Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 30

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ART OF DROUGHT: The Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite National Park as seen on a park webcam this morning. Snow may be on the way for the park today but the photo shows how little of the white stuff there has been to date.

ART OF DROUGHT: The Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite National Park as seen on a park webcam this morning. Snow may be on the way for the park today but the photo shows how little of the white stuff there has been to date.

Are people really going to take the train to LAX? (LA Weekly) 

Reporter Gene Maddeus takes a skeptical look at ongoing studies to connect Los Angeles International Airport to Metro Rail via a people mover. He focuses on two concerns: 1) the Crenshaw/LAX Line doesn’t serve the areas where many airport passengers are coming from to reach the airport, and; 2) therefore the trip to the airport from places such as downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Hollywood, etc., will involve many time-munching transfers.

Example: Maddeus points out it would take 38 minutes via transit to get from 7th/Metro to Aviation/Century, according to Metro. Can’t argue with him about that: it took me 24 minutes on the Expo Line last week to travel between Expo/Crenshaw and 7th/Metro thanks to many red lights courtesy of the city of Los Angeles.

The conclusion to his story:

By now, it should be clear that the Crenshaw Line was not designed with LAX passengers in mind. Instead, it was designed for people who live along Crenshaw and currently take the bus. (Crenshaw is the second-most-trafficked bus corridor in the city, after Wilshire.) Adding an airport connection will not change that fundamental fact.

Jose Ubaldo, the MTA spokesman, said that the agency is considering express service on the Crenshaw Line for LAX passengers. Good idea. Let’s hear more about that. However, if it requires design changes it may already be too late, seeing as MTA just broke ground on the Crenshaw Line.

Bottom line: Everybody wants to be able to take the train to the airport. That would be tremendously convenient, if done correctly. But don’t count on MTA and LAWA to do it correctly. In the real world, the convenient system that everybody is imagining may not be what we end up with.

I think this was a good article with a journalist asking smart questions. I would, however, like to add a couple of points to consider:

•Will the masses abandon their cars to get to LAX via train? Probably not — as evidenced at other airports in the U.S. served by trains. But LAX also serves more than 63 million passengers a year and is also a major employment center. Given traffic in the area, having a transit option for even a small percentage of passengers seems worthwhile — and at LAX, a small percentage could still be a significant number of passengers each year. Here’s the employment density map from the project’s environmental studies:


•The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line that is now under construction is just part of what could be a considerably longer rail line. For example, the line will allow trains to run one day from the South Bay via a Green Line extension under study and partially funded by Measure R. Extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north of Exposition Boulevard is not funded at this time, but is in Metro’s long-range plan. Just getting the Crenshaw/LAX to the future Purple Line would certainly make it easier to reach the airport for many more people near the Metro Rail network.

Finally, I thought Maddeus’ article indirectly attacks another worthy question that will continue to be debated: how much money should be spent on the Airport Metro Connector project, considering all the factors above?


Four alternatives move forward for Airport Metro Connector project — with more study of two other options

Motion seeks to restore two alternatives that would bring light rail directly into LAX terminals

Connecting Metro Rail to LAX: a look at issues currently on the table

More than a fourth of Orange Line passengers may ride for free, study shows (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the two-day fare check in December by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department  that found a 22 percent fare evasion rate one day and a 16 percent rate on the second day. Metro officials say the agency is losing $1 million to $2 million annually in fare evasion on the line and two Metro Board members — Paul Krekorian and Zev Yaroslavsky — have asked for an awareness campaign to teach/remind the public to pay fares as well as a report on the feasibility and cost of adding gates to the Orange Line.

Here’s the staff report that the Times article is based on. In the meantime, please remember to tap your TAP cards at the validators on the platform. If you don’t, you could be cited for fare evasion and this report pretty much guarantees that deputies will be cracking down.

The day we lost Atlanta (Politico)

Snowpocalypse! Photo by William Brawley, via Flickr creative commons.

Snowpocalypse! Photo by William Brawley, via Flickr creative commons.

Interesting story looks at the root causes that saw two inches of snow earlier this week shut down the metro Atlanta area and strand thousands in cars, schools and other buildings. The gist of it: everyone tried to hit the road at once to get home before the snow, balkanized governance over the metro area and not enough transit in Atlanta’s ‘burbs. In other words, it was a sprawlstorm now a snowstorm that tanked Atlanta.

The New York Times also has a strong article explaining the storm, pointing out that allowing tractor trailers with no tire chains on freeways through the heart of the city was kind of dumb — and that city leaders did little because they thought the storm was going to veer south of the metro area.

I’d like to make fun of Atlanta but then I took a moment to ponder what would happen if two inches of snow fell across sprawling Los Angeles County….

14 replies

  1. Connecting the Crenshaw to the Expo line and the Blue Line to the Green Line should be something Metro needs to study in order to reduce the number of transfer needed to get to LAX.

  2. London Heathrow Airport is served by the “Tube” which is the London Underground system. It takes about 45 minutes to travel to downtown London using the system as it stops at many intermediate station on its way. However, there is a second system called Heathrow express and it is part of the British National Rail network. It has underground stations directly below the terminals but runs on the surface outside the airport. It only takes 15 minutes to London because there are no stops. I believe this latter type of system is what LAX needs.

