Motion seeks to restore two Airport Metro Connector alternatives that would bring light rail into LAX terminal area

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We posted earlier about a new Metro staff report that narrows down the alternatives to be further studied for the Airport Metro Connector. Specifically, the report proposes eliminating alternatives that would build light rail directly to the LAX terminals in favor of four alternatives that would connect the Crenshaw/LAX and/or Green Line to a people mover east of the terminals.

However, in the Metro Board’s Construction Committee this morning, a motion from Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe seeks to restore two of those alternatives, shown above, for further analysis as part of a draft environmental study.

The five members of the Construction Committee moved the motion to the full Board of Directors without recommendation. The full Board will likely take up the issue at their meeting on Thursday, Jan. 23. Board Member Pam O’Connor objected to the motion, saying it was time to eliminate the above alternatives because of their expense and complexity and the difficulty in accessing all the terminals from rail stations.

In remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the region deserves a world-class transit system and that it was too early in the Airport Metro Connector to eliminate options that would bring rail directly into the terminal area. Metro staff said there are several issues with those options, including a cost of $3 billion or more, a complex tangle of utilities under the terminals and runway areas and concerns from LAX about tunneling under critical facilities.

Here is the motion:

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30 replies

  1. Goodbye, future Lincoln Blvd. line if either of these short-sighted options get chosen.

    There are three solutions to this problem –

    1) Build the people mover, have it connect to the Crenshaw Line at Aviation/Century.
    2) Build the people mover, have it connect to the Crenshaw Line at Aviation/Century, while also extending the Green Line one more stop into the CTA (where is anyone’s guess, but Parking Lot C seems to be the place that keeps getting mentioned).
    3) Forget the people mover and just extend the Green Line one stop into the CTA.

    I’m no expert, but I think the cheapest and most effective of these would be option 1. It accomplishes the connection to LAX, saves money, and leaves the Green Line open for future extensions to Marina Del Ray, Venice, and Santa Monica.

    Do people on the Metro Board even read the LRTP? A Lincoln Blvd. extension of the Green Line is included on their list of Tier 2 projects. How can that ever happen if the Green Line gets locked into a loop at LAX?

  2. Phantom Commuter,

    I disagree. Santa Monica is not a suburb. Santa Monica today is an internationally known tourist destination, a local hangout and shopping district for Angelenos, has a highly densely populated residential area, has one of the best community colleges in LA (many who use it as a stepping stone to the UC and CSU system), and a thriving local business dedicated to health care, IT, fashion, music and film industries.

    Being said that, that hardly qualifies as being a suburb. It’s a thriving city of its own that greatly deserves to be a prime location as the “Westside rail hub” for the Metro Rail system.

  3. Thankfully, someone has tried to put the brakes on this moronic “people mover” idea. It is a cheap[er] and short-sighted idea that no other city would stand for. If we truly want a “train to the plane,” then we should scrap this old-fashioned and out-dated people-mover in favor of a modern direct line.

    Three trains and two transfers from Downtown to LAX? I’ll take the Fly-Away rather than that hellish journey. In any event, we still won’t have a true “train to the plane” until there is a hard connection between the Expo Line and Crenshaw Line. So it’s all a waste of money anyway.

    Nonetheless, hurray for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for trying to drag LA in the 21st century!

    • Hi John;

      I believe the airport is planning on building the people mover anyway and it would still be needed to get people from the train to the many different terminals.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. Is that for sure, Steve? The graphics don’t show that. What am I missing? One or two stations at LAX served directly (underground?) by the Crenshaw and/or Green. Help me out of my confusion 🙂

    P.S. While I’ve got you, is a hard connection between Crenshaw and Expo impossible? Thanks for all your great work.

  5. John M,

    What makes you think that majority of the people going to from LAX has a need to go to DTLA?

    In any event, choosing any of these choices will end up opening a pandora’s box of eminent domain problems due to the CONRAC idea in all of these proposals. This is something that both Metro and LAWA has been completely silent on who or how they intend to pay for the dislocation of residences, schools, and businesses that live in that block surrounded by Arbor Vitae, Century, Aviation and La Cienega.

