Paris Bans Cars for a Day and People Take Over the Boulevards

Olivier Ouadah  / Musée du Louvre

Pictured is the Court Napoleon and Pyramid at the Louvre Museum on September 30, 2017. On the following day, Parisian officials banned cars in the city for a day. Olivier Ouadah / Musée du Louvre

Skift Take: It was a Paris for a day off-the-beaten track. Or, at least there were few cars on the roadways, and it was virtually only footsteps beating a track toward the city’s many delights.

— Dennis Schaal

Pedestrians are being encouraged to stroll the City of Light as the French capital banned cars throughout the city for a day.

Paris has experimented in the past with car-free days, but Sunday marked the first time the entire city was handed over to ramblers, cyclists and roller-bladers.

Only emergency vehicles, buses and taxis allowed on the streets from 11 a.m. (1000 GMT; 0400 EDT) until 6 p.m. (1700 GMT; 1300 EDT)

Thousands reclaimed the boulevards, and many like Maxime Denis were thrilled to experience the city without the combustion engine.

As he walked near Place de la Republique in the city center, Denis told the Associated Press that it was nice to walk “without any risk to be run over.”

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Trump’s $1 Trillion Transportation Infrastructure Plan Is Coming Unglued


Donald Trump’s infrastructure guru spent part of Sept. 26 at a conference in Washington promoting the president’s $1 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and airports relying in part on public-private partnerships. The same day, across town, Trump was telling lawmakers that those kinds of deals don’t work. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Is there anything this leader can’t not do? This is basic stuff that improves commerce, movement, and travel, and gives a ton of people jobs in the process. It’s not a hard win if you’re competent and have a vision.

— Jason Clampet

Donald Trump’s infrastructure guru spent part of Sept. 26 at a conference in Washington promoting the president’s $1 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and airports relying in part on public-private partnerships. The same day, across town, Trump was telling lawmakers that those kinds of deals don’t work.

The president’s apparent change of heart on what’s been an important pillar of his economic plan left key constituents of the infrastructure initiative reeling.

Trump’s remarks, relayed by three lawmakers after a closed meeting with Republicans and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, raised new questions about how the plan would be financed, and whether the president was instead considering increasing federal funding for building projects — a prospect made harder by the large tax cut the administration proposed Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers welcomed the potential opening for more federal spending, while deficit hawks bristled. Both sides, though, are still struggling to interpret Trump’s apparent turnaround.

“It’s hard to say whether he’s doing this to try to open some doors for more bipartisan discussion, or whether it’s really a fundamental policy change,’’ said Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a free-market research group.

“If it’s fundamental policy change, I imagine there’ll be some people looking for new jobs in the White House because you hired them to do P3 infrastructure,” he said, referring to public-private partnerships.

Legitimate Questions

Following Trump’s comments to the lawmakers, the White House said there are legitimate questions about how public-private partnerships can be incorporated into the infrastructure plan, but that all viable options are still being considered.

Before this week private investment had been at the core of Trump’s ambitious infrastructure plan. It was a feature of his campaign material and promoted in the early months of the administration.

Trump built his infrastructure team around DJ Gribbin, an expert on public-private partnerships who’s worked on such deals for Macquarie Capital USA Inc. and Koch Industries. Trump also enlisted other private sector leaders to advise on the subject.

Gribbin, special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy, spoke at the P3 Hub Americas conference at the Mayflower Hotel on Sept. 26 — the same day that Trump, back at the White House, seemed to reverse course. Gribbin urged supporters of P3s to overcome the opposition to such deals, according to the P3 Bulletin, an infrastructure news publication, which hosted the event.

‘Knee-Jerk Reaction’

“There has been a knee jerk reaction to P3s from a liberal perspective in a negative way, and a knee jerk reaction from conservatives that think P3s are free money,” Gribbin said, according to a P3 Bulletin report. “Both of those are wrong, and it would be really helpful for this community to get out there and educate about the reality of P3s.”

In an initial framework released in May, the administration said it would commit at least $200 billion of federal funds over 10 years to generate $800 billion in spending by states, localities and the private sector. Trump’s latest remarks raised questions about whether that plan will change or be delayed. The administration had said it would deliver a proposal to Congress by the end of September, before saying the plan would come after the tax overhaul.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters in August that an infrastructure bill could start in the House as soon as a tax measure moves from the House to the Senate.

Business groups and companies hoping for a boost in spending are getting impatient.

‘Partisan Divides’

“Unfortunately, competing agendas and partisan divides continue to distance us from a national infrastructure package, which should be at the top of the nation’s agenda,’’ Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive of AECOM, the world’s biggest engineering firm, said in a statement.

White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said the administration is making progress. It’s already taken steps to streamline infrastructure permitting and “continues to work every day on solutions, whether they are as small as shifts in practice within agency offices, or as large as the upcoming legislative package,” she said in an email.

