LAX officials offer three potential sites for rail station near airport

Boac121217yLAWA-Metro Coordination Update

Some interesting news on Monday from Los Angeles World Airports, the city of L.A. agency that oversees LAX: airport planners for the first time are proposing three possible sites for a light rail station at or near the airport. The above report to the Board of Airport Commissioners shows the possible station locations.

First, it helps to understand the background. Metro is in the midst of planning a transit project — called the Airport Metro Connector — that would connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport terminals. Metro planners are studying a variety of alternatives, including bus rapid transit, a people mover and light rail.

The Crenshaw/LAX Line will have a station at Aviation and Century boulevards. It’s closer to the LAX terminals than the existing Green Line Aviation station — but Aviation/Century is still more than a mile to the beginning of the horseshoe-shaped road that serves the nine LAX terminals.

In the meantime, LAX planners have been working on the “LAX Master Plan Specific Plan Amendment” that will guide future renovations and development at the airport.

That plan amendment will likely include a people mover to connect the terminal to future LAX facilities, such as a consolidated rental car center. As part of that study, LAX planners are working with Metro to identify the best ways to tie the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport terminals — perhaps with the people mover or a combination of people mover and light rail extension.

There’s still a lot of work to be done; here are stories in the Daily Breeze and the L.A. Times. One of the big issues — as with all transit projects — will be securing funding. Measure R allocates $200 million to the Airport Metro Connector project and LAWA is expected to contribute funds and/or resources, but that amount is not known.

But any type of light rail project — especially one involving rail tunnels or underground stations — will be very expensive and will cost north of $1 billion. Under Metro’s long-range plan, adopted in 2010, the Airport Metro Connector is scheduled to open in 2028. Both funding and Metro Board approval would be needed to accelerate the project.

Below is the news release from LAWA:

SITES PROPOSED FOR METRO LIGHT RAIL DIRECT CONNECTION TO LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TERMINALS

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) staff today announced its “strong commitment and desire” for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to locate a Metro light rail station directly at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  To support this proposal, LAWA has committed to provide scarce airport property located west of Sepulveda Boulevard on the east end of the Central Terminal Area (CTA) to create the opportunity for an on-airport Metro light rail station.

During a regularly scheduled meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, LAWA staff reported that it has “substantially accelerated planning work and coordination with Metro staff to evaluate the best interface of our (airport) facilities with transit.”

LAWA and Metro have jointly identified the following site options on LAWA property where a Metro light rail interface could be designed that result in a direct connection to a future automated people mover system and that airport officials believe would bring a “high level of service and connectivity” for passengers:

  • An area west of Sepulveda Boulevard on the east end of the CTA
  • A proposed intermodal transportation facility in the vicinity of Economy Parking Lot C
  • Manchester Square

LAWA staff is also currently coordinating with Metro on the Crenshaw/LAX Line Project in order to ensure the design of the Century/Aviation Station is aligned with and will better integrate with any potential LAWA infrastructure at Manchester Square.

On a parallel but separate effort, LAWA is moving forward with the LAX Master Plan Specific  Plan Amendment Study (SPAS), which evaluates options at a programmatic level for configuring the LAX north airfield and a long-range plan for ground transportation access to the Central Terminal Area.   SPAS is part of a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year modernization program at LAX.  Earlier this month, LAWA announced a staff-recommended alternative for the LAX Master Plan SPAS, which proposes new ground transportation facilities east of Sepulveda Boulevard, including:  an intermodal transportation facility in the vicinity of Lot C; a consolidated rental car facility at Manchester Square on airport property located about one mile east of the airline terminals; and an automated people mover to connect the terminals and off-airport facilities when forecast demand levels materialize and can justify these investments.

According to airport officials, the next steps will be to continue close coordination with Metro to identify opportunities to link transit with airport facilities, and develop project level concepts and related technical and environmental analyses.

24 replies

  1. I’m glad to see talk of a busway LAX officials have been pushing (even recently as per the Oct. Planning Report interview with LAX Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey) is fading

    http://www.planningreport.com/2012/10/04/gina-marie-lindsey-updates-lax-s-capital-program-bradley-west

    A consolidated rental car facility served by a peoplemover would do a great deal for traffic in the horseshoe by eliminating all those shuttle vans. And a mass transit connection would be useful for airport employees, another win for reducing congestion.

