L.A. Encouraged to Depend More on Ontario, Less on LAX Flights

Los Angeles needs to take immediate steps to encourage greater use of Ontario International Airport to ease public demand for air travel at LAX, regional planning officials said Monday.

Mark Pisano of the Southern California Association of Governments said his group believes Ontario could draw up to 30 million passengers a year to relieve some of the pressure on Los Angeles International Airport and help its operators abide by the terms of a lawsuit settlement.

``The time to act is now if we are to avoid adding to problems (at LAX) and promote decentralization of airline service,'' Pisano said.

He added that increasing demand at Palmdale Regional Airport, also owned by the city of Los Angeles, could take longer to resolve.

While the long-term solution is developing a speedy mass-transit system to Ontario and Palmdale, some steps could be taken now to encourage greater use of the facilities, Pisano said.

This would include expanding the number of FlyAway terminals - LAX officials have said they want to open eight more shuttle terminals over the next few years - and to create car-pool lanes along freeway routes to airports.

``These HOV lanes are not the final solution, but it will help over the next 10 years or so to get people out of cars and to the airports,'' Pisano said.

Los Angeles World Airport officials said they want to study the SCAG proposals as part of their commitment to reduce reliance on LAX and to meet the terms of its lawsuit allowing work to proceed on a $4 billion modernization plan.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also has said he wants to see Los Angeles regionalize its air traffic to spread the burden - as well as the economic opportunities - to other areas.

Pisano said the Southern California region expects to get 2.2 million more people over the next 25 years, with the greatest demand for air traffic coming from the eastern end of Los Angeles County and neighboring jurisdiction.

Ontario Airport is the more developed facility in the region, and the city has committed to expansion of its operation. Palmdale has proved more problematic, both in attracting airline services and passengers.

Also, rather than create a new regional airport authority that would bring all local airports under one jurisdiction, Pisano recommended the city instead seek to negotiate agreements with other airports to come up with common solutions.

Airport Commissioners Fernando Torres Gil and Valeria Velasco pressed Pisano on how the regionalized approach could help reduce street traffic.

``If we take a coordinated approach, we think we can have a real impact,'' Pisano said. ``If we start working together on this as a demonstration project, we can serve as a model for the region to be successful on how different groups can work together.''

Commissioner Sylvia Patsaouras said she wanted to make sure the airport staff worked with SCAG.

``We want to make sure we are involved at the start to deal with these issues,'' Patsaouras said.

Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390

rick.orlov@dailynews.com



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