Airport traffic gaining altitude 

The capacity of Bay Area airports is projected to be an issue in the next 25 years, so a regional transit agency is mapping out tactics now to prevent bumpy trips in the future.

The number of travelers using the three main airports in the region will increase by 67 percent to more than 100 million annual passengers, according to projections.

Increasing the average aircraft size, modifying times of heavy airline traffic, implementing more-efficient air traffic control technologies and advocating for alternative transportation methods, such as high-speed rail, are all methods worth exploring, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The agency is in the midst of its two-year Regional Airport Study, which is examining ways of addressing the situation beyond simply expanding airports.

“There is not some silver bullet to this issue,” said Doug Kimsey, a planning director for the MTC.

According to current forecasts by the agency, the lead planning body in the region, Bay Area air passengers using the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose international airports will increase from 60.6 million passengers annually to 101.3 million by 2035. Air cargo will increase by 92 percent, from 1.4 million tons to 2.7 million, during that same time frame.

On Monday, the MTC convened a meeting in South San Francisco, the first of three gatherings this week designed to give updates on the agency’s airport capacity study, which is set to be released early next year.

San Francisco International Airport has a representative working with the MTC on the project and is devising its own methods to adapt to the increasing amount of passengers, according to Michael McCarron, spokesman for SFO.

Officials at the airport have been advocating for airlines to pursue flying into other nearby regional hubs, such as Santa Rosa and Modesto, and began investigating new traffic control techniques, including one method called continuous descent approach, a more fuel-efficient landing pattern for planes flying in from the Pacific Ocean, McCarron said.

Representatives from the MTC and other regional planning bodies will meet with the public today in Fairfield and in Oakland on Wednesday.

According to Kimsey, the study has been funded almost completely by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has contributed $800,000 to the region.

Taking off

Increased airport traffic in the future has planners aiming for solutions to capacity issues.

60.6 million Annual number of passengers using San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland airports

101.3 million Annual passengers projected at the three airports in 2035

1.4 million tons Amount of air cargo currently carried at the three airports

2.7 million tons Amount of air cargo projected to be carried in 2035

75,000 Current annual business-jet flights at the three airports

117,000 Projected annual number of business-jet flights in 2035

Source: MTC

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Will Reisman

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