For L.A., How to Build an Airport Rail Connection That Makes Sense for Passengers?

» Linking current and future light rail lines to the airport will require a corridor extension, the construction of an automated people mover, or improved bus service.

Los Angeles leaders, like those of many major cities, are very interested in improving public transportation access to the airport. Such projects are perceived to be politically palatable transit investments because they are appealing to a wide spectrum of the population, including people — especially the economically influential — who do not usually take the bus or train. Unfortunately, even when they’re built, these connections often fail to live up to expectations. Can L.A.’s planned airport rail link do better?

As part of Measure R, the sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in November 2008 that will dedicate billions to new rapid transit, $200 million was dedicated to the extension of the Green Line light rail to LAX Airport — a project that has been under consideration for decades. Currently, the Green Line runs from Norwalk to Redondo Beach, mostly along the Century Freeway; customers can switch to airport-bound buses at the Aviation station.

But there is no direct rail service into the airport, and buses entering and circulating around LAX’s eight terminals are slow. As a result, virtually no one takes transit: Today, just 1% of air passengers and 9% of employees arrive by public transportation. As a comparison, according to the most recent Census statistics, 7.1% of Los Angeles County residents take transit to work and 11.0% of Los Angeles City residents do the same.* There is certainly room for improvement.

The problem is that there is no obvious answer about how to connect Los Angeles’ rapidly expanding rail network with the airport. Early plans from 1988 suggested running a line beside or below the airport on the way to Marina del Rey, northwest up the Pacific Coast. By the mid-1990s, a $215 million extension would run as a quick spur from the Green Line, where it would meet an airport people mover.

With little progress on those plans, LAX planners promoted a people mover to run to the existing Aviation station in the mid-2000s, but that effort has not yet been part of the airport’s renovation scheme. Meanwhile, the transit agency won millions of dollars in aid from the federal government for its 8.5-mile Crenshaw light rail line, which will run east of the airport by 2018 and connect to the Green Line, but again, not provide direct airport access.

All this leaves L.A. grasping about for a plan. This year, L.A. Metro planners are performing an alternatives analysis on the corridor with the goal of selecting a locally preferred alternative for the route in 2013. All but the most basic route would require more funding than the $200 million currently available, so there is no guarantee that the project will be built this decade; even so, the airport will likely contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in airplane landing fees to the line, so something will probably be built eventually.

Metro developed four basic alignments for the route, as illustrated in the figure at the top of this article. Like the Washington Metro Dulles extension (and indeed most airport links), the agency has two fundamental options: Will it serve the airport directly with rapid transit service, or will it have its customers transfer to a people mover from which they will have access to terminals?

The average customer using the line would save the most time if the light rail line were simple rerouted under the terminal (and this would attract the most new customers), but this would be an expensive and duplicative approach, since it would parallel the north-south Crenshaw Corridor. One obvious question is why the Crenshaw Line wasn’t designed to run through the airport on the way to the Green Line, but it is too far along on the design process to change course now. Other options would provide direct light rail service as a branch from the Green Line or a circulator, either in the form of a people mover or a bus rapid transit line, connected to the Crenshaw Line or an intermediate station.

Of these options, only the intermediate branch idea, with a short light rail line connected to an airport circulator, seems truly out of the question, since it would attract fewer riders, save less time, and cost almost as much as the rail re-routing.

As shown below, Metro has also begun to analyse how the new rail link would approach the terminals themselves. The first three options could be completed by light rail or people mover; the fourth would use bus rapid transit. As the analysis demonstrates, using BRT would be far cheaper, and it would allow people a direct walk to each of the eight terminals (a rail network stopping at each of the terminals would apparently cost about two and a half times as much as a system stopping at just one location, so it seems to have been pulled from consideration). The BRT would be a few minutes slower than the rail system for the average user.

This kind of analysis raises some important questions. With this many terminals, do the two or three stations that are possible with a rail scenario make any sense? Does the flexibility inherent in bus service make things easier for baggage-carrying passengers, or will they be treated to something akin to Boston’s Silver Line, where buses meander between terminals at a remarkably slow pace? Will passengers chose not to use the transit link if it is provided by a bus rather than a rail car? There are no easy answers.

Returning to the original issue, one reasonable question is to ask who might be reasonably be convinced to use this new transit connection if it were built. Consider the following L.A. Metro maps showing concentrations of air passengers and employees:

What seems clear is that while employees live mostly in the neighborhoods around the airport, passengers are concentrated across the westside of Los Angeles, along the Pacific Ocean and along Wilshire Boulevard Avenue. Will the transit improvements as proposed serve them well?

Certainly, simply branching off the Green Line would save time for people coming from the existing route and the South Bay — in addition to people coming from downtown, who will likely be able to get to airport more quickly using the existing Silver and Green Lines than the future Exposition and Crenshaw Lines (because of the larger number of stops on the latter route).