  6. The Green Line and Crenshaw Lines should merge prior to entering the airport with two stops. The first midway above or below the parking structure to service the Commuter and major airline terminals( United , AA, Delta) and terminate at the Bradley Terminal.

    Concerning the Lincoln Bl. line. I don’t believe it’s a viable route at this time. Other than Santa Monica, the Venice area and Marina Del Rey which I don’t see as a high rider ship area the remainder of the route other than that passing Loyola University would be very low rider ship at this time.

    I think tying in the Blue Line Tracks with the Green Line tracks at Imperial station would provide a seamless transit corridor from Downtown L. A. to LAX and connecting the Crenshaw Line to the Red Line at Crenshaw and Wilshire a two seat ride to the airport from Hollywood, the Westside And with the Crenshaw Line extended to Exposition there would be an alternate into Downtown and also a soon to be connection to Santa Monica. Because of poor planing the entire light rail network is not connected. This why the Downtown Connector is being proposed and built. There is in fact a difficult situation as far as scheduling due to both the Blue Line and Expo Lines terminating at Seventh and Flower Metro station. The station was not built to accommodate two light rail lines.

  7. John, there are already other cities and airports in the nation that presently do have people movers. The two that I know of are both on the east coast. Both Newark Airport and JFK in NYC both have people movers that have stations that connect with other trains or subways. From what I have heard from other people who have used JFK or Newark have said that the people movers these two airports have are wonderful.

    Also, like in a separate message above; not everyone who uses LAX and wants to use public transportation that is headed in to Downtown LA. Personally, I live in the South Bay and I would like to connect with the Green Line to get me near Torrance instead of the Redondo Station where there is hardly many buses. I also agree that the Fly Away buses provide wonderful service to LAX.

    In addition, the LAX bus station that they currently have is a gross waste of time. One time I tried going from a terminal building to the LAX bus station. The shuttle takes you through the entire parking lot before you reach the bus station which takes anywhere from 45 min to an hour.

  8. Light rail to the terminals makes for an awful experience for commuters and other travelers that aren’t using the airport, and only improves the experience for about half the airport travelers. Those first two proposals will add 5-10 minutes for anyone going from the South Bay to Mid-City on the Crenshaw Line, and will still require passengers at Terminal 5 or Terminal 3 to walk 15 minutes with their luggage to get to their terminal, or else take a people mover that will still need to be constructed.

    A single unified transit hub for the airport, together with a people mover that stops at every terminal, will be the most efficient plan for everyone. And as pobaza notes in the first comment, it’s also what is needed for the eventual Lincoln Blvd line. I’d add that it might also help with connections for the East SFV/Sepulveda Pass line, assuming that ever happens and extends down to LAX.

  9. Phantom Commuter,

    Irvine and Anaheim aren’t part of LA County. You guys want mass transit to/from LA to/from Irvine and Anaheim, let OC taxpayers pay for it.

  10. Mike and Rick: As a New York native, I would strongly disagree about their people movers. It’s still highly difficult to get into Manhattan by rail.

    As for heading into DTLA, let’s face it: Most LA-area Residents or LA-area Tourists must go through downtown if they intend to ride by rail to LAX. The DT Connector will make this even more obvious. (This is all excepting the westside and southbay folks.)

    Tunneling under LAX to a central station is simplicity itself (compared to the silly “people-mover”). Take a look at what Minneapolis did.

    Connecting the Crenshaw line to the Expo would make great sense. Btw, the lack of a connection between the Blue and Green Lines is a blunder of epic proportion.

    Spend our money now, or waste it later.

  11. I’ve walked with luggage from the commuter terminal to United in five minutes. Running the light rail down the middle of the parking structure would be far more efficient than making people alight the trains then board a people mover with their luggage.

    • Hi Mike and others;

      If you keep leaving multiple comments for every post, some of them will not be published, as per our comment policy. Either make your point or points more efficiently or start your own transit blog if you want unlimited space to make your points.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  12. A light rail down the center of LAX would be the best bet. If LAWA wants to build a people mover to service the terminals let them handle that project. However, LAWA would also have to contribute to the cost of the light rail into LAX.

