Produced 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…especially 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…


Barry Rondinella
Director, Stockton Metropolitan Airport

Cheryl Marcell
Deputy Dir. Marketing/PR, Sac. Co. Airport System

Michael McCarron
Director, Bureau of Community Affairs, SFO

Kerry Shearer
Sac. Metro. Air Quality Management District


The complete text of New Valley Episode 201 - Planes, Trains, and the Shipping News...


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