On the other hand, branching off the Green Line would require those arriving on the Crenshaw Line — in other words, people coming from the Westside, where there is a large airport user base — to switch to the Green Line to get to the airport. This will slow their commutes significantly because of the limited frequencies on the Green Line (just every 15 minutes currently at midday). A more equitable solution might be providing a high-frequency people mover from a shared Green and Crenshaw Line station that ensures that whenever a train arrives, there will be a people mover waiting. This forces everyone to transfer but at least there will be little waiting.

Of course, no matter the outcome, this link will not be the end of the conversation about better transit to LAX. None of the solutions proposed will significantly improve airport travel times for most people in the region, and none of them will get downtown within half an hour of the airport, a goal for most cities. Look to places like London and Paris — despite quite significant (and costly) transit links to their respective airports, they’re spending even more to supplement those lines with more connections. And indeed, L.A. planners have in the past mentioned express trains between Union Station and the airport, via the Harbor Subdivision. Satisfaction is hard to come by.

* Those figures, by the way, put Los Angeles (both city and county) near the top of American cities. This is not a particularly car-obsessed city by U.S. standards.

Images above: Comparative data from Los Angeles Metro LAX Extension Project

62 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Jaymes

    Of course, LA already has a direct transit link to Downtown (and several other locations) in the form of the FlyAway bus. Flyaway, which is operated by the airport authority (LAWA) and not Metro, offers a comfortable non-stop ride from Union Station to LAX for about $7. The bus is able to take advantage of the separated carpool lanes on the 110 and 105 freeways, including a direct carpool lane connector at the 110/105 interchange, however, buses are forced to run in mixed traffic for the last mile or two to reach Union Station. If this connection were improved, and a dedicated bus lane were built from the 105 Sepulveda exit to the terminals,Flyway would be able to offer rail-like comfort and reliability for a fraction of the cost.
    BTW, for those of you who have never used Flyaway, it isn’t your regular bus experience, like the Boston Silverline. Flyway uses coaches like touring buses, and baggage is handled by staff who load and unload it for passengers.
    Flyway doesn’t eliminate the need for an improved rail connection to LAX, but even if the Expo-Crenshaw-Peoplemover or Blue Line-Green Line-People mover connections are built, Flyway will remain the easiest way from Downtown to the airport, and it needs to be considered in future planning.

  • Eric

    Looking at the distribution of passenger trip sources, it is clear that demand comes from all directions, not just one. Thus, it is best to have through-running rail, rather than a terminal at the airport. Since through-running rail which directly serves the terminal would be expensive and inconvenient, some kind of people mover is called for at the end. Automated rail or separate bus lane, it doesn’t really matter (though each has its benefits and costs).

    Currently, there are three existing or planned rail branches from the LAX area: 1) The existing Green Line east 2) The existing Green Line south (including the plans to extend it to the South Bay area) 3) The Crenshaw line roughly in the direction of downtown. To these, a fourth line should be added, running northwest parallel to Sepulveda Blvd, to UCLA and eventually the San Fernando valley. These four branches would form two rail lines with a transfer at LAX: 1) Green line: Norwalk-LAX-UCLA-(Valley), 2) Brown (?) line: Crenshaw area-LAX-South Bay.

    This arrangement would provide great access to LAX from four directions, covering all the main trip sources. It would also form an efficient grid-like LRT system covering all of the southwest LA area independent of airport trips. The high ridership on those trips would create high frequency to the airport as well.

  • Miles Bader

    @Eric — Why would through-running rail which directly serves the terminal be “expensive and inconvenient”? Offhand, it sounds very convenient indeed…

    • Anon256

      Inconvenient for everybody who isn’t going to the airport, as they would have to wait for their train to make a circuitous detour with several extra stops at airport terminals.

  • Through-running rail would imply one station at the airport. However, given the layout of the terminals at LAX, I don’t know that one transit station would get rid of the need for circulation amongst the terminals (i.e. you’d still need a people mover or a shuttle of some kind).

    • John W

      True, but if the line was tunnelled beneath the airport, you could at least serve some of the terminals with a one seat ride, with some form of circulator (or a very fast moving sidewalk) providing access to the other terminals from the rail station(s). There wouldn’t necessarily be just one station – if it was aligned longitudinally (or even diagonally), you could have two stations, which could mean four terminals served directly.

      • Regardless of the exact alignment and number of stations, the same problem applies – and it’s an issue with the way LAX is laid out. You have 9 different terminals, none of which are easily walkable to the other.

        Unlike the Dulles project Yonah mentioned earlier (where Dulles only has one terminal – once you’re there, you might have a hike, but you’re inside a building), there’s no particularly good option to do so. LAX might need that sort of people mover anyway.