  13. Tokyo has two major airports serving their city.

    Tokyo-Narita was built in the late 1970s way out of the Tokyo outskirts to relieve the congestion at Haneda, their older airport. In a way, it’s like Ontario Airport, except it was actually successful.

    Narita has two direct express lines the Narita Express and the Keisei Skyliner
    http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/
    http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/ae_outline/

    This is what a lot of people want. A direct line to the airport. I can understand that sentiment as a frequent flyer.

    But then, there’s also the fact that Tokyo has another airport called Tokyo-Haneda. Tokyo-Haneda was revived as Tokyo’s international gateway because of it’s closeness to Downtown Tokyo.

    In away, it’s like their LAX as being right in the middle of the city where all the interesting stuff happens.

    Haneda has two links to its airport, the Tokyo Monorail (opened in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics) and the Keikyu private rail line system.
    http://www.tokyo-monorail.co.jp/english/
    http://www.haneda-tokyo-access.com/en/

    These are in effect, like people movers. They are a spur from the main JR Lines serving Tokyo and they all require a transfer to get to Haneda.

    But guess what? Tokyo Haneda’s system of connecting with the Tokyo Monorail and Keikyu works perfectly fine too.

    In fact, Tokyo Haneda outranks LAX in total passenger volume for the past several years in annual passengers served.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_busiest_airports_by_passenger_traffic

    The fact that Tokyo Haneda, an airport that outranks LAX in total annual passenger volume, is able to handle its air passenger needs with a Monorail and a private rail line spur, means that a people mover option is capable of handling the needs of LAX as well.

    Furthermore, we can always add a direct subway line to LAX in the future as well, much like Haneda has two direct lines to that airport.

  14. Just a few thoughts:

    I have long noted just having employees that work at the airport using whatever mass transit option is finally constructed would be a boon for reducing traffic. Like some folks I have done the shuttle/green/blue/red/bus dance and also FlyAway/Red/bus dance along with Super Shuttle. Something more convenient would be nice. Let us remember at best we still will not have a direct connect from the Crenshaw to Expo lines but a common station for transferring. Not optimal but even San Diego has been struggling with improving connections between the trolley and their airport.

    It is all well and good to want an underground terminal but who will pay for it? Other parts of the county will not be enthused at this project sucking huge amounts of money away from the projects they want. And LAWA Exec. Director Gina Marie Lindsey claims the airlines are lukewarm about having a rail connection to LAX. That is a huge problem. Disney being so-so about the CenterLine rail proposal for Orange County really took the wind out of the sails and eventually it wilted up.

    Right now we have 4 separate bureaucracies involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Administration, LA Metro and LA World Airports. Plus the Metro Board, adjacent cities, stakeholders etc. Quite a complicated situation. I am just happy after far too long we are as far along in the process that we are.

  15. I’m definitely pleased to see these terminal-stop plans back in play. I’ve used public transit from YVR, JFK, and NRT and my preference is hands-down the YVR method of picking up the Skytrain right outside the terminal. Not only is it convenient but it confronts passengers with the choice and viability of using transit before they even get out of the terminal and it steals many journeys from taxis this way.

    JFK’s Airtrain system is silly and it makes getting into Manhattan that much more of a pain. The poor service of the Airtrain is the reason why there are city-mandated standard taxi fares between Manhattan and JFK, because transit between JFK and Manhattan is not seen as a realistic option for many. It takes twice as long to use transit to get from JFK to Manhattan as it does to get from NRT to Tokyo which is twice as far.

    NRT isn’t really comparable since there are two major and competing express train lines that service the airport as well as local trains on the Keisei, Keikyu, or JR Sobu lines providing direct service. I’ve used both the Keisei Skyliner and the JR Narita Express and they will still take you directly to somewhere you’d actually want to go (i.e. Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro stations, etc.) without connections. I’ve also driven from Tokyo to Narita Airport and it’s a shlep compared to JFK or LAX. I’ve never flown into HND (few, if any, direct flights from LAX) so I can’t speak to the experience on the monorail, but the fact that two lines serve the airport directly is still better than a people mover like the dreadful JFK Airtrain to connect one line.