  2. I hope LAWA/ LAX does more than just provide the land. If they want the underground station, that’s going to cost more than the Lot C option.

    Personally, I like the idea of an underground station inside the central loop. However, if the price tag is too high for that, then the Lot C option would do. Lot C would even leave open the possibility of expanding north to Westchester or Marina Del Rey.

    And no matter which option is picked, the peoplemover needs to go in as well.

  3. Failure to serve the airport itself directly with rail transit will continue the Los Angeles tradition of considering transit users to be second or third class citizens which LAWA especially has long supported.in its anti-transit actions and decisions. Note that LAWA-owned LAX and ONT are the only airports on the West Coast of North America that do not allow the local transit agency(s) to serve their terminal buildings.

  4. There is a lot of support for the airport connector, but I don’t think most of the supporters are frequent flyers. Those who do fly often, are not likely to use the train to get to and from the airport. The main users of the transit stop will be airport employees.

    This should not have taken precedent over some of the more heavily used lines that need improvement and lines that are yet to be built. Hopefully LAWA stalls the project again so the money Metro would have spent on it can be put to other and better uses.

    • Hi AD;

      The L.A. Times only story on the LAWA discussion of the project included a poll — hardly scientific, I know — in which 97 percent of respondents said they would take light rail to the airport.

      I agree with you that airport employees will be a big source of ridership. What percentage of travelers would take the train? Hard to say; my experience in other cities is that travelers certainly do take trains to airports, although it’s certainly not the majority of travelers. In the case of the Airport Connector project here, I think the number will likely depend on the number of transfers to reach downtown L.A. and the ease of those transfers.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Has anyone looked into how airport employees really get to work to LAX and the surrounding job centers (hotels, parking lots, etc)?

    Majority of the people who work at LAX live within 5 miles of LAX in places like Westchester and Inglewood/Hawthorne. They do not use the bus or mass transit, they drive. And lately, they’re using motorcycles too. Ever seen the increase in motorcycles parked in the CTA parking lots (motorcycles get free parking in the CTA)?

    Now why is that? Has anyone considered that paying $75 a month for a 5 mile drive isn’t worth it?

    Building a light rail to LAX will not change the habits of those who work at LAX unless fares are drastically reduced to factor in shorter commuting distance. Otherwise, people who work at LAX will still find cheaper ways to get there. As it stands now, for majority of the workers who work at LAX and the Airport Hilton, etc. still find it cheaper to drive or hop onto a motorcycle to work than taking the slower and more expensive bus.

    • Hi Steven P;

      It would be great if you could show us the report that states the majority of people who work at LAX live within five miles of the airport. My experience in Southern California in the jobs I’ve held is that the minority of employees usually live within five miles of their workplace.

      I also suspect an awful lot of LAX employees do take transit. I don’t have statistics. But the bus stop adjacent to Parking Lot C is a busy one — as many bus lines stop there.

      I also suspect that overall a very small percentage of LAX employees use motorcycles to get to work, just as overall a very small percent of commuters use motorcycles. According to the city of L.A., about 1.7 percent of city residents use a motorcycle or taxi to get to work.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. Stopping juuuuuust short of the airport terminals would be an error.

    Requiring a shuttle / people mover would not only defeat the purpose of building a closer station, but would push the number of transfers for most passengers over a critical threshold.

    Consider that discretionary riders going from either the Red, Orange or Gold lines would find themselves transferring three times (this assumes the Expo > Green connection is active by that point). Anything past the two transfer mark is where you traditionally begin to see ridership drop precipitously.

    Then take into account you’re dealing with stressed passengers with luggage (and often, kids).

    The idea that a Green > People Mover, etc solution would be a solution stops being realistic.

    • Hi Bill;

      Just to clarify — the Expo Line and the Green Line will not intersect. The Crenshaw/LAX and Expo Line will have a transfer at Exposition and Crenshaw, where Expo runs at street level and Crenshaw will run underground.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  7. How do we participate further in the process? Are there community meetings or a webpage to collect comments?

    • Hi Ben;

      To get updates on the LAWA specific plan amendment, please see this web page.

