Connecting the Crenshaw/LAX transit corridor to the airport

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With the Crenshaw/LAX Line receiving a $546-million loan from the federal government last week to speed its construction, we’ve received some questions from readers about how the project will connect to the airport.

I spoke with Metro planners. Here is where things stand for now:

•The Crenshaw/LAX Line will include an elevated station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards — outside the main entrance to LAX. This stop is one mile closer to LAX han the current Green Line stop that is south of the airport. Shuttle buses currently run between the Green Line stop and the airport.

•It still needs to be determined how transit will connect the new Aviation/Century station to the airport terminals. Los Angeles World Airports — a city of Los Angeles agency — has talked about building a people mover between the station and the airport terminals as part of its long-planned renovation of LAX. But that project has not entered the formal environmental study phase.

•Extending the light rail line into the airport grounds has not yet been ruled out. But there are issues. An underground line would likely be beyond the funding Measure R could provide. Building at street level or above would be difficult because of existing parking garages and other buildings that are in the way and the tight turns of the airport horseshoe road.

•The Aviation/Century station is expected to be a major transit center, with bus service links to many areas, including the airport.

•When the Crenshaw/LAX line is complete, trains on the Crenshaw/LAX line will continue south on the Green Line to the current terminus in Redondo Beach. The train could one day go farther: a separate Measure R project proposes to possibly extend the Green Line four miles to a planned regional transit center in Torrance.

•In addition, westbound Green Line trains will be able to continue north on the Crenshaw/LAX line to a new terminus at Aviation/Century station without having to switch trains.

•Southbound Crenshaw/LAX riders will need to transfer to go east on the Green Line.

•It typically takes anywhere from 36 minutes to an hour to travel on transit from 7th/Metro Center in downtown L.A. to the Green Line’s Aviation/LAX station — via various combinations of the Blue Line, Green Line and/or express bus service.

•In the future it will also be possible for passengers to take the Expo Line from downtown and switch to the Crenshaw/LAX Line to reach the new Aviation/Century station. Metro planners say that trip should take about 43 minutes — not including the transfer at Expo and Crenshaw.  Keep in mind that’s an estimate, given that Expo isn’t complete and Crenshaw hasn’t yet started construction.

•To put it another way, at this point it appears travel times to reach the airport on either the future Blue-to-Green line combo or Expo-to-Crenshaw combo appear to be similar.

•While a lot of readers are understandably focused on the downtown L.A.-to-airport rail connection provided by the Expo and Crenshaw Lines, I encourage them to think a little broader. At this point, we know there will be two lines — Crenshaw and Green — that get closer to the airport then what currently exists. And those lines connect to the rest of the transit network. And, in the meantime, there are other transportation options, such as the Flyaway bus.

•Enhancing transit connections to the airport doesn’t help just passengers — but the thousands of people who work at the airport and surrounding area.

23 replies

  1. I use the Flyaway bus and it is excellent. However, a direct rail line into the airport would be even better.

  2. Do you know of any plans of Metro extending the Crenshaw line north to the eventual Purple Line extension?

    • Hi Shawn;

      There are no firm plans to do so at the moment. But extending the line north is in the “strategic unfunded” portion of Metro’s long-range transportation plan. In plain English, that means such a project is on the agency’s wish list and it was recommended for more study as part of the Crenshaw Line’s draft environmental study. However, it’s worth considering that the agency is busy at the moment trying to plan and build the 12 Measure R transit projects (as well as some of the highway ones). Here is a link to the feasibility study done as part of the Crenshaw project on extending the line to the north– it’s interesting reading:

      Hope that helps!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. I agree that the FlyAway is a great service. I also think the free shuttle is a pretty good service, except that in LAX it is not easy to see where you are supposed to go to pick it up, given all of the rental car shuttles that circle around.

    It’s pretty damn confusing, even for someone who is into transit (and that’s not most people).

    By contrast, having a train station in LAX sends a bold, intuitive visual message that LA is a city that has transportation options besides cars.

    I think you could get away with doing a single station AT THE TERMINALS, (under that arched restaurant perhaps?). It wouldn’t have to stop at every terminal. There could be a shuttle for that, or people could just walk (it actually isn’t that far, even with bags).

  4. Looking at Google Maps, it’s a .5 mile walk from the arched restaurant to the farthest terminal from there (Terminal 4).

    Man, you probably walk farther than that just getting from a plane to the AirTrain at JFK! 🙂

  5. Awesome information, Steve!
    Thanks for providing the details.
    I’m very excited about the project.
    as far as improving connection with LAX directly – I agree with Chewie – perhaps building one single station in the LAX area should serve the purpose – this would be similar to the airport in Portland – where the light rail terminates and has only one single stop. Same can be done with the Crenshaw line.
    if (and only if!) the LRT has to absolutely terminate outside LAX, I think a monorail people-mover would be the rest, it would be much more efficient than shuttles.

  6. Is there any possibility that the Crenshaw line will be designed so that a single train can travel from the Expo to Crenshaw line without requiring passengers to transfer? I think the ridership could potentially be much higher if there was an express from Downtown LA to LAX.

  7. The Flyaway provides nonstop service from downtown to the terminals. Rail would require 10 or more stops, making it less competitive time-wise from Union Station. The problem is that Union Station isn’t the heart of downtown and many perceive that backtracking is required to use the Flyaway.

    The Crenshaw line will be a great connection to the airport for employees and those west or southwest of downtown, but won’t make it any quicker to get from the airport to downtown, given the HOV/HOT lanes.

  8. Lame. Lame. Lame. The Flyaway is great. But, it doesn’t work for everyone. If LAWA is a city agency, why doesn’t it get more on board with the Mayor’s support for transit, and actively support the people mover?