  16. Dana: I am happy, too. But too many cooks spoil the broth. We could have a world-class system, now we are facing only a sad compromise that will serve no one well. I see the LA World Airports as the culprit here. My sole opinion. Tunnel is the only option for us and our children.

  17. Dana,

    Los Angeles is the home to the largest Korean-American population in the US. Both Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are not going to ditch such a lucrative market.

    We also have the largest Chinese-American population in the US. Cathay Pacific, Air China, China Airlines, China Eastern, and China Southern are not going to ditch LA from their radar.

    We also are the home to the largest Japanese-American population in the US as well as Japanese corporations in the South Bay. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are not going to ditch LA either.

    Los Angeles is the home to one of the nation’s largest Hispanic American population in the US. Ditto the above for Aeromexico, LAN Peru and LAN Chile. Mexicana fly many routes from LAX before they declared bankruptcy.

    Same for British Airways, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines, Air Canada, WestJet, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, Philippine Airlines, El Al, Air France and KLM.

    These major international airlines are not going to ditch LAX. In a way, it’s magnificent that LA has all these international airlines coming into our city. It means everyone wants in at LAX and everybody in the world wants to come and live in Los Angeles.

    It’s a hub for all the major international airlines. And if these airlines all want to be at LAX, their domestic airline codeshare and alliance partners will stay at LAX. That means American-US Airways, Delta, and United are not going to go away either.

    If we decide to build a rail to LAX, these airlines aren’t going to go away. So long as we have a diverse minority population residing here in LA, these airlines and their US domestic partners will keep flying to LAX.

  18. Why are we wasting money on this? LAX works fine without a rail system today, why do we need it?

  19. Dana has this issue pegged just about right. With the Feds and airlines either lukewarm or hostile to the the proposals that Metro and LAX have suggested (and costs for a subway will be extremely expensive especially for a rail spur), it seems that a people mover is will be the best that can be hoped for.

    Everyone would be much better off if support and focus could coalesce around the People Mover and make IT the best it can be (especially if that is all we will get). I would think a Billion Dollar transportation system would be more popular.

  20. It’ll speculate tbat Gina-Marie Lindsey is afraid that Metro and other Politicians will try to tap the Passenger Facility Charge that is tacked on to every ticket. That was how JFK AirTrain (which uses the same exact Bombardier ALRT technology as Vancouver’s SkyTrain, BTW, albeit ironically not the line that runs to YVR) was funded.

  21. Dana hit the nail on the head. Even in NYC where the subway system (1) runs 24 hours a day & (2) is by far the largest in North America & one of the largest mass transit systems in the world, there was no rail connection to ANY of the airports (JFK, LGA & Newark Liberty) until the start of THIS century. [La Guardia Airport (LGA), the nearest airport to Midtown Manhattan, still has no rail service to this day.] I do feel that any rail connection is better than none, so I’m really hoping that the 4-headed bureaucratic monster (FAA, FTA, Metro & LAWA) can work together to finally bring Angelenos a rail link to LAX that everyone can agree with.

  22. I moved here to LA (live near LAX) 7 years ago, and have eagerly followed LA’s efforts to build a light rail system; now, in retirement, I’ve ridden every mile of rail and lots of buses, enjoying LA. That we have no direct connection to LAX is crazy, embarrassing. I don’t understand why LAX officials seem so reluctant to address this issue. The above alternatives need to remain on the table, and cost be damned, mostly. LA has to resolve this favorably for riders. Bus shuttles and a people-mover are NOT the answer. Claims to be a world-class city require a comfortable rail connection to LAX. Let’s get it done.

  23. Tom: YES! Amen. Every single word. The “people mover” is idiotic and a ploy by LAWA. Maybe they haven”t brain-washed everyone afterall. Train to the Plane!!