As Ontario International Airport grows, experts weigh in on future transit opportunities
Transportation policy leaders from across Southern California gathered Thursday to discuss strategies for connecting commuters into and out of Ontario International Airport (ONT) as the airport continues its extraordinary ascension along one of the most robust growth corridors in the United States
Appearing at an informational hearing by the Select Committee on Regional Transportation Solutions, Ontario Mayor pro Tem Alan Wapner, a recognized expert in transportation policy and President of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) as well as President of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), said annual passenger volumes at ONT have nearly doubled in the two years since its return to local control. This year, the airport is on track to handle 5 million passengers; its long-term capacity is estimated at 30 million passengers per year.
“Ontario Airport is now known as the fastest-growing airport in the country, and there is a tremendous amount of excitement about that,” Wapner said. “Our commitment to our community is that we will continue to grow the airport as long as we’re not reliant on people driving their own cars. This requires a multimodal transportation system that can accommodate the growth that’s occurring and will continue to come.”
The hearing was led by Assemblymember Chris Holden from California’s 41st District and included a review of a newly released technical study into improving connectivity between San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, including long-term options for improving access into and out of the airport. The study, by SCAG, evaluated the pros and cons of a variety of airport connectivity alternatives, including commuter rail, light rail, low- or zero-emission hybrid rail, bus rapid transit and express buses.
It did not endorse any one option over another, but encouraged transportation agencies in the two counties to determine which made the most sense. Among the options most frequently discussed are extending the Gold Line from its future last stop in Montclair and/or building a connector to the airport from Metrolink’s Rancho Cucamonga station.
“People ask me all the time which option I prefer. I support anything that gets people to the airport without having to use their cars,” Wapner said.
ONT’s consistent double-digit year-over-year growth since its return to local control has generated significant interest throughout the airport industry. With the arrival of China Airlines, ONT has launched the daily first trans-Pacific flights from a Southern California airport other than Los Angeles International. JetBlue returned to the airport this fall, with nonstop service to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Frontier Airlines, which began service at ONT late last year, recently began nonstop service to Florida.
Contributing to the airline’s strong performance is the growth of the region. Population projections show San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties growing by as many as 2 million people in the next 20 years.
Recently, ONT and the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) created the Ontario Airport Roundtable, gathering key stakeholders from throughout the county to discuss connectivity alternatives.
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About Ontario International Airport
Ontario International (ONT) Airport is located in the Inland Empire, approximately 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the center of Southern California. It is a full-service airport with nonstop commercial jet service to 18 major airports in the U.S., Mexico and Taiwan, and connecting service to many domestic and international destinations. There is an average of 64 daily departures offered by 8 air carriers. More information is available at www.flyOntario.com.
About the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA)
The OIAA was formed in August 2012 by a Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Ontario and the County of San Bernardino to provide overall direction for the management, operations, development and marketing of ONT for the benefit of the Southern California economy and the residents of the airport's four-county catchment area. OIAA Commissioners are Ontario Mayor Pro-Tem Alan D. Wapner (President), Retired Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge (Vice President), Ontario Council Member Jim W. Bowman (Secretary), San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman (Commissioner) and retired business executive Julia Gouw (Commissioner).