Study on better connecting LAX to Metro Rail to be considered by Metro Board

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It’s one of those planning questions that’s only — and I say ‘only’ sarcastically — several decades old: how to improve mass transit to Los Angeles International Airport?

A study to answer that question may soon be underway. The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday is scheduled to vote on a contract of about $4.7 million to STV/PB-ConnectLAX Joint Venture to conduct environmental studies for a transit project to connect the Green Line and Crenshaw/LAX Line to the terminals at LAX.

As the Metro staff report states, some of the alternatives to be considered — but not limited to — include light rail, bus rapid transit and an automated people mover. The city of Los Angeles agency that runs LAX is already studying a people mover as part of its airport modernization plans.

The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will stop at Aviation and Century boulevards, to the east of the airport grounds (see the above map). It’s closer to LAX than the current Green Line Aviation/LAX station, but still about 1.8 miles to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The Crenshaw/LAX Line will also allow westbound Green Line trains from Norwalk to turn north and continue to the Aviation/Century station on the new Crenshaw tracks.

A project to connect the Green Line and LAX was included in the list of projects to be built with Measure R funds — in fact, state elected officials from the South Bay and Westside wouldn’t have let Measure R go to voters without it.

It’s also a closely watched project outside of Los Angeles: At a recent field hearing in Westwood, Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), who chairs the House’s transportation committee, recently spoke of his great desire to travel to and from the congested LAX area by train.

Mica is also in a position of great influence: the next federal transportation spending bill has to pass muster with his committee. Metro is seeking to have that bill include language to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects by having greater access to federal loans and other financing.

32 replies

  1. Most of the posted comments about the BART/SFO connection are misleading, if not outright incorrect.
    There IS a direct link from BART into SFO. The station is located on the departure level (not the basement) of the international terminal. But SFO also has an automated peoplemover system that connects between the domstic/international terminals and the airport’s parking garages. So a passenger taking BART to SFO but destined for one of the domstic terminals simply exits the BART sttaion and takes an elevator to the people mover level, then takes the automated tram to the desired airline stop. It’s SOOOOOO easy even a caveman could do it.

  2. @Bob

    First of all, giving priority to shuttles over cars is only a bandage solution to an ever growing problem. The fact that LAX is a mess with traffic jams is because how poorly it is designed and how badly it’s manage to handle any traffic.

    You have all these redundant buses that goes to the same place. Why is there even a bus for Hilton LAX and another one for the Parking Spot Century when they are literally right next door to each other? Why can’t we use say the G Shuttle that takes me to Aviation/LAX station as a terminal connections bus when it makes stops at every terminals anyway?

    You have pedestrian walkways with traffic signals that clogs up traffic at the busiest curve: the T3-TBIT-T4 area is always packed with shuttle buses, taxis, private automobiles, police cars, and even TV crew vans all trying to squeeze in and out.

    Now everyone says that they need a people mover to every terminal. No, all one needs is to demolish the central parking structures and build one or two rail stations there so it can be accessible to all terminals from the center. LAX’s terminals are laid out on an inverted U shape. Just put a inside the U and you get a visual image of what I mean. One or two train stations in the middle of the “U” could easily serve as a train station that links every terminal.


  3. I am amused by reading all the comments. This isn’t an airport with one central terminal or even two — it has seven terminals (not counting the Imperial Ave. terminal), so it’s similar to JFK and Newark. Both of those airports use people-mover systems and trips at both airports take a long time, particularly if you are at the last stop. The only logical rail solution at LAX is to build an elevated light rail line on a straight line from the Aviation/Century Blvd. station into the airport with long walkways to reach the terminals. But whether that’s worth the money is open to serious debate. Better roadway traffic management that gave priority to shuttle buses over private cars would accomplish the same thing as building a people mover that ran to all seven terminals at a fraction of the cost. One advantage of building a rail line would be that it could start at the Aviation Green Line station, stop at Aviation/Century and then proceed west. I agree with one comment that such a spur would also be the time to extend the Green Line east to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs rail station so it can connect up with Amtrak and Metrolink trains and provide one-stop train connections from Orange County to LAX.

