Art of Transit:
Speaking of LAX….
Some interestingness burped out of Los Angeles World Airports last week about a project that always inspires some wing-flapping on this site: the automated people mover that will run between the LAX terminals, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, a new ground transportation center and a new consolidated rental car center.
Among the highlights from the LAWA staff presentation:
•With an aggressive schedule, staff believes the project can be environmentally cleared, procured, built and be in operation in 2023.
•Metro is working to accelerate and identify the funding needed to build the new station along the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will allow riders to transfer to the people mover.
•The people mover would be 2.25 miles long, 50 to 70 feet above ground and include six stations. The plan is to have trains running every two minutes with nine trains running simultaneously. Platforms would be 40 feet wide — much wider than Metro rail platforms, btw — to give riders elbow room and accommodate luggage.
•There will be moving sidewalks in the walkways between the stations and the airport terminals. Those walkways will also be used for people walking between terminals and the parking garages at the terminals.
•That means that pedestrian crossings of the very busy horseshoe road can be eliminated. Also, the consolidated rental car center and new ground transpo center are excpected to eliminate the shuttles that create congestion in the horseshoe.
•Metro is working to accelerate and identify the funding needed to build the new station along the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will allow riders to transfer to the people mover. The project’s formal name, btw, is Airport Metro Connector. Also, one project being discussed in Metro’s potential ballot measure for 2016 is a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX to the Purple Line Extension and possibly beyond. That could make it easier for more people to get to the airport via Metro Rail.
•The airport is seeking to build the project as a public-private partnership. How it works: firms will bid on the project. They’ll design it and build it at their expense and then after it opens receive an annual fee from LAX with the terms to be determined (staff says a typical arrangement is a 30 to 35 year fee). The idea is to give the builder incentive to keep costs in line and get the project open asap so they can start collecting the fee — which also depends in part on their ability to keep the people mover in good working order.
Attentive readers know that public-private partnerships are oft-talked about in transit circles but not as often executed. So it’s intriguing to see LAX take the PPP route. It’s also worth noting that next spring the Denver RTD will open a new 22-mile rail line between downtown Denver and the airport, and the project was partially funded as a PPP. Attentive readers know that the former chief of the RTD, Phil Washington, is the current chief of Metro.
All in all, I think it’s safe to file this one in the Department of We’ll See. Getting the LAX people mover done by 2023 sounds do-able to me and I think it helps that the mayor of L.A. — who hires/fires the head of LAX — has a very vested interest in the project, given that L.A. is competing for the 2024 Summer Olympics. That said, it’s a project that requires building on top of existing infrastructure in a very trafficky part of our region, and that strikes me as Very, Very Challenging.
How important is downtown? (Human Transit)
Mentioning Houston and L.A. as examples, transit planner Jarrett Walker argues that funneling all transit into one downtown area doesn’t match what many cities have become with many job and residential centers across the region. This isn’t just true of the Sunbelt in the U.S., Jarrett argues — it’s also true in places such as Paris and the Netherlands.
So growing a single downtown isn’t the key to becoming a great transit city. Quite the opposite, it’s best to have a pattern of many centers, all generating high demand, and supporting balanced two-way flows between them that let us move more people on less infrastructure. This is the great advantage of Paris or Los Angeles or the Dutch Randstad over Chicago or Manhattan.
So remember: when it comes to the efficiency and abundance of transit — or roads for that matter — “downtown” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For transit, big clumps of density and walkability are great, but several are better than one.
In the city of Los Angeles, planners for decades have been pushing the multi-center approach. From 1970:
If you think about it, such a plan makes a lot of sense in a big, sprawling region — in theory, at least, it puts a lot more jobs and other commercial centers near a lot more homes.
The problem here has been that a lot of the development occurred either before or without the accompanying transit system needed to tie it all together. Remember: voters four times in the 1960s and ’70s rejected transit plans before Prop A, Prop C and Measure R were approved in 1980, 1990 and 2008, respectively, to raise funds for transit projects.
I’m not saying that voters were always wrong — the plans often flawed — but those losses at the polls meant that rail transit here intended to get people long distances didn’t really start until the 1990s with many of those centers still underserved or unserved today (see: Century City). Measure R is addressing many of those gaps (R is helping fund the Purple Line Extension to Century City and Westwood, another job center) and the potential ballot measure to raise the countywide sales tax that Metro is considering for 2016 could close more of those gaps.
Please see this recent post for more info on the ballot measure and draft lists of some of the projects that could be funded. The Metro Board will decide next spring or early summer whether to put the ballot measure before voters.
The op-ed points out that many USC students already own bikes and tend not to use them for long-distance travel. It also questions whether there’s adequate bike infrastructure to persuade people to use the bikes in SaMo and downtown L.A., where Metro’s pilot program opens next year.
Fair enough questions but I’m not sure that bike share — or anything — really has the capacity to fundamentally change L.A., as the headline implies. The name of the game, I think, is to provide L.A. County residents with an array of transportation options so we don’t have to drive everywhere, which means traffic would go from bad to worse.
Nov. 20: how to address all the short trips county residents, more reaction to Reason Foundation’s traffic plan.
Nov. 19: the Reason Foundation’s $714-billion plan to fix traffic in Southern California.
Nov. 18: A new mobile fare app in S.F., scramble crosswalks and aerial tram (using airplane bodies) proposed between Vegas and L.A.
Nov. 17: can transit beat traffic, electric cars and total global emissions, fossil fuel programs vs. climate goals
Nov. 16: L.A. transit vs S.F. transit, a cartoon car neatly explains sprawl, traffic and parking woes and determining the environmental impact of Uber and Lyft.
Categories: Transportation Headlines