribute to sustainable development and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals?
The World Bank has published the connectivity index, which shows how development is related to how well a city is connected to other cities. Aviation is how these cities are linked. Aviation development is critical because it is sometimes the only way to connect places. In terms of sustainable goals, the industry would argue, and I believe quite rightly, that technology has advanced in recent years. Aviation is far more efficient and less polluting than it was previously. There have been some demonstrations of how fossil fuels can be converted to biofuels, as well as some short-distance flights being converted to electric aircraft, such as between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The electric vehicle industry is growing in today’s world because of government regulations aimed at phasing out gasoline vehicles. This will have an impact on other sectors of transportation. Aviation is one of the sectors benefiting from EV development.
Despite its significant contributions to fuel efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint, aviation emissions have grown over the years. Despite technological advancements, the total amount of emissions tends to increase as the industry grows. This industry may not grow quickly after covid, but it is undeniably an important issue that the industry is dealing with. In terms of sustainable growth, the industry has to be very clever and cautious.
The greening of airports is coming up due to the growing research in terms of the green ways to run an airport. Several new greenfield airports have been built in China, considering the sustainability aspects into the design and construction as compared to the older airports. In the US, the government is considering revitalizing the infrastructure, bridges, roads, and airports. If this program gets approved, then there will be more projects along sustainability lines. More research has to happen, and the inferences and ideas should be conveyed to the government and industry who are in charge of making the decisions. Future research areas could include how to design smarter airports and smarter aviation operations as we enter the Industry 4.0 era, where AI and IoT are being used extensively in aviation. In terms of trying to adopt new technology that will make operations more efficient, aviation has always been ahead of other sectors such as rail or maritime. Of course, the goal is not only efficiency and resilience but also sustainability. Therefore, it is multi-objective, but technology may serve as a facilitator in this case. There are many things that can be done within the context of aviation to reduce the carbon footprint, and airports may be ahead of the game in terms of becoming greener operators.
4. Besides the annual conference that ATRS does, would you like to throw some light on other activities in your portfolios of things that ATRS does which would be of particular benefit and interest for WCTRS members?
One of the most important activities we do every year is the airport benchmarking study. Prof. Tae Oum started this years ago, and we present our winners at the annual conference. This is an important way for us to interact with the industry. It represents a different view of airport operations. Other benchmarking studies usually judge airports in terms of marketing and how flashy they are. We look at efficiency, which I believe is an important way to judge airport operations. This airport benchmarking report that we release is a critical feature of what ATRS does. Other airport benchmarking is mostly based on reputational surveys, as you may be aware. We examine airport efficiency, so it is a more quantitative and scientific view of airport operations. We have had a lot of interactions over the years with airports that have not performed well, and they have used our results to try to figure out why their performance is low and how their efficiency can be improved.
ATRS publishes special issues from our conference every year, usually three, and some of these are published in WCTRS journals. Transport Policy has previously handled ATRS special issues. Even though we do not have our own journal, many aviation papers are published in journals such as the Journal of Air Transport Management, the Journal of Airport Management, and other well-known transportation journals. Aviation papers are also welcome in more general interest journals. We have always had a special issue with the Journal of Air Transport Management, and I see a very strong association with Transport Policy as well.
Prof. Anming Zhang, President of ATRS
Prof. Martin Dresner, Chairman of ATRS
Updates – Activities done by SIG A2
Events in July:
• ADBI-JARTS-IIT Learning Series on High-Speed Railway: Setting and Maintaining Performance Standards for Railway Assets (27 July 2021, 17:00 – 19:00 JST)
This ADBI-Japan Railway Technical Service (JARTS)-Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and Madras session is part of a learning series to examine key aspects of high-speed rail construction and management. The session examined performance standards development for high-speed railway (HSR) assets, particularly railway vehicles, or rolling stock, which constitutes a significant portion of overall HSR infrastructure. The focus was on standards setting for HSR service requirements and quality control of rolling stock, drawing from experiences in India and Europe. A panel discussion also addressed technical, managerial, and human capacity building for domestic manufacturing of imported rolling stock systems that maintains quality standards. The information on the session can be accessed at HERE.
Events in September:
• ADBI-JARTS-IIT Learning Series on High-Speed Railway: Global Experiences on Safety Management for High-Speed Railway (17 September 2021, 16:00 – 18:00 JST)
• ADBI-EASTS Plenary Session in 14th International Conference of EASTS at Hiroshima, Japan (14 September, 2021, 14:45 to 16:15 JST)
In this plenary session, an edited volume on "Frontiers in HSR development (co-edited by: Yoshitsugu Hayashi, Werner Rothengatter. and K E Seetha Ram)" will be launched. This edited volume has been prepared under the auspices of the past collaboration of ADB Institute with WCTR Society's SIG A4 and Chubu University, Japan. A roundtable discussion during this plenary session will cover various pertinent topics about sustainable transport planning and will also feature policy lessons discussed in the edited volume on HSR development. This discussion will be moderated by a renowned TV personality of Japan, Ms. Tomoyo Nonaka (Full member of Club of Rome/Ex-CEO of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd./Ex-NHK Main Caster).