        Indeed, they’re working on one:
        http://www.ourlax.org/publications/supplemental/SEIS_TR_S02c_People_Mover.pdf

        • Miles Bader

          Still, an underground line down the centerline between the terminals gets people as close as possible. From there, underground walkways with fast moving walkways could get people to the actual terminals quickly and conveniently—and even could be be a good location for more retail…

  • Why did they not include a street-running option for light rail? There’s space on the roads leading to the airport; they can have LRT run there in streetcar mode (since it would be the terminus, the reduced speed is not a problem) or in a fenced median, cutting costs without bustitution.

    • Because LAWA (e.g. the LAX administration) wants a people mover. They are willing to settle for buses for now, but they want a fancy, grade-separated, APM, like the other cool airports have.

      You are right, there is tons of space on the roads in the airport loop and leading in. LRT, with single streetcar-like vehicles, at-grade on the approach (and elevated around the existing loop at the airport), would be not much more expensive than their BRT options.

      Actually, I’m not sure why the BRT is supposed to cost over $100 million. For that price, they should be able to afford at-grade light rail to begin with; it’s only 3 miles.

  • Chris Loos

    Great analysis as usual Yonah. Now that you’ve brought it up, I too am curious why they didn’t just route the Crenshaw line through the airport. Oh well.

    PS It’s Wilshire *Boulevard*. :)

  • Tb

    I personally prefer the underground route with high speed walkways connecting to terminals. This would allow for future extension to the occasionally mooted western terminal complex if ever built, whereas the others would not
    More importantly however, where did you get the maps in the third diagram? Please tell me there are no official plans to divert the purple line northwards through the pass!

  • FG

    Wouldn’t the idea situation be an internal people mover/shuttle (outside security – or maybe both are needed, for between terminals) connecting to one or more transit stations, so that it can be shut down in case of airport “issues” without affecting regular transit operations (or vice versa)?

    • Tb

      Actually I was referring to the previously proposed terminal to be built at the far western end of the airport grounds which would be completely separate from the current airport complex (access via S.Pershing/World Way was proposed). The terminal currently under construction is essentially a replacement for the current Bradley terminal and as such does not require different access infrastructure.

  • Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport’s main terminal is laid out fairly similarly to LAX, though it is set up to have just one unified terminal rather than nine distinct ones. There’s really one main entrance area at MSP at the west end, though there’s a secondary entrance for people who only have carry-ons along a skyway connection between the two long concourse legs that wrap around the parking ramps and access roads.

    The Hiawatha Line station is almost as far away from the main entrance as the Theme Building is from TBIT, and it works alright. The underground passage from the LRT station to the terminal includes a pair of automated people movers which helps shorten the distance, or people who have limited amounts of luggage can just continue working their way upward to reach the skyway. There’s also another people mover at the airport along the concourses on the north side of the terminal, but it’s only accessible after going through security.

    It seems to me that LAX should investigate replacing their shuttle bus system with a people mover and work on making the terminal more of a unified structure, but I’m biased because I’ve grown up with MSP working the way it does.

  • Erik Griswold

    Visual Impact to the Theme Building is an issue? Funny, I don’t recall any discussion about that when the new control tower, the upper roadway or the parking structures went in.

    Oh, I forgot, those aren’t transit structures! Those are for planes and cars, which must be accommodated at any cost. How silly of me.

    P.S. Yonah, the trains have operating cabs at both ends and can be reversed in as short a time that it takes the operator to get from one end to the other. After automation this will be done in under 30 seconds.

  • Forget LAX. It’s been overrun by urbanization and should be turned into a park, with housing.

    Run a high-speed train from LAX, via Union Station, to Antelope Valley Airport (the new LAX). Use freeway corridors, where possible, to keep the cost down. Coordinate with the L.A. – S.F. bullet train route.

    Perhaps security scanning and baggage check-in could be performed in route, so that passengers are ready to board when they arrive.

    Pouring more money into LAX would be a short-sighted decision.

    • Chris Loos

      I’ve lived in LA for 2 years and I’ve never even heard of Antelope Valley Airport. Everyone I know flies out of LAX.

      • Anon256

        There’s currently no such thing. (Well, there’s Palmdale airport, but that currently has no commercial flights.) Jim Smith above is proposing a huge airport in the middle of nowhere, along the lines of Montréal Mirabel, and suggesting that somehow a high speed rail link would make this an economical and attractive option for travelers and airlines (rather than an unmitigated boondoggle like Mirabel).

