Metro staff recommends new light rail station at Aviation/96th Street to connect to future LAX people mover

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One of the ongoing projects that we’ve been following closely is the Airport Metro Connector, which seeks to connect the terminals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with the growing Metro Rail network. This is obviously a project of great interest given that LAX is the third busiest airport in the United States and many other airports in the U.S. and abroad are connected to local rail systems. 

A new Metro staff report released today (above) recommends that one alternative for the project be studied more intensively: building a new rail station near Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street to serve trains along the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines. The station would also be the “gateway” transfer point to an Automated People Mover that would take people to the airport terminals. The people mover would be built by LAX. 

Metro will evaluate the light rail part of this alternative — i.e., the new rail station — in the project’s upcoming environmental clearance document. The planners at LAX would study the Automated People Mover. 

The new Metro Rail station would be about .4 miles north of the future Aviation/Century station that will also serve both the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines. The idea, according to the Metro staff report, is that the 96th Street Station would be the gateway for passengers headed to LAX while the Aviation/Century station would connect riders to the many businesses along the Century Boulevard corridor.

A new analysis by Metro staff also found that this alternative would deliver about the same number of riders to LAX as running a light rail line directly to the airport terminals. The analysis also found that the recommended alternative would get people to the terminals in about the same amount of time, cost far less to build and could be built sooner, with a completion date perhaps as early as 2022, depending on when LAWA builds the people mover.

The preferred alternative was developed in close cooperation with planners and officials at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the city of Los Angeles agency that oversees the airport.

Over the past several years, LAWA has been finalizing details on its current modernization plan, which includes the people mover, a new ground transportation hub (known as the Intermodal Transportation Facility or ITF) and a consolidated rental car facility. LAWA’s current plans are to build the people mover just north of 96th Street en route to the Crenshaw/LAX corridor. Here is the link to the latest LAWA presentation on their ground transportation program. 

The people mover would also include a station at the ITF to be built by LAWA on the northwest corner of 98th Street and Airport Boulevard. That facility would serve as a pick-up and drop-off point for airport passengers and, according to LAX, would allow passengers to check in for flights and check their baggage. LAX is studying whether to build two or four people mover stations to serve the airport terminals. 

The public policy question hovering over the Airport Metro project over the past few years has been how to best connect the existing Green Line and future Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport?

Other cities have also wrestled with trying to determine whether it’s best to build a rail line directly into airports or instead build a special airport train that connects airport terminals with the local transit system. The latter approach is the one used at Phoenix Sky Harbor, Miami International, JFK in New York and Oakland International Airport. 

LAX poses particular challenges with seven terminals spread out along a horseshoe shaped road with runways and tarmacs on all sides of the horseshoe. That means that running light rail into the airport requires lengthy and expensive train tunnels as well as a limited number of stations and longer trips for riders not bound for the airport. The Metro Board of Directors formally eliminated those options from further consideration in January. 

Some other interesting factoids from the new Metro staff report:

•A Metro Rail-people mover connection resulted in about the same ridership as having a light rail line run directly into the airport terminals, according to Metro’s ridership forecasts. In the future, it’s expected that about 57 percent of airport bound passengers would arrive by private car, 33 percent by shuttles, taxis and limos, eight percent by the Flyaway bus and one to two percent via transit buses and trains. Keep in mind that about 66.6 million passengers used LAX in 2013, meaning even small percentages can add up to a lot of people. 

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Metro staff is recommending further study of the A2 alternative.

•Building rail into the terminal area could be three times as expensive with a cost of $4.9 billion to $5.2 billion compared to connecting the people mover to light rail at 96th and Aviation (alternative A2).

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•The chart below shows the average walk times involved in using Metro Rail and the people mover to reach airport terminals — assuming LAX builds two people mover stations to serve the terminals.

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•Here’s the operating plan for the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line with a station at 96th/Aviation along with the future Aviation/Century station that is being built as part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line project:

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•Building a light-rail spur line from the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line into the airport could have had serious operational impacts for Metro Rail. The big problem: it would have involved longer and less frequent trips for many Metro Rail passengers not headed to airport or near-airport destinations.

•In order to reach the furthest airport terminal, Metro staff estimates that it would take 32.2 minutes from the Crenshaw/Expo station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, 31.4 minutes from the Green Line’s Redondo Beach station and 50.7 minutes from the Green Line’s Norwalk station. 

•As the report says, if LAWA decides not to support Metro’s staff recommended alternative, Metro then would work with LAWA staff on a transfer to the people mover at the Aviation/Century station. 

•Also from the study and worth noting: Metro and LAWA have yet to discuss “funding assignments” for the project between the two agencies. LAWA still must make final decisions on the airport’s Ground Transportation Program, which includes the people mover.

The Metro Board is scheduled to consider the Metro staff recommendation at their Planning Committee meeting at 2:30 p.m. on June 18 and Construction Committee meeting at 10:15 a.m. on June 19. Both meetings will be held in the Board Room at Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station and, as always, are open to the public. The full Board of Directors are scheduled to take up the issue at their meeting at 9:30 a.m. on June 26 at Metro HQ. 

