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In Year of Pandemic, Ontario International Airport Saw Surge in Cargo; Passenger Volume Cut in Half

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Ontario International Airport freight volume rose 18% in 2020

Despite the staggering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global aviation, Ontario International Airport (ONT) looks forward to maintaining its position as a leading cargo hub and welcoming back air travelers in greater numbers in 2021.

Two weeks into the New Year, airport officials announced final statistics for 2020, with cargo volumes growing more than 18% year-over-year, while the number of passengers who traveled through ONT was down more than 50%.

For the year, ONT processed nearly 900,000 tons of commercial freight, 18.2% higher than the previous year. Freight shipments increased by double-digits in 10 months in 2020 and by more than 20% in six months. Mail shipments increased almost 17% to more than 25,000 tons last year.

In December, freight tonnage totaled more than 93,000 tons, 6% higher than the same month in 2019 while shipments of mail grew 340% to more than 3,600 tons.

Air cargo (tonnage)December 2020December 2019ChangeYTD 2020YTD 2019Change
Freight93,62288,2286.11%898,188760,04518.2%
Mail3,662832340.41%25,63521,94816.8%
Total97,28489,0609.23%923,823781,99318.1%

“Ontario solidified its position as a leading air cargo hub in 2020,” said Mark Thorpe, chief executive officer of the Ontario International Airport Authority. “Working closely with our freight partners, we not only withstood the surge in e-commerce shipments early in the year, we ramped up quickly to manage double-digit increases in commercial freight volume as Californians hunkered down at home and shopped online for vital household supplies.”

As for passenger travel, more than 2.5 million air travelers moved through ONT last year, roughly half as many as 2019. Domestic passengers totaled more than 2.4 million while the number of international travelers exceeded 95,000, decreases of 53% and 68%, respectively. In December, as public health officials urged Americans to avoid non-essential travel, passenger volume declined nearly 63% to 190,000. Domestic travelers numbered more than 182,000 and international passengers 7,000, decreases of 62% and 73%, respectively.

Even with the decline, ONT fared significantly better than most airports in California and across the world. Recent projections show air passenger volumes globally fell at least 60% in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Passenger TotalsDecember 2020December 2019ChangeYTD 2020YTD 2019Change
Domestic182,779485,086-62.32%2,443,0425,279,722-53.7%
International7,75529,703-73.89%95,440304,010-68.6%
Total190,534514,789-62.99%2,538,4825,583,732-54.5%

“Despite the challenging passenger numbers for 2020, several airline partners restarted service to popular destinations in the second half of the year and announced additional routes for the first half of 2021,” Thorpe said. “We stand ready to support airlines operating at Ontario and we are eager to welcome back our customers as coronavirus vaccines become more widely available and travel routines return to more normal levels.”

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Transportation

President Biden Joins Officials in Las Vegas to Announce $3B Grant for Nevada Department of Transportation for Brightline West

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America’s First High-Speed Rail Project will Connect Las Vegas and Southern California

President Joe Biden joined elected officials from Nevada and California to formally announce that the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has received $3 billion in funding from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program for Brightline West. Brightline West will connect Las Vegas and Southern California and will be the nation’s first true high-speed rail system. The project will also be the first to be built with American union labor. The fully-electric, zero-emission system will become one of the greenest forms of transportation in the U.S.  

President Biden was joined by Nevada officials including Governor Joe Lombardo, Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, Representatives Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford. Also in attendance were representatives from the High Speed Rail Labor Coalition and the Nevada Building Trades. 

Brightline West’s modern, eco-friendly system will redefine train travel in America and connect two of the most iconic destinations: Las Vegas and Southern California. This 218-mile passenger rail service will reach speeds up to 200 mph with no grade crossings and the alignment is within the median of the I-15 highway. The system will feature three full-service stations in Las Vegas, Victor Valley and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

The Las Vegas station will include mobility connections and easy access to the Las Vegas Strip, the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium and the Las Vegas Convention Center. The flagship Las Vegas station will be on 110 acres at the south end of Las Vegas Blvd. Brightline West’s California stations will include Victor Valley and Rancho Cucamonga, with direct connectivity via California Metrolink to key points in Los Angeles, such as Union Station.

Brightline West’s $12 billion project will bring widespread benefits including more than $10 billion in economic impact to Nevada and California. Economic studies show the project will create more than 35,000 (direct and indirect) jobs including 10,000 direct union construction jobs and nearly 1,000 permanent jobs for operations and maintenance. Brightline West’s investment also includes more than $800 million in roadway improvements to the I-15 corridor. Brightline West has agreements in place with several unions for the use of highly skilled union labor in critical jobs required to build, operate and maintain the project. 

The project’s environmental benefits are equally impressive and designed to support Nevada and California’s climate strategies by promoting a no-emission mobility option that lowers greenhouse gasses by more than 400,000 tons of CO2 each year. The diversion of people from auto and air travel to Brightline West’s high-speed rail system reduces vehicle miles traveled by more than 700 million each year and 16,000 short haul flights annually.

The $3 billion grant award marks the largest in NDOT’s history and is the culmination of more than two decades of planning and coordination to build a high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California. NDOT, as the grant administrator, will continue to play an important oversight role as Brightline West constructs the rail system. Additionally, NDOT will be responsible for the design, construction, and oversight of any NDOT infrastructure that requires modification as a result of Brightline West’s work.

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Transportation

Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce Event to Spotlight Brightline West

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Program will highlight what’s next for high-speed rail in the Inland Empire

High-Impact Event Alert

Brightline West will be featured during the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “High-Speed Rail is Headed to the Inland Empire” event on Wednesday, January 11, from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Jessie Turner Community Center in Fontana, CA, which the County of San Bernardino is a title sponsor. The program will feature an update on Brightline West, including the project’s role in regional and statewide connectivity, its benefits to the community, what to expect in 2023, and how the public can stay engaged.