        Tokyo Narita works something like this, and if land in LA were as scarce and valuable as land in Tokyo then it might be the least bad option. But: 1) People are already wiling to pay a premium to fly out of Burbank (or Tokyo Haneda) for more convenient access to many points in LA; a remote airport would need to have significantly cheaper flights than LAX.
        2) Everywhere in the world, high speed rail tickets for short trips are /expensive/ (since they prevent the seat being sold for a long trip), and air-HSR connections rarely attract a significant number of riders.
        3) For most people in the sprawling LA area, getting to a high speed rail stop will not be much more convenient than getting to an airport.
        4) I know of no cases of checked baggage transfer between rail and air, and indeed checked baggage on HSR is almost unheard-of (there are obvious logistical difficulties with unloading it during a short station dwell time).
        5) LAX has four runways, is well-connected to the freeway network, has a rapid transit line a short distance away and another one planned, has a whole district of hotels and traveler-oriented facilities, and will have more capacity available when HSR starts serving the LA-SF market.

        • FG

          You could build something like Kansai or the new Hong Kong airport in LA, but I think the pacific is too deep in LA. Oslo moved it’s airport (from Fornebu to Gardemoen) way out of town with a high speed link, but the situation is different; smaller city (+/- 1,000,000 population in region), wealthy country with a small income spread, existing airport impossible to expand (on peninsula in middle of urban area), pollution, both noise (Oslo is in a big valley and the planes really echo and flights were banned after a certain time in the evening) and from fuel which caused a strong desire to move the airport. Stockholms airport, Arlanda, is also way out, but the rail came later, it also replaced, like Oslo, a close in airport, Bromma (though they co-existed for many years). The reason they work, however, is there is one airport and the other airports were closed (i.e. the opposite of Montreal). I can’t imagine this being a feasible or economical development – it sounds like Peotone in Illinois, which was the proposed site of the Chicago area’s third airport, now mostly dead from what I can tell (though Metra electric could have been very very very easily extended to it). However, even if you were to build a new airport, it would take so long you’d still have to improve transit to the existing facility and plan for future use of the site. Wow, what a run on sentence…

  • Andrew

    Given that so many people’s trips are beginning on the Westside it would seem that a link to Santa Monica would be extremely useful. The Big Blue Bus 3/rapid 3 links these destinations and could connect to the Purple Line extension in the future. Ultimately though I would like to see an I-405 commuter rail line running through the LA region, since the 405 is extremely congested and has no real mass transit alternative right now. LAX could be one of the stops in a high frequency commuter train running mostly in the median of the 405 from Burbank to Orange County. I can’t see a dedicated link from LAX to “downtown LA” working because downtown LA represents an almost trivial portion of employment and residents in the region.

  • How about PRT

    As one observer noted, there are nine passenger terminals (including international), plus several cargo terminals that employees need to reach. The cargo terminals, by the way, are spread out in three separate areas: Century Blvd., Imperial Hwy., and World Way West, each of which is about a mile from the other. Given this layout, the options that would serve the most riders at the lowest cost would be Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

    Currently, LAX has lots of shuttle buses that get mired in traffic. They have dedicated pickup areas, but not dedicated lanes. Moreover, the air pollution at the terminal entrances truly takes your breath away, even by LA standards! In order for BRT to function effectively, the two lanes nearest to the curb need to be reserved for transit only, and the vehicles need to be electric; otherwise, the service will continue to be hideously undesirable.

    PRT would have the advantage of direct, point-to-point service on demand using relatively cheap, grade-separated guideways. Buses, by contrast, would either be stuck at stoplights or require very expensive grade separations. With roughly a dozen and a half passenger and cargo terminals, several parking structures and transit stations, and a dozen hotels, forcing everyone to stop at each location would make the service terribly slow, and the distances are too spread out to have just one, two, or three stops, even with very long moving walkways sprawling in every direction. London Heathrow Airport has implemented a PRT system, so it is a possibility.

    Unfortunately, Metro did not study either PRT or a real BRT with exclusive lanes, presenting essentially no good options. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that LAWA doesn’t have its act together yet on this topic.

    • Anon256

      I think in the long run airports are one of the more promising potential applications for PRT. But any airport considering PRT would be taking a large risk to bet on such unproven technology. At Heathrow, it took over three years after Terminal 5 opened for them to work the kinks out of their PRT system and open it to the public, and that was for the simplest imaginable system, just a line between two stops.

      Obviously somebody has to be the first to to try new technology. But given the US’s unusually high propensity for construction cost explosions it might be better to leave it to other countries for now, and/or rely on it only for non-critical applications like remote parking lots.

  • John W

    Yes! Elevated PRT whizzing past the Theme Building would look so Jetsons, it must be done.

    And for once, this does actually sound like a practical application for the technology, and future-proofs against any changes such as adding a new terminal that might otherwise be too far from a rail station.

  • Steve

    What are the colored lines on the LAX trip generator maps? They look like a proposed expansion of the LA rapid transit system by someone out of touch with recent plans (e.g. the purple line appears to go over Sepulveda Pass, there’s a southeast extension of the red line, etc.)