      To comment or email the Airport Metro Connector study team at Metro, please see this web page for the online comment form and other contact info as well as studies.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. In my opinion, the modified LRT Trunk route through LAX, with stations near the Lot C transit center, and near the terminals, but with the ability for the trains to continue through the airport without hitting a terminal (reversing) station is the far superior choice. Otherwise it becomes impossible to develop efficient operating patterns for the Light Rail – too many branches and terminuses.
    LAX is the major job center, so it brings people where they need to go.

  9. Steve,

    You are government. You have access to employee’s W-2 records from the State of CA to cross reference where they live and where they work. Why not gather that statistic to show how far away people who work at LAX live, let alone come up with a true figure of how many percentage of Angelenos work and live at what distance from where they work?

    Or do you really think all the baggage handlers, TSA agents, greeters, parking lot attendants, janitors, aircraft maintenance mechanics, hotel and rental car shuttle van drivers, etc. all live 20 miles away in suburban gated communities in the San Fernando Valley? Or do you think they live closeby the job centers in multifamily complexes in Inglewood and Hawthorne?

  10. Steve,

    My bad, it seems you guys already DID collect that statistics in one of your own reports:

    Page 8 “Where do LAX employees live?”
    http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/green_line_lax/images/mgllax_aa_report__appendixB_collateral_materials2.pdf

    Note the density of the dots near LAX. For the people living in that densely dotted areas near LAX really think paying $900 a year in transit passes (no guarantee it will stay at $75/month) will be very economical for them, or would they just continue to drive, carpool, use motorcycle?

    • Hi Steven P;

      Thanks for posting the stats. The map shows a lot of people certainly do live near LAX. It also shows that a lot of people live farther away.

      I think it’s up to individuals to decide what’s best for them in terms of getting to work. If the bus or train is convenient, they may take that. If they prefer driving, they’ll go that way. My personal view is that the airport is a big enough employer that some employees would take advantage of rail transit to get there if it’s speedier or more convenient than a bus.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. “ I think it’s up to individuals to decide what’s best for them in terms of getting to work. If the bus or train is convenient, they may take that. If they prefer driving, they’ll go that way”

    I think this idea goes against everything that Metro is supposed to be doing which is to encourage more people to ditch their cars and promote using public transit.

    And if one of the factors why many people living near LAX still drive to work instead of taking public transit and the pdf statistics that Steven P showed that 73% of people who work at LAX drive there, I think it’s a good indicator that something is wrong with the Metro fare system that makes public transit unattractive for short distance commuters.

    Maybe it’s not the service, maybe it’s not how fast it is, maybe it’s just simply: the cost to take the bus isn’t worth it to travel that short distance.

    If my apartment complex to LAX commute happened to be only one station away on the Crenshaw Line, I’m not going to pay $75 a month for it. If I get free employee parking at LAX, I’ll just continue to drive there. Besides, why would I? I’m not getting a good deal on Metro compared to others who travel 10 stations to get there.

  12. I’d like to see an open forum on revenue neutral distance based fares that includes everybody, including the bus riders who can’t speak English or don’t have access to the Internet. There would not be a monthly pass for $75, I can assure you that much, because the super commuter from Warner Center to Long Beach would have to pay $200 or more for that ride, and they will complain. Fortunately it looks like Metro will sidestep the fare increase debate for 2013, but fares need to go up, the only question is how.

  13. Hi Steve,

    Could you tell me where I could find the full size drawing shown on Slide 4/Page 5. It seems to show other LAX improvements such as Terminal 0, replacements of Terminal 3, a replacement for the Interim West Bus Terminal, and the Midfield Satellite Concourse. I’m interested in this specific drawing because the one that is on Slide 4/Page 5 is cropped and does not show all the captions and potential improvements. If you could help me at all that would be great. Thanks.

    -Average Joe

    • Hi Average Joe;

      Check this report and see if what you’re looking for is in there. I only had the LAWA Board report on Metro connectivity — but there seems to be some overlap between that and this report on the specific plan study.

      Happy Holidays,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  14. Henry,

    Well the factor is “what’s the percentage of Angelenos that fall into the super long commute” category.

    There are just as many people in LA who cannot afford homes in the suburbs. Many live in multifamily apartment complexes and work close by as well. Is it fair to subject them to a flat rate fare hike when they only travel less than 10 miles to work as opposed to others who can afford big homes in the suburbs and they can get 20 miles for the same price? If one doesn’t factor in distance, people will still continue to drive for shorter commutes because the bus fare isn’t worth it.