How We Roll, April 19: the new train to the plane in Denver

Reminder: there’s a community meeting at 6 p.m. tonight in Palmdale about Metro’s potential ballot measure. More info here.

Things to read whilst transiting: 

•If you need proof that apes will one day surely rule, look no further than Buzzfeed, which actually has a post about what’s trending on Amazon. If apes do come to power, btw, it should be noted that I have been a consistent sympathizer and am well qualified to oversee their blog, The Banana.

•For riders who would like to engage their brain, here’s the list of 2016 Pulitzer Prizes, with links to the various pieces of journalism that took home prizes. The Los Angeles Times’ Steve Lopez was a finalist for an outstanding series of columns on locals here struggling to find a path in our economy.

Provocative article with some provocative ideas (ban the lottery!) in the Atlantic about why Americans have become so bad at saving money.

No justice for Mr. Spaghetti, the fake dog who won a real contest. Warning: adult language. It involves transit. Sort of.

Art of Transit:


How the Denver-DIA train will change the metro area forever (Denver Post) 

Photo: RTD.

Photo: RTD.

Okay, ‘forever’ is a bit of a strong word. But good article that starts with the information that most people care about: “Twenty-three miles. Thirty-seven minutes. Nine dollars. That’s the distance, the duration and the price of a one-way trip between Union Station and Denver International Airport.”

Then later, this:

Denver joins fewer than 20 cities in the United States — among them Seattle, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis — with a train to the airport. But Denver’s line has advantages over most of the others, Goetz said. The high-speed electrified commuter rail (the A-Line can reach a top speed of 79 mph), has only six stops between Union Station and DIA to slow it down, and it pulls right up to the airport without the need for a people-mover, shuttle bus or lengthy hike to get from baggage claim or check-in to the train platform.

For those not familiar with Denver, the airport was built in the prairie far to the east of downtown. The train is basically commuter rail — similar to Metrolink, thus the greater speeds. It will be interesting to see what kind of ridership it generates. My hunch is the line will do well although it sounds like the walk between the airport train and light rail at Denver’s main hub — Union Station — is a long one.

Related: We have a project in the works to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line to a people mover that LAX is building. Sure, the one seat ride in Denver is great but let’s remember that LAX is closer to DTLA and other job and population centers than Denver International. When our system is built out, I think a lot of people will be able to get to LAX via Metro Rail in a manageable amount of time and a good price.

Transit spending expected to boost the L.A. economy by $81 billion (Daily News) 

The numbers were included in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s State of the City address. Excerpt:

This past week, Garcetti included a study commissioned by the MTA in his annual State of the City address that projected how much the current voter-approved Measure R would benefit the five-county Southern California region. The study was conducted by the L.A. County Economic Development Corp.

Over the 30-year life of the tax measure, the MTA said Friday in a news release, its projects will contribute 426,980 jobs and $80.7 billion in economic output, while total spending on proposed highway and transit projects would be at least $51.1 billion.

A lot of the money is generated by revenue spent by construction firms and taxes paid for materials and by those with jobs, according to the LACEDC. Metro, of course, is considering a potential ballot measure that would raise the countywide sales tax by a half-cent for 40 years and continue the Measure R sales tax another 18 years. That would raise an estimated $120 billion, with a lot of those funds being pumped back into the local economy via transportation projects and jobs.

Five myths about Los Angeles’ Metro system (LAist) 

LAist recently asked its readers why they don’t ride mass transit. They received hundreds of answers and some of them, it seemed, provided reasons with factual info that was wrong.

To its great credit, LAist tries to debunk those myths (yes, you can load a TAP card online). The one caveat I’ll add: all Metro buses do have bike racks. But we can’t guarantee there will be space for your bike, especially on the busier bus lines. It may help to have a Plan B if the bus either doesn’t run frequently or the bike racks are filled.