  • Winston

    Steve,

    That map correctly describes what is funded by Measure R and will presumably be built (since it’s easier to build funded projects than unfunded ones). The line over Sepulveda pass is the Sepulveda pass transit corridor which terminates at the currently planned termination of the Purple Line. The dotted red line is the “West Santa Anna Branch Corridor.” Both projects are in the “Alternatives Analysis” phase so nobody knows what mode will be chosen, but both have serious money allocated to them. If L.A. is actually successful in getting it’s 30/10 idea through congress then you could see it by the early 2020′s.

    • Steve

      I guess I’m the one out of touch with the latest plans (or at least with the idea that Measure R funded Sepulveda pass transit but not the Purple Line all the way to Santa Monica). Thanks for the clarification.

  • corner soul

    I think a people mover, with both the green and expo line connected via a consolidated multimodal transit station is the best option (short term)… With an eventual extension of the green line under LAX and thru to Venice, and on to the future 4th and Colorado expo station in DT Santa Monica (and hopefully the wilshire subway will eventually be funded thru to the same stop). Sepulveda pass should also connect (but these are all pretty deep into metros long range plan). The end game should be an alternate “Union Station” at LAX, serving the west side. And DTLA will eventually be connected to LAX with a one seat ride via the harbor subdivision ROW.

  • corner soul

    Oops, I meant to say the green and *crenshaw* lines should connect at a consolidated LAX transit hub.

  • Measure R Update

    Yonah’s map is one that some transit advocates designed a while back; it’s not official, but it gives a general idea.

    A more recent concept of how to implement the Measure R projects involves creating a north-south rail transit line paralleling America’s #1 highway in vehicle trips, the I-405 Freeway. The “Metro JEM Line” (JEM = Jobs, Education, Medical Services) eventually would connect two branches of the commuter rail system (Metrolink), Amtrak, Orange Line BRT, Purple Line HRT, Expo Line LRT, Crenshaw/Green LRT, and Blue Line LRT, while serving the two largest universities (UCLA and CSULB), and LAX airport.

    Since Measure R only provides $1.1 billion for two segments of the 405 Corridor, it could only enable construction from Sylmar to Expo with federal New Starts matching funds.

    On another note, the West Santa Ana Branch is now envisioned to only go from the Green Line southeast to the Orange County border.

    Neither of these projects have even reached a preliminary report yet, so what may happen could change dramatically.

  • Chris Loos

    The “JEM” line…that’s cute. I suppose the west side has to outdo the Gold line and Silver line somehow.

  • Matt

    I agree with Mulad, LAX is similar in size to MSP Terminal 1, but MSP is set up where all the concourses are connected into one large building. Granted, the airports serve slightly different functions since I bet LAX isn’t 50% connections like MSP is, so you need more check-in/security/baggage claim facilities. But LAX could benefit quite a bit by connecting their buildings together… separate terminals are so dated!

  • Realist

    I do about 30 round trips a year through LAX. I mostly take a taxi, but I’d much rather be able to take a train.

    1. It boggles the mind that metro will have 2 light rail lines built 95% of the way to LAX. I sometimes wonder what tourists from other countries think when they come to LAX – it can’t exactly dispel their belief that Americans are stupid and car obsessed. LAX has got to be one of the greatest testaments to the power of special interests over logic (I’ve been told it was mostly the shared ride van lobby that blocked the green line going under lax, I have no idea who managed to make the Crenshaw line not go to under lax). Seriously, what transit planner was like you know what, I bet people really want to go to the industrial park two miles south of the airport and not directly to the center of the airport (the green line stop south of lax is usually pretty empty and I doubt the crewnshaw line stop will be much busier).

    2. The problem with BRT is the same problem with the flyaway bus, the bus has to spend at least 15 minutes in traffic just to go around the terminals and load up. LAX is the opposite of most airports, in most airports public transit can enter and leave the airports faster than vehicles… Given how bad traffic is going around the terminals it’s politically impossible that they would give two lanes just to buses, and if they don’t busses are going to be really slow. The walking distance to a center terminal from where people would catch the buses really isn’t that far. One of the nice things about public transit is it can avoid traffic, and buses at LAX won’t ever be able to do that.

    3. Given it’s already been messed up twice, the best option would be to make a train station in the center of the terminals and then to use the Harbor subdivision Yonah linked to create a new rapid metro train line to union station with no other stops. Have the new Harbor subdivision line have a connector to both the green and Crenshaw line and people will transfer off those lines to take the much faster harbor subdivision line to union station as well (from either of those lines it’s already a transfer and a really long ride to union station). The flyaway, as has been pointed out, is nice as far as buses go, but the car pool lanes end a few miles from downtown and after spending 15 minutes going around the airport in traffic, flyaway passengers then have to spend another 15-20 minutes in rush-hour going the last several miles through the heart of downtown traffic to get to union station.

    Given the track record, I’m pretty sure LAX will never have good transit options. It already looks like one of the worst airports in America so it might has well have the worst transit options for an airport of its size as well.