  4. In addition to sfo, chicago (CTA) also connects to its ohare airport (and midway). Seattle and Portland also have direct rail connections to their respective airports. Having used both sfo BART and CTA midway. The SFO extension by its nature is really not much different from the ohare or midway CTA extensions in terms of usefulness and application. And people aren’t suggesting that having CTA rail at ohare is not practical. With the SFO extension, it did not “reduce” ridership, that doesn’t make sense as it simply added stations therefore its SOME more people, it just did not get nearly the ridership it should have. But the actual airpot station has pretty good patronage, its just that the other stations like San bruno, South san francisco, and colma do not have very good ridership, but that should not discount the benefits of having bart to sfo, it just could have been done better. But I do agree that they messed up the connection to Caltrain.

    With LAX, a people mover connection might be better than direct service due to placement of the airport in the metro area and since it would involve making a major detour into the airport from the main line. JFK is a good example of a not direct but still robust and fast connection to mass transit. Then again, if people SEE the LRT right there in front of the airport terminals, they may very well want to use it more and will see that LA has some rail transit to use.

  5. When making a people mover, LAX needs to also consider whether to position it pre-TSA (like JFK’s AirTrain) or post-TSA (like DFW’s Skylink) and if the people mover will be bi-directional.

    This makes a huge difference when making connecting flights.

    Right now, it’s a pain in the butt as it is to make a connection at LAX because none of the terminals are link together behind security.

    If one arrives at T5 and have to make a connecting flight that departs from TBIT, one has to get out of T5, wait for the uni-directional terminal connection bus that goes T5-T6-T7-T1-T2-T3-TBIT (or just walk from T5 to TBIT), and reclear security again at TBIT.

  6. One thing to understand about SFO is that most BART passengers have to take the people mover after they get off BART. BART arrives in what’s essentially the basement of the International Terminal. If you’re going to any other terminal you need to get onto the people mover.

    During the planning process for extending BART to SFO, some people argued for an off-site terminal connected by a people mover to all terminals. Elected officials, however, insisted upon a station in the airport.

    The commuter rail train serving Philadelphia airport stops several times at different terminals, which is convenient, but slows down the service.

  7. Demolishing one, if not all of parking lots in the central terminal area at LAX are another thing that’s a must. LAX has limited space to expand; we need to put land space at the airport to better use than parking lots.

    There’s plenty of public and private off-site parking lots outside of the airport so the land space for those on-site parking lots at LAX could be put to better use like expanded terminal space.

    People walking to/from those central parking lots with pedestrian crossings and traffic signals just add up to more traffic jams anyway.

  8. What must be done is extend the tracks rom the Century Aviation Station with a stop at the City Bus Center and then underground under the airport exit road with 3 stops: Terminals 1 and 7, Terminals 2,5 and 6, and Terminals 3,4 and the Bradley International terminal. The less changes people have to make the more riders. No connections to the line,rather the line goes right to the airport. Moving sidewalks would transport passengers directly to the terminals

  9. So has anybody considered connecting the other end of the green line to an Amtrak/Metrolink station (maybe Fullerton)? That would make getting to LAX from OC and San Diego so much easier! As much as I like trains, I really don’t need to take a tour of the entire metro rail system everytime I to go the airport.

  10. When designing an airport transit system, don’t forget that airport employees are a primary constituency. SFO neglected this when BART added a surcharge to the airport extension. All the employees now take a union-sponsored shuttle bus from the first station outside the airport to avoid the premium-price tickets.

    The Century/Aviation station is perfect because it is right amongst all the hotels and other airport-related services where it can be used by the service employees. They are likely an even greater source of transit ridership than passengers given their demographics.

    • @SuperMonkey — I had to approve your comment because it made me chuckle.
      Contributing writer, The Source

  11. I like the automated people mover option at Century/Aviation as well, it works well at DFW and other airports. The hub at Century/Aviation is a good idea and it should also be designed to accommodate 2 additional rail lines. One line going along Sepulveda Bl to UCLA and via a tunnel to the SFV (as proposed by the Transit Coalition) and the other going along the Harbor Subdivision to Union Station (possibly Metrolink?).