42 thoughts on “Metro staff recommends new light rail station at Aviation/96th Street to connect to future LAX people mover

  1. LAX Frequent Flyer – I’m sorry, but I think you missed my point. I’m all for connecting mass transit to the airport, and personally I’ve taken the Green Line to and from LAX many times, and would love to see a better connection (for me it’s currently a 3-transfer trip, city bus to Blue Line to Green Line to G bus). My comment was a specific complaint about the ITF, which the post says “would serve as a pick-up and drop-off point for airport passengers”. I just don’t see how this can work: as long as there is car access to the terminals, it makes no sense to provide a separate car access point that’s only a 5-minute drive away (but takes 20 minutes to get to the terminal by people mover plus a long walk).

  2. Mike B, thanks for putting it a little more eloquently than I could.

    With regards to the current transfers to LAX: Are you familiar with induced demand? The current problem is that it is very, very difficult to get to LAX by public transportation that’s not the (LAWA-run) LAX Flyaway. If the Crenshaw Line project succeeds in making it easier to connect to the airport (which it won’t without LAWA’s cooperation), I think anyone could predict an uptick in LAX connections.

    The problem again boils down to mismanagement by LA World Airports. The only office in the city that can put enough pressure on LAWA to change this is the mayor’s office, and we should all be lobbying Garcetti to fix this ridiculous impasse.

    LAWA is actively doing everything they can to discourage alternate modes of transportation to the airport, as they have done for years. Metro’s original suggested proposal for the APM and ITF was everything we should come to expect from such an expensive project: a secure check-in facility at the ITF (with integrated CONRAC), connected to a direct-to-terminal people mover loop, and a rail connection right there at the ITF.

    Instead, LAWA wants to build the ITF separate from the CONRAC, disconnect it from the Metro system (or force Metro to spend more money building another connection), and create the world’s most expensive people mover to nowhere.

    It’s almost like LAWA doesn’t want the people mover to continue past the planning stage.

  3. Alternatively, Metro and LAWA should just make one huge station that merges 96th/Aviation and Aviation/Century into one large LAX station.

    Why do you need to build two stations that’s less than 1/3rd of a mile apart? Besides, the need for LAX for longer length trains is going to be needed anyway. Building one big and long station that stretches between 96th and Century will more cheaper than building two separate stations that’s so close together.

  4. chad,

    “in new york the A train is part of metro rail and it goes directly to JFK”

    No it does not. The A train stops at Howard Beach Station and you need to transfer to the AirTrain to continue onto JFK. Same with the E train at Jamaica Station, get off there to transfer to the AirTrain. Do not make comments that can be easily refuted by a simple Google search.

    http://www.panynj.gov/airports/jfk-public-transportation.html

    Furthermore, if one were to say there is an airport in the world that does not have a direct connection and requires a transfer, yet it manages to handle more passengers than LAX and successful, I raise you Tokyo Haneda airport – served by the Tokyo Monorail. One would need to transfer at Hamamatsucho Station from the JR Yamanote Line and transfer to the Tokyo Monorail to get to Tokyo Haneda. And Tokyo Haneda is the world’s fourth busiest airport in the world, beating LAX (we’re the sixth largest), and majority of the passengers who use Tokyo Haneda get there by mass transit.

  5. Even at O’Hare, with a single train from the CBD to the airport terminal, the maximum ridership on the Blue Line subway is 5% of all airport passengers. About 50% of all LAX passengers are dropped off or picked up by private vehicles, and the average vehicle occupany of a private vehicle going to LAX is 3. While Flyaway and Metro Rail have their place for solo travelers, most people traveling in groups, families, etc. will get dropped off by other people, and that is not going to change.

  6. I agree. If the stations are going to be so close together, you might as well just combine the two into one large station. If you’re going to build rail to LAX, might as well future proof it so that having a long rail station at one of US’s most busiest airports will allow future room for expansion and added rail length trains.

    Build with expandibility in mind. That’s one thing you guys should have learned from the Blue Line mess we have today.

  7. Looks like Metro has the money to cover the cost of the station. LAWA has to pay the cost to build the Ground transportation hub. However, if Metro can work with LAWA to secure funds from the State and Feds Metro should help LAWA to secure the needed funds.

    “The $200-million station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard would connect to the Green Line, the Crenshaw Line and a so-called “people-mover,” which would likely resemble San Francisco International Airport’s circulator train.”

    “Measure R, the half-cent sales tax county voters approved in 2008, secured $330 million for the airport connector. But it is yet to be determined who will pay for the remainder of the project, which Metro staff said will cost more than $1.5 billion regardless of which option is chosen”

    “Los Angeles World Airports staff have indicated they would prefer that Metro rail connect directly to a planned ground transportation hub at Airport Boulevard and 96th Street. That would cost about $3.1 billion: $1.7 billion for the rail link, and $1.4 billion for the circulator train.”

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