  • kelly

    I think Metro made the right choice in not diverting the Crenshaw line into the LAX. Since the Crenshaw line, a large portion of which will be on the Harbor Subdivision, will combined with the north-south running part of the Green line to form LA’s second major north south light rail line, you can’t have it making multiple stops within the airport. Therefore, most passages would still have to transfer to a circulator. Why not just do that at the Century/Aviation stop, which keeps the new Crenshaw/Green line in the Harbor Subdivision ROW? Since most riders on this line will not be going to the LAX their trips will be more direct. As far as the branch LRT option, isn’t that both more awkward and not much cheaper than the people mover? The question is, will LAWA come up with the billion dollars needed to supplement the measure R money.

    Regarding getting to the Westside, in addition to crossing the Expo line, the Crenshaw will someday (hopefully) reach the Wilshire subway line. It is interesting to note that neither of the two other north-south lines discussed above (the one going past the Marina, and the LAX to Westwood parallel to the 405) are included in Metro’s long-range plan. Which means we that we can’t expect them before 2070?

    As far as direct service to DTLA, you could have a branch off the Crenshaw line on the Harbor Subdivision east of Crenshaw. However, the Crenshaw line will be in a (deep?) tunnel as it turns from the ROW to Crenshaw Blvd. So that would cost a lot and disrupt service on the line.

  • Alon and Yonah,

    Routing Crenshaw Line directly into LAX, though seemingly efficient, introduces several collateral problems, that on the whole point against it.

    If Crenshaw Line traveling southbound extended from Florence-Inglewood station further westbound along Manchester to Sepulveda, then southbound again to LAX, it would have to tunnel under airport runways to connect with the Green Line – expenses would balloon. Another tunnel under LAX runways introduces, in the minds of some, a greater security threat to LAX.

    By sticking with the current configuration on track southbound from Florence-Inglewood to Aviation, Crenshaw Line takes advantage of LA MTA rail rights of way, Harbor Subdivision, at significant cost savings & prevention of legal delay. The MTA stick to contributing $200M towards the Century Blvd APM-Transit Station just outside airport property, while LA World Airports pays for the APM circulator to 8/9 terminals and the Long Term Parking Lot, like O’Hare Airport does. Then LAX would have fewer airport parking buses entering LAX circulator roadway from the top, circulating around to the bottom then back to the parking lot.

    My own preference is that APM circulator be aerial, but I have no basis to argue against tunneling for the APM.

  • Anon256

    I always take the Flyaway bus and it’s pretty good. I’ve not noticed traffic being a huge problem around the terminals. (I find more delays are introduced by the time taken to load or unload passengers with checked baggage at each stop, which is hard to solve without level boarding and lots of doors.) Actually, the vast majority of traffic seems to be buses of one kind or another – buses to hotels, to rental car offices, to remote parking lots, to the green line, etc; with the exception of the last they’re usually almost empty, but have to loop frequently anyway to spare any customers a long wait. Would these all be allowed in a bus lane?

    Really, LAX needs a peoplemover anyway, for transfers between terminals and to replace all those inefficient shuttle buses (some hotels/rental car offices/parking lots could be served directly by the peoplemover, others by shuttles to a transfer stop like Federal Circle at JFK). An automated people mover could serve intra-airport passengers (who would likely outnumber those continuing on transit) much better than a light rail branch.

    The peoplemover would connect to a rail station at Century and Aviation. Crenshaw line trains would all continue south to Redondo Beach/Torrance (providing these areas a decent link to the westside/downtown) while green line trains terminated at Century/Aviation (with the hope of someday extending up Sepulveda/405). Thus the transfer station would have very frequent service but non-airport-bound riders would not be inconvenienced.

  • Nathanael

    It looks to me like a Green Line branch to the airport is the way to go. Assuming worst-case costs and ridership, it performs best.

    The Crenshaw line is being connected to the north-south Redondo Beach branch of the Green Line, surprisingly; this requires building the “missing leg” of the wye at Aviation/LAX, which already has structure for going from the east end of the Green Line towards the north. So let’s assume a full wye is built at Aviation/LAX.

    So run the Crenshaw Line straight south, and run the Green Line north through Century/LAX, then west to the airport. Passengers change trains at Century/LAX.

    The “airport loop” seems worse than the “airport dead-end” line for LRT.

    The choices then are:
    (1) Run down Century Boulevard with separate Green Line platforms at Aviation/Century, or run down 98th St. and share platforms? I have a mild preference for the 98th St. option, but either is fine.
    (2) Aerial into the airport, or underground? It looks like aerial is nearly as good, and cheaper.

    Anyway, the total cost looks to be about $1-2 billion if those options are picked. With $200 million available from measure R and *something* from the airport, this sounds like a plausible New Starts candidate.

    If the airport ever actually decides to build a peoplemover, the plans could be reconsidered.

    If

    • kelly

      Thats a good idea!