How public transit can thrive in car-obsessed cities (mySidewalk)

This is an article all about Los Angeles. It begins with a pretty cool map showing all the bike, bus and rail routes in L.A. — it’s a pretty impressive amount of coverage. The article concludes that half the battle of gaining ridership in L.A. involves letting people know the transit system exists and where they can go on it.

Can’t argue with that. On the rail side, that’s not too hard. On the bus side, it’s more of a challenge as bus lines operated by Metro and others can resemble a bowl of crooked spaghetti when mapped.


26 replies

  1. I’m not sure people realize why getting a train to Denver Int’l is much easier than LAX. Denver has basically one terminal building that serves all the airlines. Once you arrive and check in your luggage, you pass through security and get onto a people mover which then takes you to the gates. So there is a people mover. Denver’s advantage is merely that people do not need to haul their luggage on the people mover, which LAX will soon have because of the remote check-in. Demanding Metro to serve every single terminal building at LAX is really difficult and inconveniences all the riders of the Crenshaw line who are not interested in flying, which I suspect will be the vast majority of commuters on that route.

    Denver also has a rather centralized downtown area and the logical design choice is to connect Union Station at downtown directly to the airport. LA is much more dispersed. Even then, for someone to come from the Denver Tech Center area, where a lot of high-tech companies are, would require ~45 mins on LRT plus 37 mins on commuter rail to the airport which, adding transfer time, takes longer than 90 minutes. It’s not all flowers and roses here.

  2. Maybe no one in Bob’s world won’t take the Crenshaw Line to LAX but, I think a lot of people will utilize the line to get to and from LAX and other points along the line.

  3. The key paragraph in the Denver Post article is this:

    This means that we are no longer competing with Dallas and Chicago, but we are now competing with Zurich and Paris and other international airports.”

    Metro had a corridor that ran from LAUS to LAX, but it will now be the Crenshaw Line and a Bike Path. Los Angeles “World” Airports could have allowed the Crenshaw Line to be tunneled under the airport terminal complex as was done *after September 11th* at Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport. But because of being beholden to the (now dying) Taxi Monopolies, and due to politics (although can you imagine the opportunities a train that would stop enroute like Denver’s and provide quick access to LAUS would provide to the communities in South Los Angeles. It could have also been a first electrified FRA compliant line into LAUS. Or, trains could have been through routed from other Metrolink/Amtrak Surfliner destinations to LAX via LAUS. But since the vision thing is severely lacking here, we’ll get to trundle out Expo and then go down into the Crenshaw underground station by where Earlez Grill used to be, then change to a people mover. And you think L.A. is going to get the Olympics?

  4. If we could electrify Metrolink and make it more like Denvers A-Line that would be “YUGE”. We could add more trains, more stops and get it running more frequently for longer hours. But I guess that’s impossible since it shares tracks with freight. 🙁

    • Not impossible at all in the USA. Maybe in Transporthole Los Angeles, but in Denver, the trains on the new A-line are FRA complaint because they will share part of the route to DIA with freight trains.

    • Even though we electrify Metrolink is still have a problem, Metrolink does not serve most of the part in LA. Metrolink riders only travel to in/out DTLA only, it is not that much efficiency. Better focus on other new high-speed electrified commuter rail, including West Santa Ana Branch and San Gabriel Valley Line. I noticed that OCTA is proposing to built a streetcar system near Santa Ana. It is not worth it to construct streetcar system and waste money. Focus on adding high-speed electrified commuter rail to help LA for future transportation.

  5. How about adding a high-speed electrified commuter rail into Metro system in the future? Plz do not only focusing on building the light rail and BRT system because they have limited capacity and narrow space in the car. Look forward to having the first modern commuter trains in LA in decades, West Santa Ana Branch Corridor; Union Station – Santa Ana station, and the San Gabriel Valley Line; Vermont/Sunset station- Union Station – Ontario Airport via Alhambra subdivision freight tracks.