  3. The MTA is to hung up on each line being ran independently, most not even inter connected. If they would build a ramp for instance between the Blue Line and the Green Line at Imperial Station then a new line would be created for the cost of the ramp. Add the already constructed switch going towards LAX and run the line into the airport there would be a one seat ride to the airport from downtown. This is not a new concept, both the Los Angeles Railway (Los Angeles Transit Lines) and the Pacific Electric did this for over sixth years.

  4. Re: Rail to LAX: The focus needs to be on the needs of employees at LAX. A large airport like LAX has shifts starting at most hours of the day and night and if rail can conveniently provide a connection to employee work sites at LAX, that would be very beneficial.

    As for travelers, there will always be some travelers who will find a specific set of rail options beneficial. But they alone cannot support rail use. However, they can be the “gravy” to rail access where the main usage is airport employees.

  5. Who owns the right-of-way that runs mostly along Slauson between Crenshaw and the Blue Line?

  6. Jason Bennett,

    LAX served over 63 million passengers last year, which is six times the entire population of Los Angeles County. You think a bus is the answer to your problems? The situation is only going to get worse as the population of LA keeps growing and more and more people will be using LAX.

  7. I think LA would do a lot better than Atlanta in the event of a storm event. For starters, our streets are in straight lines so there are plenty of alternatives, notwithstanding some geographic boundaries like the mountains. The terrain is much flatter and almost all arterial roads have sidewalks so at least if you have to walk ten miles, you are not going to be doing it in the shoulder like you would in the Atlanta metro area.

  8. “Will the masses abandon their cars to get to LAX by train?”
    Back in the late 1980s, the naysayers were telling everybody that the masses would never abandon their cars to ride a trolley line from Long Beach to Los Angeles (least of all one that ran right through Watts and Compton), and that it would be cheaper to pay potential riders to drive the freeways than to actually run the Blue Line. And what turned out to be the only major mistake in the basic design of the Blue Line? Stations that could “only” accommodate 2-car trains.

    The masses would gladly abandon their cars to take a train to and from LAX. If it gave them a fast, convenient ride. In its current planned alignment, the Crenshaw line does neither. Downtown-to-LAX would involve at least one transfer (not including to/from the proposed peoplemover) whether by the Crenshaw Line or by the Green Line, and the only difference the Regional Connector would make would be to reduce LAX/Union Station from 2 transfers (Red/Expo/Crenshaw or Red/Blue/Green) to 1 via Blue and Green. Crenshaw would still be a 3-seat trip (Red/Expo/Crenshaw or Blue/Expo Crenshaw).

  9. Rail to the airport is glamorous but overrated. The FlyAway busses we have now are much better solutions for the entire area, but because they’re not sexy, they’re not supported and advertised. Imagine if we had rail-like stations and signage around the FlyAway, and promoted them as THE way to reach LAX from all over the city. Add in a dedicated exit from the 105 and 405, and you’ve got an awesome solution that no one wants because it’s just a bus.

  10. That LA Times story about the Orange Line bugs me, because the headline isn’t at all accurate when you read the article. It says 12% had no TAP cards or valid fares – the rest were people who had valid passes or fares and had just not tapped. While I understand that it’s important that everyone should use their TAP, that second group of people are *not* riding for free.

  11. I made this post in another The Source article, but the concern of “involving more transfers to LAX by dragging heavy luggage” is not a big issue as people claim it to be.

    If anything, it’s there’s a potential to start up a new business by an aspiring local entrepreneur. Create a local-to-LAX luggage delivery business.

    1. Drop off your luggage at a 24 hour FedEx/Kinkos the day before your flight. Pay $5.00 per piece of luggage
    2. Go to LAX using Metro luggage free
    3. Pick up your luggage at designated luggage pick up area

    On the return,

    1. Drop off your luggage at designated luggage delivery booth. Pay $5.00 per piece of luggage.
    2. Go back home using Metro luggage free
    3. Luggage gets delivered to your home

    They do this in Florida because of all the people heading out to cruise ships and Walt Disney World.

    Upon Google checking, it seems they also do this in Japan too.

    Even more Google checking, it seems we already have this thing called Bags VIP

    See, whatever problems and concerns there are, all you need to Google and you have your answer to your problems.

  12. What happened in the Atlanta metropolitan area was an absolute joke. After reading the story from Politico, the Atlanta-area government, not Atlanta itself, is the reason for the mess. Coming from New York City (Bronx to be exact) where even two feet of snow does not stop the Big Apple from functioning, a couple of inches of snow basically shut down a metro area of six million people–AND OVER A MILLION MOTORISTS! What wasn’t mentioned in Politico (nor on TV) was that MARTA’s subway system was one of the few transportation modes that WAS working that day. Granted they had extensive delays, but the Red, Blue, Green and Gold lines were running, which was something the million-plus drivers of the Atlanta region could not say.

    As far as rail to LAX, I’ve mention this in other posts and I’ll write this again: Any rail connection to LAX is better than none. I’m pulling for y’all guys at METRO and LAWA to find a way to bring light rail, people-mover, or a combination of both to one of the largest and most used airports in the world.