If enthusiasm was the determining factor, Anaheim would have no rival in becoming the Southern California terminus of a proposed high-speed Las Vegas train--and the north San Fernando Valley wouldn't even be under consideration.
But if the futuristic train is ever built, ridership projections, not local fervor, are likely to dictate where it will go.
And no one seems ready to assay whether Mission Hills or the Magic Kingdom is the better bet for the $4-billion railroad to shuttle Southland gamblers to Las Vegas casinos.
On Saturday, a 16-member bistate commission will take the first step toward determining which Southern California terminus is more likely to attract the private investment needed for the 200-m.p.h. train to become a reality.
The California-Nevada Super-Speed Ground Transportation Commission was created in 1988 by the two states' legislatures to see if the train proposal is feasible and, if so, to determine where in California it should begin.
Las Vegas gambling casino operators, who first suggested the high-speed railroad several years ago, initially focused on Ontario Airport as the western terminus for the train.
But the San Bernardino County city gave the proposal a chilly response, saying it would worsen congestion on local streets and freeways and would encourage local dollars to leave their community for Las Vegas while giving little or nothing to the local economy.
And San Bernardino County officials also made it clear that they viewed a railroad built solely to lure gamblers as carrying a stigma.
Ontario's rebuff left the north San Fernando Valley and Anaheim as the only contestants.
Anaheim's proposal is vigorously backed by most local officials, including Supervisor Don R. Roth, a former mayor of Anaheim, who view it as a golden opportunity to link the Southwest's two prime tourist destinations--Las Vegas and Disneyland.
The north Valley proposal, on the other hand, was the brainchild of Los Angeles Department of Airports officials, who say the fast train might be the long-sought key to opening city-owned Palmdale Airport to passenger traffic.
"Between the Valley and Palmdale, the train would carry both Las Vegas-bound passengers and those heading for our airport," said Dennis Green, administrative assistant to Clifton A. Moore, department general manager.
With a high-speed train, the Palmdale Airport, which now has no major scheduled passenger flights, could lure some Valley residents away from Los Angeles International Airport, which is increasingly congested, Green said.
The north Valley terminus recently was endorsed 10 to 0 by the Los Angeles City Council, although several members indicated they had strong misgivings about the plan and were only voting to keep it under consideration.
Indeed, the north Valley proposal faces severe hurdles.
For one, the airport department's plans for Palmdale Airport have been scaled down dramatically in recent years, suggesting that airport-bound traffic might not be significant.
For nearly two decades, the department had planned a super-airport for the site. That airport would have handled huge volumes of cargo and passenger flights bound for overseas as well as cities all over the United States. A high-speed rail link with Los Angeles was part of the plan.
But recent projections indicate that even with Southern California's population boom, the demand needed to justify such an airport will not be there for decades to come, if ever, Green said.
Instead, he said, the department wants to open the facility "as a regional airport much like Burbank Airport," with most flights destined for California and the Pacific Northwest.
The airport department's proposed terminus is in Mission Hills or possibly Sylmar near the confluence of the Golden State, Antelope Valley, San Diego and Foothill freeways.
The hope would be to siphon off passengers generated by the Santa Clarita Valley and the north Valley who otherwise would go to Los Angeles International Airport.
Green said he had no figures on how many such passengers there are.
Another potential roadblock is Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee and chairman of the bistate commission.
"Before I would support such a train," Katz said, "it would have to offer Southern California commuters some relief. In fact, I believe that without such relief, no plan could be sold to the California public.
"The airport proposal is totally an airport concept," he said. "It does nothing for commuters."
Katz said he could suggest no way the airport department plan could be altered to provide commuter relief and said he was unfamiliar with how the Anaheim proposal might affect rush-hour traffic in Orange County.
On the other hand, Supervisor Roth, a member of the bistate commission, envisions an Anaheim-to-Las Vegas train patronized chiefly by tourists.