ONTARIO: No quick fix for airport

OntarioAnything that can help revive Ontario International Airport, I’m for it. No surprise, right? So when Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl suggested linking ONT to downtown LA by Metrolink to increase the number of flights, I was interested.

Rosendahl told me he envisions jumbo jets carrying international passengers making ONT the gateway to Southern California. It would relieve congestion at LAX, pleasing his constituents who live near LAX.

Rosendahl said he has long favored spreading air traffic across Southern California rather than concentrating it at LAX.

If travelers could easily get into LA from ONT, Rosendahl says, airlines would jump at the chance to use the less-busy airport.

With a Metrolink stop a stone’s throw from ONT, he figures getting air passengers from ONT to the Metrolink station and into downtown LA is a
no-brainer. It’s a 20- to 30-minute trip, he said.

Not so fast.

The trip from Ontario to LA Union Station takes 45-60 minutes, a Metrolink spokesman told me.

And the Metrolink line from Riverside to downtown LA, which serves the Ontario stop, is owned by Union Pacific. There’s a limit to how many
Metrolink trains could be added, spokesman Scott Johnson said; only 10 run on it daily now.

On the other hand, the San Bernardino line is owned by Metrolink and runs 44 trains a day, Johnson said, which would mean more frequent service for ONT passengers.

You could run a shuttle bus between ONT and the Rancho Cucamonga station on that line, he said.

Rosendahl’s not alone:

The San Bernardino Associated Governments is about to launch a study of how to connect Metrolink to ONT and San Bernardino International Airport, said Pat Morris, San Bernardino’s mayor and Metrolink chairman.

Also, people in both counties want to extend the Gold Line light rail from Pasadena to Montclair and ONT.

LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, made it a priority of his one-year
chairmanship to create a regional airport connectivity plan, said Michael Cano, his transportation deputy.

The goal is to make all of the area’s airports – LAX, ONT, Long Beach, Bob Hope – reachable by public transit: Metrolink, light rail, bus and/or
shuttle, Cano said.

But wait. Even if it’s easy to run a shuttle between ONT and Metrolink – where would the money come from?

Dollars are tight in this economy for new public-works projects. (A Metrolink extension to Redlands has been discussed for 20 years, and it
still doesn’t exist.)

Bottom line, knowing how slowly government works and how scarce public funding is, I don’t think the ONT-Metrolink connection is a quick fix for ONT’s declining passenger numbers.

But I do think “connectivity” would bring Southern California’s airports into the 21st century.

Oakland airport has a shuttle to BART; Portland, Ore., has light rail right into its terminal. Bob Hope in Burbank has a free shuttle to Metrolink. In the long term, why not ONT?