Transportation Secretary LaHood bring big check to L.A. for Crenshaw/LAX light rail project

From left, Assemblyman Mike Feuer, Santa Monica Councilmember Pam O’Connor, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Lakewood Mayor Diane DuBois, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Congresswoman Janice Hahn. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A news conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was held Wednesday at the Green Line’s Aviation station for the recently announced $545.9-million federally-backed TIFIA loan Metro will receive to help fund construction of the Crenshaw-LAX Line. The loan was first announced in 2010, with the deal closing earlier this month.

Many of the speakers congratulated Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who successfully lobbied Congress to adopt his America Fast Forward program to expand the TIFIA loan program. In plain English: the program will make it far easier for transit agencies to borrow money needed to build projects

“This is a program that the Mayor came to us with,” said Secretary LaHood. “He had a great vision…The U.S. Department of Transportation is very proud to provide the MTA with this $545.9-million TIFIA loan to help build a new light rail line along the Crenshaw corridor.”

The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will run for 8.5 miles between the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards and the Green Line near LAX. The $1.75-billion project is funded by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 — with some of the strongest support coming from neighborhoods near the future rail line.

The loan works like this: the federal government puts up the money to guarantee the loan, allowing agencies such as Metro to secure low interest rates and favorable terms that would otherwise be tough, or impossible, to get. The loan is key because it’s money that Metro can use to construct the line now; the loan will then be paid back by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008 (with some of the strongest support coming from neighborhoods near the future rail line).

If Measure J is approved — extending the Measure R sales tax until 2069 — Metro plans to apply for TIFIA loans to accelerate construction of transit and road projects. The idea is simple: build now before costs rise because of inflation, create jobs and then use future tax receipts to pay back the loans.

Three of the speakers — Metro Board Chair and Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Janice Hahn — all made another point: they believe it is vital for the Crenshaw/LAX Line to connect to the terminals at the airport. The project’s station at Century and Aviation is about a mile from the terminal horseshoe.

Another project with Measure R funding — the Airport Metro Connector — is currently under study with several alternatives being considered. Among them: bus rapid transit, light rail and a people mover. Here’s that project’s website.

6 replies

  1. I hope they actually make the light rail right.

    What we DON’T want:

    1. Those narrow spin-style turnstiles. Obivously, people going to LAX will be carrying lots of luggage and those narrow turnstiles only makes it a pain the butt to go through. What we need are wide fare gates that put people carrying luggage in mind.

    2. Trains with seats that face the aisle instead of a cross seating pattern. Same as above, people heading to LAX will be carrying lots of luggage. You need as much aisle space as possible. The Green Line is a problem because of the cross seating pattern; virtually no space to put luggage and aisle space is severely restricted.

    3. Actual services like restrooms and retail space at the stations. No more of these “platform only” ideas. If funding is an issue, ask corporations to chip in a portion of the cost in exchange for something that benefits them. Let American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines chip a portion of the cost of building a LAX station in exchange for exclusive check-in stands at the LAX station. Let Hilton, Crowne Plaza, and Marriott chip in for the cost of an LAX station in exchange for a direct people mover link to their hotels. Let Alamo, Dollar, Hertz and Enterprise chip in in exchange for a direct people mover link to their rental car facilities. These companies are also being hurt today with running those complimentary shuttle vans to LAX with high gas prices these days. Asking them to each chip in $1 million towards construction of the LAX train station would be a small investment that would help them in the long run.

  2. Airport transit is tricky. It usually has low ridership and the baggage issue makes typical trains/buses insufficient. That is why a lot of airports aren’t directly connected to their transit system.

    I fly about 20 times a year and I wouldn’t use a transit system to the airport even if I could; I can’t and likely will never be able to. I don’t see the people who use the airport the most using a rail line to the airport. But Los Angeles seems big on the marketing of transit as opposed to the using of transit.

  3. “Americans” or “Angelenos” may not think transit to the airport, but a lot of our foreign guests, tourists may be asking “where is the train” out of the airport.

    Let us also not forget, one of the bigger ridership draws will be that army of airport workers who add to the traffic headache around the airport. Getting them to come to work an easier way should be crucial part of the plan.

  4. AD,

    While most maybe fine with taking a cab or driving to LAX, you also need to look at from the perspective of first timers to LAX and from the point of view of tourists. Tourists do not have the luxury of calling a friend or neighbor to pick them up at the airport. Tourists may not understand English enough to hitch a ride on the cab or be confident enough to take the shuttle, Green Line, or Flyaway. Many tourists from abroad don’t even know how to operate a car so renting a car is not an option either (shocking but true, people from all over the world have never gotten a drivers license!).

    From a perspective of a tourist, or business person, or any other first timer to LA, the moment they step out of the terminal from the baggage claim area, their first impression of LA is “welcome to the traffic jam hell of the world!”

    Compare this to say San Francisco which has BART to the heart of the city. Any tourist from any country can just go onto BART and head to Downtown San Francisco. No need to rent a car, no need to use a cab. You buy a train ticket from SFO and it gets you to the places to stay and see in San Francisco. That’s a BIG difference from “welcome to LA, now figure out on your own how to get where you want because we can only give you ‘just rent a car and use your smartphone as a GPS’ answer.” Oh you don’t/can’t drive a car? Your smartphone charges expensive roaming fees? Not my problem. Welcome to LA. Yeah, like that’s going to make a good impression.

    That is not the image we want to project to the world. LA is a great city, we need to stop thinking me, me, and me, but we need to start thinking “how to make LA great for everyone; not just those who live here, but for those that come here.”

  5. It’s about time MTA get this approval. My opinion on it is this :

    1) Legroom between seats on the Siemens rail cars need to be improved – the legroom on the 200-series Siemens rail cars is terrible. The aisle is too narrow to accommidate big suitcases. The only space for travelers with luggage is really the articulate midsection between each car.

    2)More late night connections with other bus lines at Stations – What sucks is the fact Metro buses/trains doesn’t always run when people needed the most. Aviation/LAX Station is important for tourists, airport workers, and transit users alike. LAX itself is a 24hr airport with flights arriving/departing continuously day and night. Green Line trains should be running 24hrs or At least bring back the 622 Green Line Shuttle which was introduced many many years ago but cut. Currently between 1am and 4am, theres only one bus that serves LAX Airport – and its Metro Bus 40. As a shuttle driver myself, Ive had tourists ask me at 1230am about buses to Santa Monica, most get really annoyed and don’t bother using the Metro because you have to back-track 1hr on Line 40 to Downtown LA and then take the 4, 20, or 33 to Santa Monica. People dont want to pay $40 for a taxicab ride while their vacation money could be use to buy gifts or food to stimulate the economy.

    3) Get rid of the LAX G Shuttle – When this rail line is built, i think the G shuttle bus should be eliminated. Although the G bus is technically timed to meet trains arriving from Norwalk and Departing to Norwalk, night time traffic at LAX is total chaos & most times it takes 35 minutes just to get from terminal 1 to terminal 7. Buses are always overcrowded at all times, Airport workers do not utilize the Employee parking lot on 111th street, and the contractor-Servisair have a driver and bus shortage, so they cant add anymore that is needed. Create an underground people mover to stop at Century/Avion, Century/Airport, Century/International, Century/La Cienega to serve the major hotels in the area and connect with this new crenshaw line.