“All of these solutions will contribute to the trillion dollar infrastructure investment the president has promised the American people,” Strom said.

Infrastructure Stocks

After Trump’s election, the promise of a major initiative initially buoyed stocks of construction and materials firms such as AECOM, Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., Fluor Corp., Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Martin Marietta Materials Inc., Vulcan Materials Co. and U.S. Steel Corp. The potential opportunity for more investment opportunities also helped unlisted infrastructure funds secure $20 billion this year in North America alone as of August, according to data provider Preqin.

But the infrastructure stocks fell off after Trump took office, relative to the overall Standard & Poor’s Index of 500 companies, and the economy could suffer if Trump sides with Democrats to shift the burden of infrastructure spending to the federal coffers using deficit spending, particularly in light of the tax cuts proposed Wednesday, said Patrick Newton, a spokesman for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

“Both lower tax rates and expanded infrastructure can help grow the economy, but if we borrow to finance either we’ll probably end up dragging the economy down instead,” Newton said.

Republican lawmakers and some business groups downplayed Trump’s comments, saying the private sector would still play a major role in any initiative. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said Trump’s remarks showed that there are certain places — like rural areas — where public-private partnerships don’t work and the government needs to step up.

No Golden Egg

“I think he’s doing it to make sure that people know that that isn’t the golden egg, that isn’t going to solve the problem,’’ Inhofe said in a telephone interview.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which made infrastructure a 2017 policy priority, remains confident that the private sector will be part of the solution, said Ed Mortimer, executive director of transportation infrastructure.

“We can argue about how much part of the solution, but you don’t address a $2.5 trillion deficit in infrastructure with just traditional funding sources,” Mortimer said.

Representative John Delaney of Maryland and other Democratic lawmakers have advocated linking a tax bill with infrastructure, including using a proposed tax on overseas profits to pay for public works.

The White House has said the two efforts are separate for now, and not all Democrats are on board anyway. Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, rejected combining the two issues if it would be in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy.

‘Hell No’

“The answer would be, ‘Hell no,”’ DeFazio said.

Ed Rendell, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic National Committee chairman and a co-founder of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition that promotes infrastructure, said his party needs to work with Trump.

“You weren’t elected to serve the interest of the Democratic Party,’’ Rendell said in a telephone interview. “You were elected to serve the interests of the United States of America and folks, infrastructure revitalization cannot be put on hold until 2021.’’

Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is moving forward on its own. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the panel’s chairman, said the committee is preparing its own bill and is working to make it a priority this year. The 10 Democrats on the committee signed a letter in July that called for more than $500 billion in funding, including $100 billion to reconstruct and repair deteriorating roads and bridges on the federal highway system.

“They’ve had plenty of time and God bless them, they don’t seem to have rallied around a package that they’re ready to show us yet,’’ said Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the committee’s top Democrat. “We ought to go ahead and start talking amongst ourselves and see what we can agree to.’’

Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said he thinks Congress will need to draft the actual bill and that Trump’s comments raise questions about the entire process: “I literally think we’re back to square one.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Qatar Airways Grabs 49 Percent Ownership in Italy’s Meridiana Airline


A Meridiana flight departing from Milan Malpensa to Shenzhen, China on August 10, 2017. Qatar Airways has taken a 49 percent stake in the Italian airline. Meridiana

Skift Take: Qatar Airways and Etihad are making Italy almost a province from an aviation standpoint as they’ve swooped in to make investments in struggling airlines in the country. Whether the strategy works out in the end is another matter.

— Dennis Schaal

Qatar Airways says it has completed the acquisition of a 49 percent stake in Italy’s AQA Holding, the new parent company of Italy’s second largest carrier Meridiana.

Qatar Airways, one of the Middle East’s biggest carriers, said Sunday that previous sole shareholder Alisarda will keep a 51 percent share in the company. Meridiana was set up in the early 1960s by the Aga Khan, a business mogul and the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims.

Qatar Airways already has a strong presence in Italy, with more than 40 flights a week from its base in Doha. The airline has a fleet of 200 aircraft, while Meridiana says it has 16.

Italy’s largest carrier remains Alitalia, which is partly owned by Qatar Airways’ regional competitor Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi.

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Metropolitan Museum Rethinks Its Hidden Restaurant to Drive More Visits

Daniel Dorsa  / Bloomberg

Tuna crudo is one of many pricey appetizers on offer at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s members’ Dining Room.
Daniel Dorsa / Bloomberg

Skift Take: A Danny Meyer restaurant in a museum? Ya, that happens at the Whitney Museum, and it’s all part of a resurgence in dining facilities at storied museums. Grab some exhibit time, and then an oxtail beignet.