  12. This study is long over due and what ever comes out of it, a system needs to be built ASAP

    The companion to this study is an express service form Union Station to LAX is going to be needed. Union station is becoming the regional transportation hub for LA. With Metrolink, Amtrack, Light Rail, the subway and soon the California High Speed Rail all terminating or passing through union Station an Express shuttle service needs to be studied now.

    Weather it is a dedicated Light Rail system (as proposed in the Harbor Subdivision Study) or a special Light Rail Vehicles that uses existing (or soon to be installed) tracks and just doesn’t stop at intermediate stations, something needs to be developed ASAP to get the flying public from Union Station To LAX in the quickest time possible with out having to worry about the bus (i.e. Flyaway) getting stuck in a traffic jam.

    With all the development that is being planned in the downtown area an Express means of commuting will be needed soon.

    It takes about 10 years for any transportation project to get conceived, reviewed, designed and built, we need to start on this NOW.

  13. The people mover sounds like the best bet. When will the city’s study to modernization the airport be completed? I would like to see where the people mover route would in the airport. Is there raw land to build a transit hub at Aviation and Century? Would the MTA have to purchase the land to build a hub at the Aviation/Century location? I’m thinking the parking lot where the Green line now drop off passengers might be the best place for a transit hub.

    • Hi Warren;

      The plan is to build a transit hub at the Aviation/Century station and, in fact, Metro received a $1.45-million federal grant last year to design such a hub. As for a people mover route, nothing is defined yet. But one obvious path would be to follow the current horseshoe road into the central terminal area at LAX.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  14. The reason to choose a peoplemover is to avoid diverting the Crenshaw and Green Lines two miles west into the airport. The vast majority of passengers on both lines will not be going to LAX, and so diverting these lines to the airport would be very bad for both lines.

    The current plan – of having the Crenshaw and Green Lines “cross” at Century/Aviation, connecting to a peoplemover – makes a lot of sense.

    By adding a peoplemover at Century/Aviation, LAX-bound passengers can easily transfer at that station and go directly to their terminal. A peoplemover can be designed specifically to get people to the terminals, in a way the Green Line cannot: it can make tighter turns and make frequent stops at each of the terminals.

    Also, the current plan makes it much more feasible to extend the Green Line north into Westchester and beyond. Building a northern extension of the Green Line from the LAX terminals would be much more difficult.

    No system is transfer-free. Especially in city as spread out as Los Angeles. So it’s all about priorities. I think the peoplemover plan makes the most sense.

  15. I think the people mover should be just fine. From what I heard JFK airport has a people mover and it works fine. Also the BART extension into SFO had suffered for having subpar ridership. I’m not sure if that still is the case.

  16. APM would be the preferred option. 1. The service can be much more frequent than a full blown light rail because it will have less distance to cover. 2. I have been to airports in Portland and Atlanta. I had a great time using their rail transit systems because they are so close to the airport. They encourage people to use that service. Not to mention, it is inexpensive! Hate driving to the airport because of the humongous parking fees and crazy traffic. Taxi and shuttle vans fares are just out of control. 3. Boston also has a decent rail connection to the airport but I had to take their outdated high-floor shuttle bus for that. With a heavy luggage on hand, the bus connection (BRT) really kills any motivation for using public transit.

    A world-class city like LA is badly in need of a rail connection to the LAX. Other cities already have this great amenities available to travelers. Why can’t LA? Shame on LA bowing to the parking and taxi monguls for the past decades; but it is never too late to bring the APM to us now.

  17. Anything less than full access is a failure in long term planning. The connection which needs to be looked at first is the Expo/ Crenshaw interface. Patron friendly??? No. One must transfer from one line to the other. The LAX/ Crenshaw interface should take the passagers to the air terminal. We ahve all been to cities where this exists. This design makes you WANT to take the light rail system.

  18. Joel, BART to SFO is a horrible example to uphold for transit access to an airport.

    That BART extension actually managed to reduce transit usage.

