My daughter was studying for a test last night and was faced with the following word problem:
A group of 140 tourists are going on a tour. The tour guide rents 15 vans. Each van holds nine tourists.
1.) Write a division problem that can be used to find the number of vans needed.
2.) What does the remainder mean in the context of the problem?
3.) How can you use your answer to determine whether the tour guide rented enough vans?
Dad: Well, I think the first thing we need to figure out is how much each tourist is paying for the tour.
Daughter: But it doesn’t say that …
Dad: And we’ve also got to figure out the cost per unit for the van.
Daughter: But why?
Dad: 9 times 15 means right now, you can only accommodate 135 out of your 140 customers. Depending upon how much each person is paying, how much each van costs, and how much you value your sanity, it might make better sense to not rent a 16th van and leave the five most annoying customers behind.
Daughter: Then they’d fire you.
Dad: Or promote you. It’s hard to say. I can guarantee you that the 135 tourists you do bring on the tour will behave themselves.
On Tuesday, I went to Mammoth Library and checked out the Final Scoping Report: Environmental Impact Statement for the Mammoth Yosemite Airport Exxpansion Project (published February 2004 by the Federal Aviation Administration).
Why? Real answer is that I was fishing, primarily to determine what, if any, discussions had been held historically in regard to commercial airline subsidies. What sort of agreements might the Town and MMSA have talked about back in the day? Or was the focus at the time so centered upon environmental approvals that the operational plan was largely overlooked?
From the Record of Scoping Process meeting held Dec. 10, 2003 – Discussion notes of a meeting between MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the FAA’s consultant, URS Corporation:
“Rusty projects that MMSA will be subsidizing the flights to the tune of $12-15 million per year.”
“Rusty believes if the air service were strictly regional the local passengers would squeeze out the destination tourist traffic.”
“Rusty feels that diverting the L.A. tourist from cars to planes will not get them where they need to go. The people who will come to Mammoth mid-week are those who cannot drive to get to Mammoth.”
While $12-15 million seems like a pretty large number, at the time, they were also projecting approximately 300,000 enplanements by 2022.
Instead, we have about one-tenth the enplanements and MMSA is accordingly “right-sizing” its air subsidy commitment to also be one-tenth of its former projection, or $1.2 to $1.5 million per year.
The Mountain clearly has a pretty good idea about the incremental value of each airline passenger and what it wishes to spend in order to attract that passenger. The Mountain is not afraid of a math problem.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the Town.
To circle back to the top, the Town is so busy worrying about the 15 vs. 16 vans question that it can’t bother to answer the more fundamental math behind whether it should offer a tour at all.
In 2003, it was assumed the Mountain would handle 100% of the airline subsidy.
Consider this statement made by longtime local Andy Selters at a public hearing hosted by the FAA and held later that day (Dec. 10, 2003):
“When this proposal was put out a couple, three years ago, the only reason, apparently, it was going to work was that Mammoth Mountain was going to subsidize [airline] tickets and so it all leads to a lot of questions in the eye of the public. Why is this airport actually necessary?”
You see, somewhere along the line, the deal got changed, and suddenly, the Town of Mammoth Lakes was not only on the hook for making the airport improvements necessary to facilitate air service, but it was also on the hook for subsidizing a portion of the airline seats, and now, the formula is such that the Town is on the hook for subsidizing the majority of the airline seats.
And at no time has anyone stopped to demand any sort of calculation as to whether the math still works … or ever worked, for that matter. The Town just keeps paying because it’s too scary not to.
Maybe it’s time Town leaders start channeling Yukon Cornelius versus Hermey the elf.
It’s easy to blame Rusty – even easier to blame him behind his back – but is the blame justified? Or is everyone just jealous that the Mountain did its homework and scored well on the test while we’re still wondering whether the 16th van should be a Chevy or a Ford?
And from Evans’ desk …
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s land trade bill HR1241, allowing the Mountain to trade over 1,700 acres of public and private property in various counties in exchange for approximately 21 acres of Forest Service land surrounding Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge, passed the House of Representatives as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday December 4. The NDAA is a federal law passed every year specifying the budget for the Department of Defense and national security programs, and includes the continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the new actions targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Several other and more controversial land exchanges were passed as part of the NDAA and the bill is expected to be heard before the Senate next week. “It’s never over until it’s over,” said MMSA CAO Ron Cohen. “But we’re very encouraged.”
Mammoth resident Edgar Lee Weaver Jr. is being charged with one count of Gross Vehicular Manslaugher while Intoxicated (PC 191.4(a)), confirmed Assistant District Attorney Dave Anderson. Weaver was riding his motorcycle on Meridian Boulevard with passanger Rebecca Anne Dempsey on Sunday, October 5, when he veered off the road. Dempsey was pronounced dead and Weaver flown to Reno in critical condition. If convicted and probation is not granted, the charge carries a punishment of either 4, 6, or 10 years in state prison. Weaver’s arraignment is scheduled for December 15.