• ADBI-EASTS-WCTRS COVID-19 Task Force Plenary on “COVID-19 and Transport Policy in Asian Developing Countries” (Sept. 12, 2021, from 15:00 to 16:30 JST)
Building on the joint research undertaken by ADB Institute, WCTR Society’s COVID-19 Task Force, and members of EASTS, a plenary session on “COVID-19 and Transport Policy in Asian Developing Countries” during the 14th International Conference of EASTS is planned to be organized. Focusing on COVID-19 and urban transport policy in Asian developing countries, K E Seetha Ram (Senior Consulting Specialist, ADB Institute Japan) will make a key-note presentation during this plenary, which will be followed by panel discussions attempting to address several pertinent issues in Asia, including, how can the transport sector help control the COVID-19 pandemic?, How can the transport sector be recovered from the pandemic and re-built better after the pandemic?, How can developed countries better help developing countries?.
Stay tuned to ADBI website for more details.
Call for papers
1. ADBI is seeking high-quality original, unpublished research papers featuring qualitative and quantitative analyses, case studies, and policy insights on the impacts of HSR on equity, to be presented at a related conference. See details at HERE.
2. Outstanding papers from the 14th International conference of EASTS, with an adequate policy focus and overlap with ADB Institute's work, will be supported by ADB Institute for their open-access publication in the Asian Transport Studies journal. These papers will be authored by researchers from ADB member countries on topics such as - road construction, traffic safety, port development, energy consumption and environmental issues, public transport, active transport, and transport planning and policy.
Dr. Nikhil Bugalia, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India.
Urban Transport Policies in the Time of Pandemic, and After: an ARDUOUS Research Agenda – Research Article
In the transition towards a post-pandemic “new normal”, transport policymakers face a dilemma: how mobility is going to change? Some key issues are still to be fully addressed, synthesized by the ARDUOUS acronym: Adjustment, Redesign, Domesticity, Unsharing, Organization, Unsustainability, Standardization.
For transit, social distancing implies two imperatives: Adjustment to the emergency, and Redesign vehicles and facilities. None of them proved to be fast enough during the pandemic initial waves due to the difficulty to adapt the service in such short notice; the dramatic demand drops during the lockdown “camouflaged” the mobility actors’ unpreparedness to react. But now that the new normal is progressing, on-board occupancy limited by social distancing is still unsolved due to intrinsic performance constraints associated with the service. Likewise, travel environments need structural improvements related to air quality and contactless operations. Failing to provide safe travel conditions will result more and more in solo-driving and the “share” myth will be soon debunked in favour of the Unsharing attitude if the fear is to ride with unknown individuals. Risks of Unsustainability will be inevitable if transit neglect and the massive car-dependence will escalate, again.
Also, the forced Domesticity affected transport. Environmental benefits due to reduced traffic have been constantly publicized by the newspapers, no matter the high toll paid. But whether such benefits could last is still an open question, including the consideration that Domesticity mostly affected society’s medium-to-high classes, with the strata with poor web-literacy left aside.
Managing all the above requires a strong Organization to coordinate passengers, operators, and decision-makers. Citizens need to be educated and constantly informed to be aware that transit, per se, is safe and for all. Activities have to be re-planned to avoid situations incompatible with social distancing. This involves service management, communication, staff training, political commitment, and funding and, firstly, Standardization. Emergency situations can be solved with ready, fast. and consolidated responding procedures. But an “emergency” transportation culture was clearly missing, thus standardized supranational guidelines to manage transit, accordingly, adopt correct behaviors, timely communicate, set appropriate funding are extremely urgent.
Some directions to advance and create a reference for further transport policies can be proposed. The focus is to turn restrictions into lasting advantages. In the end, healthier travel conditions will become a prerequisite to provide safe transit services and Domesticity can be planned to reduce (over)crowding, congestions and reduce air pollution; social distancing can generate more comfortable travel conditions, but also fresh impetus to the manufacturing sectors, to redesign new, safer transit vehicles and equipment. Unshare can be shifted to greener modes like bikes (which provide the same exclusiveness) and promote active riding as a regular transport mode. Organization can foster the role of mobility in urban governance, as an efficient resource to manage everyday activities and give rise to increased web-literacy and improve social inclusion. It has been observed that this pandemic requires to “keep apart and stay together”: Standardization can be an efficient tool in pursuing both, by settings common rules for operations, funding, communication, education.
Find more on: Corazza M.V., Musso, A. 2021. Urban transport policies in the time of pandemic, and after: An ARDUOUS research agenda. Transport Policy, 103, 31-44.
Prof. Antonio Musso, Sapienza University of Rome
Dr. Maria Vittoria Corazza, Sapienza University of Rome