  6. The transit that goes to LAX now is actually pretty good. The shuttle from the Green Line is free, frequent, designed for luggage and stops at every terminal. The FlyAway bus from Union Station is comfy, quick, designed for luggage and stops at every terminal. There are several local bus lines that take you to LAX as well. Look at this map:

    Transit does not just equal trains. Sometimes buses do the job just as well or better than a train. There is an unfortunate cultural prejudice against buses which can really cause people to miss transit options that are staring them right in the face. Yeah, some buses in low-density areas have bad service frequency and are therefore inconvenient, but in many many parts of LA the buses are actually really convenient. Why pay out the nose to park at LAX, when you can take a bus or ride hail to the Green Line to the free bus? If the 105 ever gets toll lanes the FlyAway bus will be even better than it is now.

    Metro can build trains, but it shouldn’t have a train fetish. Don’t forget to show some love to your bus system and promote what’s already out there. Sometimes the way it gets talked about you’d think there is no transit to LAX today and that just ain’t the case!

    • Yes, but as the Denver Post article pointed out, Denver has that already, in fact they have a far more extensive system of Over the Road Coaches to all parts of their region. FlyAway runs the same type of Coach to Van Nuys and LAUS only. The other routes are run with cheap rattling truck-conversions. A very low quality experience from the low-bid contractor who registers the buses out of state depriving California tax revenue from a for-profit operation. As the Denver Post article state, Denver is about to join the big leagues of world airports like Tokyo, Frankfurt, Zurich and Paris with full-size (FRA compliant in the USA) rail service coming to the airport.

  7. In the San Francisco Bay Area, both BART and CalTrain stop at SFO.

    In Chicago, last Fall, I rode into town from O’Hare on the CTA Blue Line. Just walked from baggage claim to the “L” stop, changed trains at Clark/Lake so I could go one more stop on a Loop train (which wasn’t worth the trouble, even if I was trundling a dreadnought suitcase), then walked from State/Lake to the hotel. Sure, it took close to an hour, with all the stops, but it was only $2.25.

    In Boston, I can transfer directly from the terminal circulator bus to the “T” Blue Line, then transfer directly to a Green Line train (any branch will do) to the Copley Square station, only half a block from my hotel.

    In Washington, DC, the Metro stops right at the terminal building at Reagan, and they’re working on service to Dulles.

    On the other hand, in New York City, the rail service to the airports is lousy.

    • DC’s metro system opened all but the last two miles of their silver line to Dulles last year, plugging the gap with an express bus until the final phase is built. I was there on vacation last summer, and the ride into the city does take a while – but airfare was cheaper than flying into National.

    • Really? LIRR to Jamaica and change to AirTrain and I can be at my terminal at JFK in about 45 minutes from Penn Station.

  8. Agreed. The thought of a four-transfer ordeal from a terminal to downtown or Hollywood is just mind boggling.
    * Conveyance from terminal to “people mover”, PM to Green. Green to Expo. Expo to Red.

    Metro’s current plan to connect LAX by rail is a big fat joke.

    • It would be people mover to Crenshaw/LAX Line to Expo to Red. Let’s face it: we’re in a big area. Transit to LAX may work well for some people, not so much for others. I think the key is to have a lot of options, ranging from rail to the Flyaway to buses, shuttle vans, ride hailing, taxi, etc.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • It would be a lot better if the Crenshaw Line were connected to the Purple Line which would happen under R2. That would allow people to get to Century City, Beverly Hills, Westwood, as well as Mid-Wilshire and Downtown pretty quickly.

        • Hey Matt;

          I very much agree. I think getting the Crenshaw/LAX north of the Santa Monica Freeway is key to connecting residents to employment and educational opportunities along both the Expo Line and Purple Line.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

      • Somebody needs to think this through. Both Metro and LAX are making a huge investment in airport rail transit – they need to optimize and rationalize this investment.

        Virtually 100% of the Crenshaw line passengers will have to transfer at its terminus at Exposition Blvd. Not only is this transfer inconvenient because the Crenshaw line stop will be underground whereas the Expo Line is at surface grade, but the grade-level Expo line towards DTLA is inefficient as it nears Downtown and is unlikely to handle the increased traffic.

