PDF: LA/ONT Metrolink motion

Travelers pass through LA/Ontario International Airport, in Ontario, on June 4.

A Los Angeles councilman has introduced a motion to link downtown Los Angeles and L.A./Ontario International Airport via Metrolink, the region's commuter rail system.

Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he believes the missing link for the struggling Ontario airport is that it lacks a hookup with the rail transportation system.

A longtime proponent of spreading air traffic throughout the region, Rosendahl introduced the motion at Wednesday's council meeting. He said the link would take a rider 20 minutes to get from ONT to downtown Los Angeles.

"We are on the verge, and Metrolink is a solution for the future," he said.

"People come from everywhere, and they don't have to fly into LAX. Ontario is their way ... It's ridiculous that you try and squeeze it all (air traffic) into LAX."

Rosendahl has requested that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office and officials from Los Angeles World Airports work with Metrolink to consider options for connecting the Ontario airport to the rail line.

LAWA operates ONT and Los Angeles International Airport.
Creating the connection between Ontario's airport and Metrolink could equate to improved air traffic, including nonstop international flights, he said.

Passenger figures at ONT have fallen from 7.2 million in 2007 to an estimated 4.2 million in 2012.

Rosendahl said he would do anything he could to block expansion at LAX, adding that he would rather see attention paid to the region's air transportation system.

A direct link by Metrolink to the Ontario airport would be beneficial not just for the Inland Empire but also such cities as Santa Barbara and Palm Springs, he said.

But Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner has his doubts.

Wapner said he is concerned with Rosendahl's statement that a passenger could go from ONT to downtown Los Angeles in 20 minutes.

"A normal train from ONT to L.A. is one hour. If we had an express train, we could do it in 40 minutes," said Wapner, an alternate on the Metrolink Board of Directors.

Rosendahl said figuring out the travel time is something that still needs to be discussed with Metrolink officials.

Wapner said San Bernardino County's transportation planning agency is working on a similar plan.

Wapner, who also sits on the San Bernardino Associated Governments board, said SanBAG has been working on an interim solution for several months.

The goal is to create a shuttle service between ONT and Rancho Cucamonga's Metrolink station.

The long-term goal will be to build a multimodal transportation station at ONT, Wapner said.

The Ontario councilman has also served as the city's liaison during its ongoing battle with LAWA over local control of the airport.

For Wapner, some questions remain, such as who would be responsible for the costs.

"If LAWA and the city of L.A. want to help, then it's great," he said.

Wapner reiterated that the only way to increase flights at ONT is to decrease the airlines' price of doing business there.

ONT is already an easy commute for Inland Empire residents and, despite that, 1.5 million I.E. travelers choose to use LAX every year, he said.

"They are choosing to drive to LAX because they can't find the flights (at ONT)," he said.

LAWA spokeswoman Mary Grady said her agency favors anything that improves passenger service at ONT.

"We will absolutely look at the motion and be happy to respond to council," Grady said about Rosendahl's proposal.

The motion now goes to the Los Angeles council's Transportation Committee, which Rosendahl oversees.

The committee will meet Wednesday.