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2001 Speeches
Phil Condit portrait

Phil Condit

Chairman and CEO

The Boeing Company

"Working Together To Create Better Cities"

Asia Pacific Cities Summit

Seattle, Washington

May 08, 2001

Thank you, Jim.

It's great to be here tonight and to be able to share my views. But first, I want to congratulate all of you for coming together to discuss issues that face cities in this new century. Boeing is delighted to be a sponsor and to support a conference that brings people together to help solve common problems.

Tonight I want to talk about the benefits that might be derived from supporting growing cities in a rapidly changing, increasing mobile society. I have a very fundamental premise that I want to offer: It is that economic growth follows infrastructure. If this premise is correct -- I have heard it for many years, and I believe that it is -- it leads to a critical conclusion: To have strong, vibrant economy, a city needs a strong, integrated infrastructure. That means reliable, interdependent, efficient transportation and communications systems.

Let's look more closely at the premise that economic growth follows infrastructure. The great cities of the world grew up around access to transportation. Early in the history of the world's great cities, you didn't have to build transportation systems -- it was the nearby rivers and oceans. So cities like Rome and Venice; London, Paris, and New York; Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore; Seattle and Sydney all grew up around harbors for a good reason. For a brief period in the United States, some cities grew up around railroad transportation; Dallas/Fort Worth is a primary example. Today, air transportation is becoming increasingly critical for all cities. Orlando, Florida, for example, is experiencing amazing growth because of easy air access.

For vibrant cities, integrated air, sea, and land transportation systems will continue to be vital to economic growth. However, let me add one new challenge: this paradigm must include both transportation and communication systems, not as separate modes but as a complex, integrated set. One consideration to think about is the non-value-added travel time that impacts the movement of people and goods. The goods in a container on a ship are no more valuable after three days at sea than they were when they left. In fact, they may even be slightly less valuable because "time is money." Similarly, a passenger sitting idly in an airport waiting area is losing valuable time. Clearly, transporting people and goods will always involve non-value-added time, but technology offers many fascinating opportunities; e.g., technology can optimize the routing of goods in order to minimize transit time. Technology can allow the passenger in the waiting area to be on-line, doing something productive. By integrating systems together for the ease of the passenger or movement of products, people can be more productive and goods can be delivered faster. All this results in happier customers.

Let me give you a couple of examples -- not real, but potential examples. A container ship crossing the Pacific Ocean is guided by GPS and, with the aid of satellite weather data, minimizes transit time. When the ship arrives at its destination port, both the shippers and customers receive an automatic status report as each container is off-loaded from the ship and loaded onto a train or truck. The trucks, carrying goods destined for another city, move away from the port on a dedicated right-of-way leading to the freeway system. This routing speeds travel and reduces congestion on surface streets. Trucks making local deliveries are guided by GPS along the optimum route to their destination. Trains leave the port on tracks that have no grade crossing, minimizing disruption to surface traffic. The combination of communications technologies and infrastructure design can dramatically speed the flow of goods and reduce the impact on the city.

I believe that there is an even more exciting possibility: air commerce. All of you who flew here probably had relatively similar travel experiences. But imagine if you could drive to the airport via easy freeway access and check-in using a fully electronic system; i.e., just wave your smart card, with its stored reservation, in front of a sensor. After you key in the number of bags that you are checking, the proper electronic bag strips appear, you attach them to your bags, place them on the conveyor, and then walk to the boarding area.

During the brief wait until boarding, you use your laptop and its wireless modem to watch the beginning of a critical sporting event and send a few e-mails. You board the plane -- obviously, in this description, a new Boeing "Sonic Cruiser." After take-off, you pull out your laptop again and check the sporting event, using broadband wireless access provided by Connexion by Boeing. As the trip continues, you pay some bills, balance your bank account on-line, check on the stock market, and watch the end of the sporting event -- all in real time.

The flight is guided by GPS in a new Air Traffic Management System that provides the flight crew guidance electronically, which allows more flights with greater safety and higher capacity in the system. Arrival is on-time, and your bags are waiting on the carousel when you reach it. You load them on a cart nearby and head down the escalator to the train station. (Yes, the cart has a rubber tread on the bottom to allow you to go up and down the escalator.) Once on the high-speed "city-link" train, you quickly check your wireless laptop for the market closing prices, then exit the train, and walk to your hotel, which is only two blocks from the station. The "wasted" time on this trip has been minimal. All of your e-mail is done, all your bills are paid, and your checking account is balanced. You are up-to-date on the news, you know who won the sporting event, and you are ready to go for a walk outside on the pleasant city streets before dinner.

Almost all of this is possible with technology available today. Some of you will have to wait for some of it, but with determination by cities and governments, it is possible. Easy access to airports by auto, light rail, and high-speed rail are a critical part. The incorporation of technology into passenger and baggage handling will take further investment, but the pay-off will be great. I believe this is the key: People migrate to systems that are convenient, economic, and reliable. Economies that have these attributes will be vibrant and growing.

I believe being mobile and connected also is changing the way we work and play. Being mobile and connected, for example, allows me to communicate better; in fact, a number of the tools I have talked about tonight I use on a regular basis. They allow me to meet more often with customers and with government and industry leaders, to see suppliers in person, and to visit employees wherever they work. Being mobile and connected allows me to answer e-mails, work on reports, look at data, and prepare and print a speech on a flight and deliver it an hour later. It has clearly changed the way I work. Being mobile and connected allows me to send e-mail directly to almost 160,000 Boeing employees from anywhere, at anytime. We are moving into a civilization that is linked by mobility and bandwidth and linked by integrated infrastructures. We are moving from a world marked by relative independence and one with real interdependence.

So I hope you believe my premise that economic growth follows infrastructure. If you believe that, then you must conclude that to have a strong, vital economy and growth in a rapidly changing world, cities will need a strong, integrated infrastructure. Cities will need good highway systems, good rail systems, and good airport systems -- systems that are integrated and efficient. Cities will need good communications systems, which maintain high reliability ... systems that are "always on."

I believe we can succeed in meeting the challenges of congestion, moving large volumes of freight and large numbers of passengers, and eliminating bottlenecks at airports and marine terminals. I believe we can meet the challenges of digital security and Internet privacy. I believe that we, as leaders -- of cities, of corporations -- play a unique leadership role in building the infrastructure foundation that must come first. We have a great opportunity to integrate land, air, and sea transportation. We have a great opportunity to connect and build communications systems that are more reliable, "always on."

We can act together to implement a vision. It means that we must be willing to think differently, be willing to imagine, be willing to innovate. It means that we must be willing to look at models that are different, models that work, and models that work in different places, and to imagine new models of infrastructure and new ways to integrate. There is, and will continue to be, resistance as we work through this great change, but we have choices. We can lead, move ahead, and embrace the future or try to hold back the inevitable advance of the tide. What most of us want is progress, but without change and that will not happen.

Let me close with the words of Charles Darwin. I think they are very important. He said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change." I think we can lead and survive and prosper by adapting and taking advantage of the great technology that is available to us. And I think we can make a difference. Thank you.