    Only a few thousand people a day use the Colma to Millbrae/SFO extension.

    Meanwhile, in order for San Mateo County to pay for that extension, it took it out of operating hours for samTrans bus service. The first year it happened, samTrans lost something on the order of 40,000 boardings.

    The local bus service has went from pretty bad hourly service to many local routes operating a few runs a day, like in deeply rural areas.

  19. Great! I’m just back from San Francisco where BART comes right into the international terminal at SFO. Great connection and outcome. Years ago when this battle was being fought, SFO, like LAX now, resisted the idea of letting BART into the airport arguing a people mover to the BART outside of the airport proper made sense. Thankfully, BART and reason prevailed.

    Happy to see Metro looking at this but personally hate the people mover option. The public should push back against LAX going with this substandard option and advocate for a real rapid transit link that gets people from the terminal door both to downtown and to somewhere on the Westside, like Westwood, fast. Otherwise, the system is not going to carry the traffic it should and needs to.

    My two cents on this from last week:

  20. I also certainly hope its not BRT. A people mover is MUCH more appealing to travelers as a means of airport transport. Its smooth and its grade separated. For some people the thought of connecting to a bus would make them not want to use public transit at all to get to the airport. Plus knowing how the orange line currently works, BRT would just get caught at intersections because it will inevitably not get signal preemption like usual. Connecting the green line to the terminals directly or via people mover is the way to go. Otherwise it will be a missed opportunity. SFO did it so there is no reason LAX cant.

  21. One of the thing that Metro should look at or consider is what happens beyond LAX.

    If this spur is constructed as light rail (as opposed to people mover), we can put a rail station under the central terminal area (CTA), and this spur can form the first leg and first station of the Green line extension to Santa Monica via Lincoln Blvd. But of course I understand the Lincoln Blvd extension is really low on Metro’s priority list but it is worth thinking about for the long term.

    Green line: Santa Monica to Norwalk with a proper LAX CTA station.

    Crenshaw line: Mid City to Torrance.

    The two line will cross at Century/Aviation.

    Under this alignment, Century/Aviation becomes like another 7th Street Metro Center – it becomes a as a major transfer station for both airport bound people as well as South Bay to Westside commuters.

  22. One thing they could do right now is to start consolidating the redundant shuttle buses that clogs up the traffic at LAX. You have a shuttle bus that goes to the Parking Spot in Century and another shuttle bus that goes to Hilton LAX right next door to it. And these shuttle buses makes stops at every terminal, yet you cannot use them as terminal connections because there’s another shuttle for that. All these redundant buses add up to more traffic which otherwise could just be consolidated into one longer bus.

  23. I certainly hope its not BRT. The fact is is that a people mover is MUCH more appealing to travelers for use than a bus which is still, well, a bus. It would not be much better than the current shuttle service if it was BRT and would be a wasted opportunity. Go rail or people mover. LAX is one of the largest and busiest airports in the entire country, lest actually bring it up to modern standards. SFO did it and so can LAX!!!

  24. I’m thinking a peoplemover might make the most sense.
    First of all, you’d want to have multiple stops. Certainly you’d want stops at several of the terminals, and at the consolidated car rental lot (another thing that LAX badly needs) and if possible, at some other location, such as one of the many hotels in the area.
    All of those extra stops would be a hindrance to light rail. If you wanted a light rail line from the South Bay to the Westside, it would do no good to have to stop at too many places.

    Secondly, it’s obviously what LAX wants, and it couldn’t hurt to play nice, especially as they’ve made noises in the past about even getting light rail close to the airport.

  25. While there are many options to consider, i think there is really only one solution. To build a major station at Aviation/Century (Like 7th/Metro or perhaps a westside union) where the green and crenshaw meet but, upstairs will be an easy transfer to a people mover system like JFK or SFO. I don’t see it working any other way. Bringing light rail into the station might be too difficult and too costly though i assume that’s why it is going to be studied. BTW I am curious, what major airports use BRT as their airport terminal connector? Or is that just on the list so that it can be eliminated…i hope.