    • Anon256

      The trouble with a Green Line branch into the airport is that riders from the Crenshaw Line (which will be most airport riders, coming from downtown and the westside) will have to transfer to the Green Line for one stop AND then face a long walk to their terminal (the worst of both worlds, in some sense). Also, the Green Line is not particularly frequent (currently 15 minute midday headways) and demand along the rest of the line is too low to justify the frequency that would be desirable between the Crenshaw transfer and the LAX station. (Indeed the Crenshaw line itself will likely be more frequent, so timed transfers would be infeasible.)

  • PRE

    I apologize for the snark in advance, but it is nice to know that the BART fiasco to SFO wasn’t as much of a mess as transit to LAX is turning out to be. At least you can get downtown easily and in about a half hour (plus a 20 minute wait after just missing the train). Usually it seems like LA Metro planners know what they are doing.

  • Drewski

    I see the logic of a people mover IF it’s designed to serve the entire airport terminal complex. As long as the people mover is on an elevator-like headway (2 minute range), then I get not running light rail directly into the airport. It could be more convenient to *not* have light rail operating in a circulator mode through LAX, if there’s another mode which maximizes the value of connection without an excursion through a busy airport.

    LAX isn’t likely to be an integrated transportation center like Rhein-Main or Schiphol. It is feasible to build a transportation center east of the airport, at the intersection of the Green and Crenshaw lines, and the convenience of a single-seat trip is easily outweighed by a short transfer which gets travelers closer to their destinations in less time. A people mover isn’t a perfect solution, but given all the complications involving access to LAX, a people mover allows for more options with fewer delays.

    • Nathanael

      I actually agree that a very-high-frequency people mover with stops at all terminals, *and* at car rental locations, *and* at key hotels, *and* at Century/LAX station, would be the best solution.

      But it would also be the most expensive solution. *And* it’s outside the remit of Metro. *And* the airport authority, whose job it would be to build the peoplemover, has been doing precisely nothing to plan or build it for a decade or so. So I just don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.

      Running the Green Line direct from Century/LAX station to a single stop at the Bradley end of the airport will be beneficial whether or not the peoplemover is built, even if it is sort of “express” service. It could always be extended northwesterly under the tarmac after that point if the peoplemover ends up taking over airport-to-train duties.

  • Jean-Luc

    Another important function that a people-mover can serve is connection to a “planned” (or hoped for…) Consolidated Rental Car center. Frankly, a lot of people will still be renting cars and as Anon256 said a lot of the terminal traffic comes from the numerous rental car company (and hotel shuttle) buses.

  • Shawn H.

    In my opinion, to get the most effective use out of a Green Line extention to LAX (which I belive is the best way to go, as opposed to a people mover) is extend it northward along or parallel to Lincoln Boulevard to Santa Monica, to the future terminus of the Expo Line. Besides alievating traffic along the far Westside, it provides a nice option for people living in Playa Vista/LMU, Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica to get around without the hassle of heavy car traffic. As far as a location for a LAX station, why not the Theme Building, since it’s a central location to the rest of the main portion of the airport.

  • Mike O

    Isn’t there already a walkway between Terminal 2 and 6, or something like that? I’s been closed for years, but I bet it’s still there.

    • Nathanael

      You can walk between every single terminal on both the upper and lower levels. It’s just a very long walk to go all the way around the “U”. I don’t know about an “across-the-U” walkway, but I think parking garage construction may have obliterated it.

  • Another idea:

    1. Connect the LAX terminals – they’re close to one another, like adjacent buildings on a city street. A people mover is expensive; stick with moving walkways, extending the existing airside connections between terminals 4-8.

    2. Build a train station at the eastern end of the airport, connected to the terminals via moving walkways. Ideally, check-in should be done at the station, and all onward connections to the terminals should be airside, as at Atlanta.

    3. If possible, run mainline trains from LAUS to the station via the Harbor Subdivision, with a combination of local trains providing LRT service levels with commuter EMU technology, and express trains running nonstop or almost nonstop. There’s room for a timed overtake in the middle, at Vermont, Western, or Crenshaw – pick one and stick with it. This requires double-tracking and electrifying the Harbor Sub and four-tracking near the overtake point, but not grade-separation. The upshot is that HSR could substitute for some of the express runs, providing air-rail connections.

    4. If #3 is not possible, just run light rail to the airport via the Green Line and the Harbor Sub.

    • I still think they’d want a people mover of some sort – even if not a fully automated PM, but rather one of the out-and-back kinds of horizontal elevators driven by cables.

      I’d agree that your #2 would be the ideal layout, but I don’t know that you could get there given the current layout of LAX without completely demolishing huge portions and starting over.

    • Anon256

      As I understand it, one of the main reasons there aren’t currently any concrete plans for the Harbor Subdivision is that it’s too narrow for double track without significant eminent domain.