— Dennis Schaal

For years, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s members’ Dining Room was the hardest thing to find in a vast building full of hallways and quiet chambers. That was both the point and the problem. “We had this beautiful space that offers delicious food,” said Clyde Jones, the museum’s senior vice president for institutional advancement. “And we weren’t packed.”

For some, this was one of the dining room’s main draws. Another was that for price of a museum membership, anyone (and his or her guests) could have access to a pin-drop quiet restaurant on the Upper East Side whose wall of glass—overlooking Central Park and Cleopatra’s Needle—offered one of the best views in all of culinary New York.

But, as Jones noted, the restaurant—which is accessible only by first navigating the meandering Greek and Roman Art galleries, then the expansive Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas galleries, and riding up an elevator in the rear corner of the building to its fourth floor—was not exactly bustling.

The space was additionally burdened by a second component: Given that it can be reached only by way of museum galleries, the restaurant is exclusively open during museum hours. That’s fine for members who have time for a lengthy weekday lunch, but less fine for everyone else. (The restaurant is also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, when the Met is open late.)

For years, the dining room remained a well-kept secret, even from many of the Met’s members. But this June, the institution announced that for the first time ever, nonpaying members would also be allowed to make reservations, and changed the restaurant’s name from the Members Dining Room to the more democratic, if vague, the Dining Room at the Met.

The announcement coincided with the museum’s highly publicized budget crisis, but Jones insisted that the move wasn’t a direct effort to boost the institution’s bottom line. The timing of the name change with the museum’s financial difficulties was “certainly not causal,” he said. “But it is all part and parcel of our looking at how we offer food options to our visitors and our members.”

New York’s Upper Crust

On the face of it, the difference between members and nonmembers—and thus prior access to the restaurant or lack thereof—isn’t much of a distinction: One hundred dollars, the base price of an annual museum membership, is well within the means of most art lovers.

But the Members Dining Room, in contrast with the museum’s other, more egalitarian options, also remained a bastion of New York’s upper crust by dint of its prices: Dinner appetizers start at $16, and entrees $37—apart from a $28 hearts of palm dish that really might feel more comfortable in the starter section.

“It’s meant to be fine dining,” Jones said. “A lot of research was done into the other options that diners have in the neighborhood, and in fact it’s often less expensive to have a meal in the dining room than it is at some other comparable dining options in the neighborhood.”

For anyone weighing the dining room against other local options (and those prices put it on par with the likes of the Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges, Cafe Boulud, and the Arlington Club), a visit to the restaurant on a recent Saturday evening yielded mixed results. Step off the elevator, turn a corner, and the view is stunning: The Met’s angled glass facade runs the length of the dining room, such that visitors at virtually any table have views of the park and the skyline along Central Park West.

What It’s Like

The decor is slightly less breathtaking: Its wood-paneled walls and seating haven’t been updated since the room was built in 1993, and it shows. The lighting is hotel-conference-center-yellow, with dull wall-to-wall carpeting to match, and the plates and flatware are institutional. Despite being in a museum, the restaurant itself is devoid of art on its walls. (“It’s a dining room, not a gallery,” Jones said but added that “we have had conversations with curators about the possibility of art in the dining room, and it’s not outside the realm.”)

The service is warm, helpful, and swift. But although the menu features items that read like a Mad Libs of foodie buzzwords—such as an oxtail beignet with coffee hollandaise, and a plate of the soft Italian cheese stracciatella with heirloom tomatoes—it’s not on a par with the other fine restaurants in the neighborhood.

At a recent meal, a hamachi crudo was sliced a little too thickly and a little too far ahead of time and served timidly with mint and Japanese citrus. A tiny grilled pizzetta, which may or may not have been cooked according to its description, was slathered satisfyingly in buffalo mozzarella and guanciale. But at $20, diners might find themselves pricing out every bite in dollars.

Several main courses were well cooked on a plancha, including hefty Nantucket sea scallops for $40 and a round swordfish steak for $37, each accompanied by a charred lemon half and a variety of sauces that are best avoided. The aforementioned crisp (read: fried) hearts of palm, with lemongrass, corn, bok choy, and chili, looked and tasted a lot like very good mozzarella sticks.

A Museum Restaurant Renaissance

The menu would perhaps be more beside the point if New York wasn’t in the midst of such a boom time for museum dining rooms. Not far away, the dining room’s sister restaurant Flora Bar at the Met Breuer earned two stars from the New York Times for such creative combinations as a tuna tartare with sunflower and hijiki seaweed, while Untitled at the Whitney Museum from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group offers a grown-up experience in the middle of the Meatpacking District.

Both restaurants have lower price points than the Met Museum dining room, though neither aim for such formality.

