Metro holds community workshop on connecting Metro Rail to LAX

Graphic by Metro. The time saving column reflects the average travel time over taking a bus from the intersection of Aviation and Century.

Metro hosted a community workshop Wednesday night at Union Station on the agency’s ongoing study to connect the Metro Green Line to Los Angeles International Airport.

Four general types of alternatives using three different types of transit — light rail, an automated people mover and bus rapid transit — were discussed (see chart above). The idea is to connect the future rail station at Aviation and Century — which will serve both the Metro Green Line and the Crenshaw/LAX Line — to the airport. That station is 1.3 miles east of Terminal One at LAX.

Metro is considering the cost, convenience, travel time and reliability of each option, as well as the usual no-build and traffic improvement options. Other factors include walking distance from transit stations to the terminals as well as the length of the trip from the Aviation and Century station to the airport. The more stations, of course, the more the cost — but the less the walk to the terminals.

Given the horseshoe-shaped configuration of LAX, locating stations at the airport will be challenging. The study considered aerial and tunnel access to the airport as well as at-grade access for bus rapid transit.

An aerial view of LAX from Google Maps. The green pin in the upper right is the future Crenshaw/Aviation rail station for the Green Line and Crenshaw/LAX Line. The green pin at bottom right is the existing Green Line Aviation station. Click above for a larger image.

The community workshops are a chance for the public to participate in the planning process. Some of the comments made by meeting attendees:

•Several said they want as many airport stations as possible, to reduce walk times from transit to the ticketing area. Several attendees said that long walks — even those more than 800 feet — were not a problem.

•Several attendees said they wanted as few transfers as possible and showed a preference for light rail and vehicles that could easily accommodate luggage.

•Some attendees didn’t seem concerned about the prospect of aerial structures that may be needed for transit and some said such structures may even complement the airport’s well-known Theme Building.

No one spoke in support of a bus rapid transit option — and considerable concern about the reliability of a BRT trip to the airport when time is of the essence. Even though buses may use an exclusive, elevated busway outside the terminals, the fact that buses would share the terminal roadway with cars and other airport traffic rendered the option less reliable and desirable.

Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008, provides $200 million in funding for the Metro Green Line to LAX project. Metro planning staff explained that capital costs for the options that use rail would range from $540 million to $1.4 billion depending on the alignment and number of stations within the terminal area. As a result, other funds will be needed to construct any project.

An alternative analysis study for the project — and a report on two or three options to be carried forward into the environmental review process — is scheduled to be considered by the Metro Board of Directors at their April meeting. The next step is for Metro to begin preparing a draft environmental analysis of the project.

Public meetings will be held throughout the process and coordination with Los Angeles World Airports, the airport authority, will continue as well. A new article in The Transport Politic also offers a detailed discussion of LAX transit options. For more information on the project or to share your comments with Metro, call (310) 499-0553, visit the project website or complete a comment form.

19 replies

  1. I am also in favor of the APM Circulator. However, I am not sure if the Green Line is the best option right now. Before the regional connector is completed, it is too inconvenient to consider the Green Line to get to LAX.

    In my opinion, the FlyAway buses are the best way to get to the airport. Transit to Union Station is good all around. FlyAway buses leave on a relatively good schedule. They also deal with baggage nicely.

    I would say the primary competitor to FlyAway is Green Line + Silver Line transit, which is perhaps marginally faster than taking Green + Blue + Red, which takes forever. Unfortunately the Silver Line buses are usually too packed to consider bringing luggage on board. Although FlyAway is more expensive at $7 than 3 Metro rides, I would consider it money well spent.

    However, perhaps a lot of time could be saved on the end of the FlyAway trip if the bus dropped passengers off onto a APM circulator, without having to fight the horrendous traffic in front of ticketing/check in.

  2. I prefer the straight through LAX as it’s cheaper. If you want a doorstop to the terminal, you get that by having a friend dropping you off or taking a cab to the airport.

    If you want doorstop service to the terminal, pay extra by gas or cab fare. If you’re willing to walk a bit more to the terminal and get there for cheap, take the train. No need to compete everything 100%.

  3. I agree the use of a automated people mover like AirTrain would be the most beneficial. Light rail trains would’nt have the necessary interior configurations or the frequency needed. Also it would vastly improve travel within the airport as wellfor moving between terminals.

  4. If LAX was designed like JFK International in New York City and O’Hare International in Chicago, locating the stations would be much easiler. The horseshoe shape of LAX is quite strange from the international airports I have went and seen, but it is about time that one of America’s most important international airports get with the times and have a connector to a Metro rail system.

  5. I think the people mover is the way to go, and my reasoning has nothing to do with transit. It’s hard to get from terminal to terminal at LAX right now, since the sidewalks are meant more for dropping off than actually, you know, walking, and the distances covered can be daunting. I’ve also found it tricky to find out which terminal my flight is leaving from (more so now with the United-Continental merger), and I’ve had to make that walk before. If there was an automated people mover like those found other major airports, it would help everyone — not just those electing to get to the airport through transit.

  6. I recently completed a trip to New York via JFK and the Air Train was the best airport connector I have ever come accross. Easy to use, fast and clean. The MTA must use this as a model.

  7. Just as Frank M said, if you want a direct drop off in front of the terminal at LAX, you get that with the privilege of paying higher gas by having a friend drive you there or taking the cab. There’s no need for transit to compete with this.

