by Jennifer Fischer & Pam Turse
While trains in
the Central Valley transport 6,000 passengers a day, airports in Northern
California easily triple that number. Four major airports dominate northern
California: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento International,
the only one in the entire Central Valley. Smaller satellite airports
pick up some of the traffic, but is the Central Valley doing enough
to serve its residents? We take a look at three airports of different
capacities that cater to vacation and business travelers.
It's not a secret
many residents still turn to the Bay Area when it comes to air travel.
But for some Central Valley travelers bigger doesn't always mean better
when convenience is at stake. And convenience is the name of the game
at Stockton Metropolitan Airport.
As the director
of the Stockton Metropolitan Airport, Barry Rondinella's goal is to
increase traffic through this small Central Valley terminal. The challenge?
They offer only one major airline. But Rondinella says it's still a
competitive choice for travelers because of low fares and free parking.
If you think 40,000
passengers a year is an insignificant number, consider what it takes
to get travelers on their way: two rental car agencies, one baggage
carousel, one diner, and the same employees handling everything from
boarding to baggage. But what this airport lacks in high technology
and style, it compensates with customer service and cost savings.
But with only two
flights a day, there is a limit to how much this airport can handle,
causing many Central valley residents to flock to the big hubs -- like
San Francisco International Airport: the 9th busiest airport in the
nation and the 11th in the world. But despite having one of the nations
top security systems and an abundance of flights, San Francisco International
can't compete against two major road blocks: traffic
and bad weather.
But at the Sacramento
International Airport, weather and traffic delays are few and far between.
Sacramento International serves eight and a half million passengers
annually. Airport officials say that number will probably double to
16 million passengers in the next 20 years. With 12 airlines serving
22,000 travelers a day, Sacramento has grown steadily since it took
off in 1967.
But with growth
like this, what is the expense to the surrounding areas? Right now,
a master plan is underway to determine the fate of Sacramento International
and other county airports. Many of the scenarios being considered will
increase traffic to the airport and pollution to our air. Environmental
groups like the Sierra Club refused to comment on the airports master
plan. But the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District
is on board and closely monitoring the project.
With a new four
story, 4,000 space parking garage underway, what the airport considers
customer convenience, others say is a red flag for more traffic. Yolobus
currently offers an airport bus loop that takes in Sacramento, Davis,
Woodland, but some propose a light rail line straight to the airport.
Still, with the state budget in crisis, such projects aren't in the
Valley's short-term future