Jones said that the restaurant menu is “constantly tweaked,” changing both seasonally and in response to the museum’s programming. “If there’s a Dutch painting show, then maybe there will be a menu that has a Dutch influence,” he said.

The food, of course, is only partially the point. During the Saturday evening visit, grandparents ate with grandchildren who pressed their faces against the window, while older couples enjoyed excellent cocktails and watched the sun set over the skyline. By midevening, at least half the restaurant’s 254 seats were filled, and the patrons were in a jovial—if hushed—mood. They were in a museum, after all.


©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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American Air Sees $500 Million in Cramming More Seats on Aircraft


American Airlines Group Inc.’s newest Boeing Co. 737s will have less legroom in most of the economy cabin than current versions of the narrow-body plane, with at least three rows shrinking the space between seats to 29 inches (74 centimeters). Bloomberg

Skift Take: When airlines engage in competition like this they are simply in a race to the bottom. The more you become like the worst of the low-cost carriers, the harder it is to distinguish yourself from them.

— Jason Clampet

American Airlines Group Inc. will add more seats to some of its single-aisle jetliners as part an effort to boost sales by $1.4 billion in the next few years.

The carrier’s Boeing Co. 737-800 jets will be revamped to fit 12 more passengers while the Airbus SE A321 planes will carry as many as nine more, according to a presentation Thursday. The world’s largest airline also plans to bolster group sales, upgrade technology systems and seek to persuade more customers to upgrade to higher fares.

The plans almost double American’s target for revenue gains by 2021 as the company steps up efforts to expand sales amid rising fuel costs and heightened competition from heavy discounters. While a new fare war broke out in the summer among U.S. airlines, American Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker reaffirmed his view that industry consolidation will enable carriers to post steady profits and leave behind years of boom-and-bust cycles.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to lose money again,” he said at American’s investor day in Grapevine, Texas. “This is an airline and an industry that will be profitable in good and bad years.”

American climbed 1.4 percent to $47.49 at the close in New York, leading a Standard & Poor’s index of the five biggest U.S. carriers. American has advanced 1.7 percent this year, while the broader gauge declined 1.1 percent.

Including the new initiatives and previous initiatives to boost revenue by $1.5 billion, the airline said it expects total improvements of $2.9 billion. It’s also targeting $1 billion in costs thanks to more than 400 projects to increase efficiency.

Cabin Revamp

In the fourth quarter, American will begin revamping some narrow-body planes with new seats, satellite Wi-Fi service, larger overhead bins and power for passenger devices at seats.

The 737-800 jets will go to 172 seats from 160 seats, matching the total for American’s upgraded 737 Max aircraft. The A321 planes will be outfitted to carry 190 passengers. That’s an increase of three for the jets originally from US Airways, which merged with American in 2013, and a gain of nine for the aircraft operated by American before the transaction.

The carrier estimated that standardizing the interiors at a higher seat count will generate about $500 million in revenue through 2021.

American this month reiterated its willingness to “absolutely, positively” match discount fares to compete with Southwest Airlines Co. and heavy discounters such as Spirit Airlines Inc., indicating there would be no near-term end to a price war that reignited this summer.

Parker said he was happy with American’s fleet plans and had no interest in adding new aircraft types. He declined to comment on the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision this week to slap import duties on Bombardier Inc.’s C Series jets. The agency cited unfair Canadian subsidies in announcing the move. Delta Air Lines Inc. ordered at least 75 of the planes last year.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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UK Planes Ready to Fly Stranded Passengers if Monarch Airlines Goes Bust

Andy Mitchell  / Flickr

A Monarch plane on January 18, 2015. The airline is teetering on going out of business. Andy Mitchell / Flickr

Skift Take: Kudos to UK regulators for having a plan to assist stranded passengers if Monarch Airlines goes bust. That wouldn’t happen in many other countries.

— Dennis Schaal

U.K. regulators have 10 aircraft ready to pick up Monarch Airlines Ltd. holidaymakers if the low-cost carrier halts flights, according to the Sunday Times.

Two of the planes, which were all leased from Qatar Airways Ltd., are at London Stansted Airport, the newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information from. A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority declined to comment on the report when contacted by Bloomberg News on Sunday. A Monarch spokesman said its flights were operating as scheduled.

As many as 100,000 travelers could be stranded if Monarch halts flights, according to the Sunday Times. The closely held budget carrier is facing renewed financial pressures, after a last-minute rescue last year, prompting a strategic review and regulatory concerns about its future.

The CAA granted the airline a 24-hour extension to its Air Travel Organiser’s Licence on Saturday. The regulator plans to give daily updates on the carrier’s status under ATOL, a program that protects holidaymakers against operators’ financial failures.

Monarch’s majority shareholder Greybull Capital rescued the carrier last year with a 165 million-pound ($221 million) capital injection.

–With assistance from Thomas Seal


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