    Furthermore, a people mover or BRT following the path of the loop and making stops at all the terminals doesn’t leave room for future LAX expansion projects in mind. In addition to TBIT West that’s currently under construction, LAX is also planning the midfield concourse which has to be put into consideration. Furthermore, T1-T3 are going to be consolidated into one large North Terminal and T4-T7 to be consolidated into one large South Terminal so that airlines can share the same terminals according to their global alliances.

    If a people mover or light rail to LAX is going to be made, future projects of LAX have also to be put to mind. Just like the rest of LA is changing, LAX is changing too. Let’s not build something that leaves no room for change in the future, otherwise it will end up becoming more costly down the road to rebuild it.

  8. The LRT branch makes the most sense. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get the job done and the cars can be designed to handle luggage. The dollars are critical; every dollar spent on this system that will handle relatively few passengers a day (compared to other LRT lines) is a dollar not spent on other rail lines that will handle more traffic. Moreover, as one poster noted, Flyaway buses already do an good job of transportation to LAX and when the 405 carpool lane is completed, the Flyaway from Van Nuys and Westwood will be much more efficient than they now are.

  9. I just wanted to add one thing to this discussion. None of these options talks about non airport passengers. For the people mover it’s irrelevant, for the “branch” LRT it isn’t important if the branch ends at LAX, however for a “through” service if a LRT goes into LAX, stops at every terminal and then continues this will be horrible (and very inconvenient) for anyone not going directly to the airport. Because of this I say any transit service to LAX must end at LAX (or loop back and start service in the other direction like the downtown loop services in Chicago). I also want to add that I give my vote for a 100% automated system so we can run service frequently. Factoring in everything…my vote is for automated people mover stopping 3-4 times at LAX (maybe straight down the middle of the airport? This would allow short walks to all terminals, allow for an extension to a future terminal, and allow fast/frequent service. The one downside is it would require a “transfer,” however in this situation the positives/added conveniences would outweigh this negative.

  10. While they’re at it why not put up a new terminal building (hopefully one that is more efficient at handling vehicular traffic than the present horseshoe) at the West end of the airfield next to the ocean. That should disperse the road traffic and reduce congestion. If necessary do some land reclamation. Connect it via an underground ‘air train’ to the current building but, of course, let it have it’s own access from the outside.

  11. The Flyaway is a great level of service, except for two pain points: The last half mile into downtown, without dedicated lanes, and the trip around the airport.

    With respect to the latter, we have a long-distance express service reduced to making lots of little tiny stops in traffic at each terminal. Flying into Southwest Airlines, for example, if a passenger waits 15 minutes (mean time) for a bus, plus the 20 minutes to creep through airport traffic making each stop, then over half the transit time is spent on the first quarter-mile of the trip.

    This is why some sort of dedicated-lane circulator would do the most good. The 15 minutes wait time could be spent getting onto a people mover and getting to a common collection point. Yes, it means making a transfer with bags. But that’s not significantly different from the walk out to the curb that most travelers have now. The time between trips for a single bus would be reduced 20 minutes, allowing more frequent service for the same price (fuel, labor, and buses).

  12. (Actually, the time to turn around a bus would probably be reduced even more. Right now, each bus makes *two* sets of stops. One to drop off on the upper level, and one to pick up on the lower level. The former, however, is a faster trip because the driver knows in advance which stops have to be made.)

  13. They need the peoplemover. I’ve seen peoplemovers in operation in other cities, they work great.

    A well-designed peoplemover should work for people who are a) transferring from airline to airline b) going from a flight to a car rental c) going from a flight to the Green Line or even d) going from a flight to a hotel, assuming that they build a station reasonably close to one of the airport hotels.

    LAWA will never agree to have light rail go directly into the airport, especially not any route which goes under the runways. And for light rail passengers headed beyond the airport (say from the Westside to the South Bay), the airport stations would be an irritating distraction.

  14. @James
    Agreed. A people mover solution will need to bear in mind not just LAX travelers, but a wide variety of uses as you mentioned.

    One of the biggest factors contributing to the traffic jam mess at the LAX loop are all those redundant-and-uni-tasking shuttle vans that follow the Century Blvd to LAX terminals loop. But you can’t use the rental car shuttle as a terminal connections bus and you can’t use a parking shuttle to get to the hotel right next door to it even though they all go around the same terminal loop and path along Century Blvd.

    In that light I’d also add:

    E) People who work at LAX and the nearby vicinity. There are people that commute to work at LAX and nearby hotels too. LAX and its surrounding areas with hotels, car rentals, and parking lots are all key job centers for many Angelinos.

    Let’s not make the same uni-tasker mistake that “light rail stations can only be used as light rail stations and nothing else” applied to transit to LAX. It has to be done with many considerations in mind, not just for the sake of passengers traveling to/from LAX.

  15. I third the people mover option. Operate it to the Crenshaw Line, LAX City Bus Center, and a consolidated rental car terminal. Extending it to the Green Line could be duplicative, though.

  16. LAX really needs to be moved into the 1990s: So many airports in the world have had better transportation/transit facilities than LAX since or before the 90s. The light rail should stop at one of the terminals, then airport passengers should be able to access the other terminals via a people mover. This may sound crazy and wild to Angelenos, but this is something that SFO, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and many more airports already have in place. Let’s move ahead, let’s support Metro, and let’s get LA moving!