Featured panelists for the program are:

  • Fiona Ma, Treasurer, State of California
  • Ray Wolfe, Executive Director, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority
  • Sarah Watterson, President, Brightline West 
  • Edward Ornelas, Jr., President/CEO, Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Matt Burris, Deputy City Manager of Community Development, City of Rancho Cucamonga

Brightline is the only private provider of modern, eco-friendly, intercity passenger rail service in America. The company currently serves Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach in Florida, with its Orlando station beginning service in 2023. Recognized by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in travel, Brightline offers a guest-first experience designed to reinvent train travel and take cars off the road by connecting city pairs and congested corridors that are too close to fly and too long to drive. Brightline West will build on this award-winning service by connecting Las Vegas and Southern California, with stations in Las Vegas, Victor Valley, Hesperia, and Rancho Cucamonga, and connectivity to Metrolink’s regional rail network.

“This will transform transportation in Southern California and Las Vegas for generations by providing a fast and efficient connection that gets people out of their cars, reduces traffic congestion and decreases air pollution.” -Fiona Ma, California State Treasurer

KEY FACTS:

  • Expected travel time is approx. 2 ¼ hours
  • Our route is 2x faster than driving
  • Zero-emission, electric train sets
  • Expected top speed is 180 mph
  • 400,000 tons of CO2 removed annually by reducing 3 million vehicles
  • Connections to Metrolink and planned future connection to California High-Speed Rail in Palmdale
  • Convenient station location on the Vegas strip (I-15)

For more information and to register for the event, click here.

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Transportation

Rancho Cucamonga and SBCTA Approve Sale of Property for Development of Brightline West Full-Service Transit Station

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Agreement clears path for high-speed passenger rail service in the Inland Empire connecting Rancho Cucamonga, the High Desert and Las Vegas

The City of Rancho Cucamonga City Council and the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) Board of Directors have approved the first step of the sale of a five-acre portion of the jointly owned property at Cucamonga Station to Brightline West. The agreement clears the path for Brightline West to develop the property at the northwest corner of Milliken Avenue and Azusa Court, and build the first high-speed rail station in the Inland Empire connecting Rancho Cucamonga, the High Desert, and Las Vegas. Brightline is the only private provider of modern, eco-friendly intercity rail service in America. The company currently operates between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach in Florida and is scheduled to complete construction to the Orlando International Airport by the end of 2022.

Cucamonga Station will go through a transformation in the coming years, making it the region’s global connectivity point and destination location for everything California has to offer. Transportation modes at Cucamonga Station will provide service through high-speed rail, the Metrolink San Bernardino Line, and Omnitrans Bus Rapid Transit and local bus service, as well as serve carpool commuters. Plans are also moving forward for a sub-terranean loop to Ontario International Airport (ONT), led by SBCTA, where passengers will be transported in just a few minutes between Cucamonga Station and airport terminals. In anticipation of deploying this service, Omnitrans has already launched ONT Connect, a regular shuttle service from Cucamonga Station to the airport that operates daily every 35-60 minutes.

“This agreement is a culmination of several years of working together with our partners and is a key milestone to bring high-speed rail to the Inland Empire,” said John Gillison, City Manager for the City of Rancho Cucamonga. “Cucamonga Station will serve as a global connectivity anchor within the newly branded HART District.”

“We are pleased to take this next important step forward in bringing enhanced transit connectivity to one of the fastest-growing population and economic centers in the country,” said Art Bishop, President of the SBCTA Board of Directors and Mayor Pro Tem of the Town of Apple Valley.

The Cucamonga Station will be strategically located within the HART District – a new transit-oriented, mixed‑use, housing, retail and commercial district that elevates the area into a walkable, culture-rich experience. Located within the area of Haven Avenue, Arrow Route, Rochester Avenue and the Transit station in Rancho Cucamonga, it will serve as a crossroads of food, travel, culture and commerce. The HART District is poised to be the next key economic catalyst in the region. To learn more, go to www.TheHartDistrict.com. The City of Rancho Cucamonga, Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau (GOCVB)Omnitrans, the Ontario International Airport, and San Bernardino County have established a joint effort for the project development and outreach programs. Additional project partners will come onboard as the project continues to move forward through the development process.

The Brightline West Cucamonga Station in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, will be home to the first high-speed passenger rail service in the Inland Empire connecting Rancho Cucamonga, the High Desert and Las Vegas.

Key Points to this Important Regional Project:

  • Third-party analysis by Beacon Economics, a well-respected Inland Empire-based firm
  • Construction is estimated to take three to four years, with ongoing operations beginning in 2026-27
  • More than $300 million dollars in construction spending in Rancho Cucamonga and more than $5 billion dollars in construction spending in San Bernardino County during the next four years
  • Estimated to support nearly 11,000 jobs per year across San Bernardino County and more than 700 jobs per year in Rancho Cucamonga during construction
  • Rancho Cucamonga can expect to receive additional indirect spending in the local economy from the jobs generated particularly during the construction phase
  • Much of the new jobs will be in the construction, architecture and engineering fields
  • The City could receive an additional $1 million dollars per year in property tax/sales tax revenues during the construction (3-4 years)
  • Ongoing operational revenues of another $500,000 per year for Rancho Cucamonga could be possible from local sales and property tax once the station is in full operation
  • Project will stimulate housing demand throughout San Bernardino County during construction and add tens of thousands of jobs (direct and indirect) to the countywide employment base
  • Countywide sales tax should increase near $100 million dollars and more than $70 million dollars from property tax during construction
  • Long-term operational impacts countywide will be in excess of $6 million dollars from property/sales tax
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