Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Depending upon your position, rail to ONT is or isn't a win-win

It's often fascinating to study how people and groups form opinions on various positions, and WHY these positions are formed. More often than not the explanation lies in the old saying "follow the money."

Take this story:

A new position at Los Angeles World Airports, the owner and operator of Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport, will focus on a long-discussed plan to link Los Angeles to Ontario via the Metro Gold Line light rail system.

Before proceeding, it's important to note that Ontario International Airport is owned by the city of Los Angeles, based upon a deal that happened years and years ago. That's why you'll hear some people referring to "LA/Ontario International Airport" - a term that I refuse to use. (I also refuse to refer to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." So sue me.)

Now why would Los Angeles want to own an airport way out here, when they control a huge airport within their own city limits? Because the city's own airport is being hampered by huge growth restrictions. Between environmentalist pressures and the sheer lack of space, LAX just plain can't grow at an acceptable rate to support potential additional air traffic. Hence Los Angeles has a vested interest in redirecting traffic out to their other airport property, the one out here in Ontario.

Needless to say, people here in Ontario support the idea.

Jess Romo, Ontario airport's manager, said a direct rail link between the airport and downtown Los Angeles would be vital.

"There's no doubt it would increase the passenger traffic here," he said.

That's important, because as the article notes, and as has been noted previously on this blog, Ontario International Airport has suffered some major passenger declines - partially because of September 11, and partially because of the high fees that airlines are charged to use the airport.

Yes, the same group that wants to increase use of Ontario airport also sets fees that are so high that airlines are pulling out of the airport.

Meanwhile, the people who want a rail line to Ontario airport have to compete against people who want rail lines to other places...and people who want more cops on the streets...and people who want to keep teachers from being fired.

Because while we're talking about rail systems, California's in a budget crisis. And while the rail discussions are a, frankly I'm not certain that California's budget problems will be solved, even in the long-term.

So any talk about a rail connection to the airport may be a dream.

However, there technically IS a light rail connection between downtown Los Angeles and Ontario airport. Only problem is that the rail connection is on the wrong side of Ontario airport.

You see, Metrolink's East Ontario station (3330 E Francis St, Ontario CA 91761) is on the south side of Ontario airport. Only problem is, the terminals are on the north side of the airport.

Perhaps a shuttle service could connect the two...but that wouldn't help on the weekends, because the Riverside line doesn't run on weekends.

And again, budgetary pressures probably mean that Metrolink service won't be expanded in the near future.

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