        It makes much more sense to directly connect the Crenshaw Line with the Purple Line because the latter is better equipped for high passenger volumes, and serves a greater variety of communities, including Beverly Hills, Westwood, Hollywood and West Hollywood.

        It boggles my mind that we are going to construct the Purple Line extension without any idea about where and how it will interact with the Crenshaw Line.

        Convenience, predictability and reliability are essential for airport travelers. I just don’t understand why Metro planners are refusing to connect some very obvious dots until more than 40 years from now.

    • Most large airports do have people movers to circulate people around. It would have been nice to have a light rail station at the Park One site (next to Terminal 1) but then you would get people complaining about transferring to a bus or walking from Terminal 1 to, say, Terminal 4 in the southwest corner.

      • But LAX is actually a fairly compact airport. The walk from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4 takes maybe 10 minutes?

  9. If we’re talking in the neighborhood of $9 each way, I can already get from Union Station (as well as other locations) to LAX on a one-seat ride on the Flyaway for that much (not to mention no stops, someone else loading and unloading my luggage, and free wifi).

    • @Bridget I live in both CO and LA (work, long story), and I can explain that most people on the Denver Airporter buses don’t pay the full $9. K12 students and seniors pay $4.50 or qualify for very low cost passes. College students don’t pay anything ( Most large employers partly or fully subsidize RTD transit passes (Ecopass). Even entire neighborhoods can vote to get NEcopasses for astonishingly low prices of <$100/person per year. Mainly tourists pay the full $9.

      I can ride the 'Flatirons Flyer' bus between Boulder and Denver (20 mi) with the Ecopass or $4.50. It runs roughly every 5 minutes on weekdays. Even though it is not rail, it zips 60 mph in a dedicated bus lane while blowing by stop and go traffic. I can take my bike on all buses.

      Transit-wise, LA is not where Denver is yet. But I can hope.

  10. The mistake-in-the-making on LA’s airport train is where it terminates: the corner of Crenshaw and Exposition Blvds. This is a destination for no one and the Expo Line is not well-suited by location, capacity or speed to handle the transfers. Metro should immediately be looking into how to connect this airport train to the high speed high capacity Purple Line and this should be done before the Purple Line extension is completed. I cannot believe how short sighted we can be even in our long range planning.

    • Hi Bob;

      One of the projects that would receive funding in the potential ballot measure is a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. In the 40-year draft spending plan that staff released in March, that project has a targeted completion date of 2055-57.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Steve — Thanks for getting back to me. But 2055-2057 ?? All I can say is Oy! That’s certainly a long time (and not in my lifetime) to be waiting to get by rail transit from LAX to the Wilshire subway. I know that there is lots of competition for Measure R2’s resources, but a reliable direct (i.e. no-transfer) connection from LAX to heavy rail should be a very high priority.

        We’re creating a gaping missing link here by not phasing the northern extension of the Crenshaw line so that it can directly hook up with the Purple Line as quickly as posslble. This will maximize our transit expenditures, promote Metro’s goal of connectivity and best serve the traveling public. The projected 2055 completion date is about 30 years too late.

        • Hi Bob;

          At this point, it’s still a draft spending plan — we’ll see what the Metro Board does in June. I wouldn’t be surprised if some things get moved around, but I have no idea of any particulars. And as someone facing a rather significant birthday soon, I hear you loud and extremely clear on the late 2050s thing. Then again, as far as I know no one has definitively proven that the fountain of youth does not exist! 🙂

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

    • “The mistake-in-the-making on LA’s airport train is where it terminates: the corner of Crenshaw and Exposition Blvds. This is a destination for no one and the Expo Line is not well-suited by location, capacity or speed to handle the transfers.”

      I disagree. Not everyone who needs to go to the airport will be getting on an airplane. An army of people work to keep the air traffic (of both people and goods) flowing. The salaries for these jobs will not pay rent on the purple line. Crenshaw/Expo station is a viable commute alternative for people who work at the airport.