  9. It’s a shame LAX isn’t being designed as an end node of a Downtown-LAX Crenshaw Line. This could be done with a track connection at Crenshaw/Expo, plus a branch at Century/Aviation heading into the terminal area. The line could run an LAX service every 20 minutes, in addition to the “regular” service to Torrance already being planned.

    BTW there is funding in Measure R for a Green Line extension to LAX. Unfortunately, those funds are 20 years away. This extension would not need to “horseshoe” around the terminals: the track could go straight into the terminal area and end at the international terminal.

    As for the people mover, either of the aerial options look good to me. The busway *no es bueno*. Buses are jerkier and bouncier than trains, and make for a very unpleasant “final mile” to the airport.

  10. Well Steve & Alek, there is actually a funded Green Line project that will get passengers closer still to the LAX Central Terminal area – in the vicinity of Century Blvd/Lot C. $200 Million for this LAX Green Line project is already in Measure R and in the 30/10 Initiative. We should build this segment concurrently with the Crenshaw Line, so that we get a seamless integration between the Green and Crenshaw Lines.

  11. I seem to remember that a DMU/EMU LAX-Union Station express service was under consideration as part of the Crenshaw corridor alternatives analysis. Is it still possible to have that service along with light rail or has the LRT alternative superseded the EMU express option? That might have been an entirely different project, too. I can’t remember!


  12. Building on Nirad’s comment above, what if there was an express train that traveled from Downtown to LAX from the Expo line to the Crenshaw line? So the Crenshaw and Expo lines would be directly connected… I understand everyone has been saying that doing that would cause the Regional Connector section to be over capacity BUT what if they only ran that LAX Express 1-3 times per hour during rush hour and more during non-rush hours, let’s say. Wouldn’t that be doable?

  13. We need a realistic and rapid connection from downtown to the LAX, much like San Francisco’s SFO BART route.

    Requiring a transfer between two rail lines straight out of downtown (think of all the transfers regional riders require to get to downtown) and not providing a direct rail link to the airport is a waste of money, time, and resources.

    This entire project needs to be put on hold and rethought, not sped up via loans.

  14. Yes, the line could be extended along the south side of Century Boulevard into the airport proper. I believe this is all Airport property.

    The line could be elevated until just prior to entering the Airport terminal area proper. From there, it could go underground for a short distance, where it would dead-end at a stub-end terminal with crossover tracks to move the train back out again.

    From this underground terminal station, underground passages with moving walkways could extend in every direction to each one of the terminals for the final distance of .5 miles or whatever it is. That’s only 2500 feet.

    The underground portion would be so short that it could potentially be paid for with Measure R funds. I am guesstimating less than one mile underground. Cut and cover construction could be used if the station stopped short of the Theme Building. TBMs would not have to be used, cutting the cost way down.

  15. Is there any possibility that the Crenshaw line will be designed so that a single train can travel from the Expo to Crenshaw line without requiring passengers to transfer? I think the ridership could potentially be much higher if there was an express from Downtown LA to LAX.


    I believe the proposed Harbor Subdivision Project is looking at a Downtown to LAX one-seat ride project.

    • Hi Dan;

      At this point, the plan isn’t to send trains from the Crenshaw/LAX line onto Expo tracks, so they can continue east or west. We wrote a little about this last year in this post.

      I agree that an express train from downtown to the airport could certainly attract riders. The issues, of course, are how to run express trains and local trains on just two tracks and (as described in the post above) could the Expo tracks handle both Expo and Crenshaw trains.

      At this point, the one-seat ride appears to be the Flyaway bus, whereas the rail connections will require transfers but a link to the airport along those corridors.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  16. Let me save you 491 million dollars (90% of the loan):

    Has the MTA considered putting in a bus on the exact same route with limited stops? It will probably be 5 minutes slower, but on the other hand cost 90% less.

  17. With a line going 1 mile away from LAX, it’s imperative to extend it (or make a branch) directly to the airport. If it doesn’t require transfers, people will ride it. It could be overhead with a stop at Lot C and go underground under the road which is between the parking lots for exiting traffic . One stop would serve terminals 1 and 7, the next stop would be for 2,,5 and 6 and the last stop would serve 3,4 and Bradley. Ridership would mushroom.
    Perhaps airport funds could be used too. Also, how about a direct train from downtown on the Expo line continuing on the Crenshaw line to the airpprt?

  18. Steve,

    How much would it have cost to build a connection between the Blue and Gold Line when the Gold line was studied? What about when the Blue line was constructed? What’s the difference in cost between then and the Regional Connector’s cost now?

    The absence of a seamless (one seat) connection between the Expo and Crenshaw LRT lines is history repeating itself. An expensive history lesson for all Angelenos.

    Think about it, if the MTA had connected the Blue and Gold Lines during the planning phases, the enormous expense of the regional connector could have been avoided. This type of shortsightedness is what continues to set Los Angeles back as far as mass transit is concerned.

  19. But if the rail line extends directly into the airport, such as is the case with SFO, then a lot of people will be put out of work. There are many shuttles, cabs, buses and so on all driven by people! Keep those jobs. 🙂

  20. Why not use the same solution that the Port Authority of New York / New Jersey uses at JFK and Newark. At both airports, there is an elevated monorail that circulates around the airport stopping at each terminal. After making all airport stops, the monorail then connects passengers with a railroad or subway station. People who use the system to go between terminals pay nothing. People who get off at the transit terminals pay an extra fare which is used to support the system. Perhaps the airport management could build the system and be the recipient of the fares. the monorail line could connect with the new Crenshaw/LAX station, Parking Lot B on 96th St. and even the Aviation Blvd. Green Line station. Think of how many shuttle buses would be eliminated if this suggestion were adopted.