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"Airports Without Runways" Offered For Discussion By So. Cal Regional Airport Authority As Concept To Replace Lost El Toro Flights

(August 10, 2002) -- has learned that a concept for "airports without runways" -- receiving passengers, baggage or cargo in areas where aviation demand and impacts are high and conveying them by high speed rail or the like to a remote location where demand and impacts are lower -- is being offered for discussion by the Southern California Regional Airport Authority (SCRAA) as a way to replace flights lost by the defeated El Toro airport.

In the past several weeks, SCRAA Chief Executive Officer Peggy Ducey has made appearances at southland City Councils and other bodies describing the general outline of the plan.

On June 24, she made a presentation to the Seal Beach City Council. We post transcript excerpts below. Our transcript is unofficial, prepared by us; ellipses indicate omissions for brevity; bracketed material by us.

...The reason I'm here is Measure W [March 2002 petition initiated ballot measure in which OC voters rejected El Toro airport]...The So. California Regional Airport Authority is looking at ways to resolve the air traffic demand problem in the region.

SCAG [So. Cal Ass'n of Gov'ts] in their 2001 Regional Transportation Plan adopted a decentralized aviation system that would begin to try and move aviation service to the inland empire where there is excess capacity. The problem is that that's not going to happen by osmosis. We really have to begin to make a decentralized aviation system work, and that's what the So. California Regional Airport Authority is doing...

What we're focusing on with the So. California Regional Airport Authority is two things; number one is cargo, second is passengers. In terms of cargo, we have three airports in the inland empire that want to be able to serve cargo needs and that's what we're beginning to focus on. Many of those airports, San Bernardino International, March and up in Victorville, have tried to attract air cargo carriers for many years and have not been successful.

So the first thing that we're focusing on is an action plan...start talking to air carriers and...finding out why aren't they wanting to move into the inland empire where that excess capacity is. We know from an aviation perspective, the markets for passenger and air cargo are in Los Angeles and Orange County and the projections over the next fifteen years is that's where they'll remain. How do we move those markets in Orange and L.A. County to the inland empire?

And the second is an implementation plan for air passengers to go into the inland empire.

What we're looking at, again, is to be able to link the markets in Orange and L.A. Counties to the airports that have excess capacity in the inland empire...An aviation market isn't just created by population. You've heard many people say that the inland empire is growing faster than any other county in the region and that's where the aviation demand is going to be. Not true. Population isn't [inaudible] determinative. [It's] also income, and business and manufacturing.

But we also need to look at the impacts that aviation demand will have on those in the airport. We have to acknowledge that host communities have impacts and if we begin to say, which I've heard in Orange County, we'll just send our aviation demand into the inland empire without talking about those impacts and without responding to those impacts, then those communities are very quickly going to shut down as well and not want that growth in the airport. And we're talking about [inaudible] traffic, and surface street congestion, air pollution and the like.

And so what the So. California Regional Airport Authority has decided to do is, rather than looking at Measure W and joining the lawsuit or supporting a new initiative or any of those other things that are happening now...we've decided to on a parallel track try to solve the problem.

How can you begin to serve the Orange County air traffic market with those inland empire airports? Again, it's to create a system that links the market to the areas with the excess capacity.

...What we're talking about in Orange County is a proposal...about creating an airport in Orange County that operates as an airport. park, you check your bags, you get your ticket, you get your boarding passes, you do everything you would do at an airport, but instead of getting onto an airplane and taking off, you get onto you actually get onto will be transportation [inaudible], rail or high speed rail, something like that...And the intent again is to link the market with Orange County directly to airports with excess capacity in the inland empire and do it in a way that creates an aviation system that creates strategic advantages for stakeholders.

You've had many people talk about constraining LAX with slot control and congestion pricing and things like that. Those kinds of things are going to run up against incredible barriers with the air carrier industry, but by looking at this kind of system what we're doing is creating strategic advantages for stakeholders.

From a passenger perspective, me as an Orange County resident can have a seamless travel pass. Instead of getting in my car and hitting the congestion on the 91 freeway, and fighting that traffic, I can [inaudible] into Orange County and have a seamless travel pass into the inland empire.

Host communities it will just impact if I leave my car here, then I'm not going to congest [inaudible] freeways, I'm not going to congest the surface streets in the inland empire [inaudible] and the air pollution impacts are not going to be as great if we eliminate that per vehicle traffic that's going into the inland empire.

And on a regionwide basis, we're also looking at reduced congestion...[W]e begin to link markets so that air carriers will begin to see the inland empire as a lucrative place to do business and invest in...

...It's actually happening right now. In Frankfurt, have a fully operational airport and they have a link in Stuttgart which is an airport without runways. What they've done is they've taken advantage of their current transportation system and have linked Stuttgart to Frankfurt with high speed rail. About 126 miles, a 20 minute trip from Stuttgart to Frankfurt...

...What they do, and this is what we don't do here, is they've taken not only the financial costs and benefits, but also the non-financial costs and benefits. From an airport operator's perspective, they're going to the looking at the market, am I going to have enough passengers to make my airport work from a revenue standpoint? But we also [inaudible] begin to look at also the cost to those communities surrounding the airport, and how can we begin again to disperse those impacts, to reduce those costs, but to bring the benefits in in a way that makes sense to the entire region...

What the...So. California Regional Airport Authority Board has asked me to go out and begin making presentations like this to Boards and City Councils and Chambers and other things to begin to get feedback and input. It's a concept. It is something that we're pursuing on a parallel track. It's got got opportunities in terms of funding because if you create an airport system that's linking airports by ground transportation, then you open up a whole new funding revenue source...

And so it's a way to begin to look at aviation in a whole different way. And I think with the events of Sept. 11 and the security challenges that we have now, as well as the challenge that we have in communities about not wanting airports to expand, we do need to begin to look at providing aviation in a different way...

Seal Beach City Councilmembers received the proposal with interest but cautiously.

A similar presentation to the Board of the San Bernardino International Airport got what the Riverside Press-Enterprise" called a "tepid" reception; board members reortedly liked the concept but considered it futuristic with years needed to bring it to fruition.

SCRAA, created under a 1983 L.A. County joint powers arrangement, consists of a voting member from each of the following: L.A. County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Orange County and L.A. City. SCRAA lay basically fallow for years until L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe rejuvenated it in 2001 and has used it as a vehicle to pursue a regional airport solution to southland aviation growth. Knabe's district includes southbay cities that have successfully fought to limit LAX expansion...and also includes LB. Supervisor Knabe has said SCRAA operates on a parallel track to local airport decisionmaking.

As indicated on L.A. County's web site, SCRAA's stated duties are to "develop, construct, acquire, operate, contract for, repair, transfer, maintain, manage, lease and administer general aviation and commercial air carrier airports and heliports and related facilities, improvements and services."

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