    • Alon wrote:
      “If possible, run mainline trains from LAUS to the station via the Harbor Subdivision, with a combination of local trains providing LRT service levels with commuter EMU technology, and express trains running nonstop or almost nonstop. There’s room for a timed overtake in the middle, at Vermont, Western, or Crenshaw – pick one and stick with it. This requires double-tracking and electrifying the Harbor Sub and four-tracking near the overtake point, but not grade-separation. The upshot is that HSR could substitute for some of the express runs, providing air-rail connections.”

      Nice idea for an express rail connection via Harbor Subdivision from LAX to LA Union Station. Light Rail running at 60 mph on the route with two overtakes in Inglewoood would suffice. But LA has higher priority HRT and LRT corridors before a LAX-LAUS express LRT. I’ve shared a LA Metro Vision map for LA HRT, LRT, BRT and Streetcars with Yonah. Perhaps Yonah will share it with TTP community once LA Metro opens the LRT Expo Line phase 1.

      With a larger LA Metro Vision in mind, I believe Metro Aviation-Crenshaw Station should be as close to LAX as Metrorail gets. Let LAWA build a frequent service APM in a straight line over the parking structures to the western end (Bradley Terminal) or a terminal circulator. Once the Metro Aviation-Crenshaw Station funding is firmed up for LRT connections East to Norwalk, South to Torrance, North to Crenshaw (and hopefully Wilshire Blvd), public demand will force LAWA to fund the LAX APM.

  • calwatch

    The issue with using the Harbor Sub is that all of these “express train” proposals forget that there is a huge EJ community along Slauson Avenue which would be impacted. The right of way is only 30 feet and must be scheduled around freight trains. The Alternatives Analysis correctly noted that the express and regional (stop every 4 miles) options disproportionally impact low income and transit dependent communities while providing limited to no benefit. This would be a clear Title VI violation. Because of this, any route along the Harbor Sub that doesn’t stop every mile will be a non starter.

    • Nathanael

      I’m not so sure about that. Why not run “local” on Slauson and express east and west of there?

      Any sensible service would need to stop at Slauson/110 for the freeway buses and Slauson/Long Beach for the Blue Line in any case, and it would seem desirable to stop at Florence/Crenshaw as well for north-to-east connections. Add a station at Slauson/Western, and you have provided local service *in the Slauson corridor*, but you can run express both east and west of there:

      LA Union
      (express to)
      Slauson/Long Beach
      Slauson/110
      Slauson/Western
      Florence/Crenshaw
      (express to)
      Airport

      It wouldn’t be desirable for this to be the only route; the connection from the airport to the south is necessary. But assuming that the Green Line is directed into the airport and people still want MORE direct service, this would seem to me to make sense as a route.

    • Sure, which is why they should mix local and express trains on the Harbor Sub. All this assumes full double-tracking, with some four-tracking in the middle for an overtake, but we’re talking something that will serve the affected neighborhoods. My understanding is that it’s a marginal freight corridor now that Alameda’s online, and either BNSF has already proposed selling it or LACMTA has considered buying it.

      They could even build it instead of Crenshaw – it serves some of the same areas, and works way better at connecting to LAX. No offense to the Westside, but Downtown LA is a larger destination and more important connection point for travelers.

      • Anon256

        LACMTA already owns it. But even double-tracking will not be easy. The final approach to downtown (north of Redondo Junction, where Metro ownership ends) might also pose difficulties.

  • mikeeo

    The Harbor Sub idea has merit, but as part of the CA HSR system not a stand-alone commuter train mixing it up with freights on a tiny right of way. HSR should substitute for short-hop air trips, and should serve the major airports (as is done in parts of Europe). HSR from Union Stn to LAX would logically follow the Harbor Sub. Whether or not HSR like that happens, I like the peoplemover or dedicated/separated lane bus from a Crenshaw+Green Line station. I don’t expect many travelers to use the transit connection – ever try using light rail or a transit bus with luggage? – but it could be very useful for airport workers as long as it runs all night and there’s a decent distributor bus around the airport (including freight and GA terminals).

  • Jayson

    I think you should have direct connection from downtown LA Union station to LAX airport. Since Gold, Red, and Purple line is connected. So if a person from Pasadena to get to LAX, the person have to transfer from Gold line, to the Blue Line, and then Green Line.The transfer to LAX seems longer and be a lot more than 30mins travel time. I think metro needs to cut down on the line to transfer to two transfers only.The question is which line beneficial to to get to LAX and cost-effective to built.

    • Anon256

      The main solution this issue is the Regional Connector, which will connect the Blue and Gold Lines directly (allowing trains from Pasadena to go to Long Beach, and trains from Santa Monica to go to East LA). This will most likely be completed before any LAX extension (c. 2018). With the addition of the Crenshaw Line, anybody on the light rail system will be able to get to LAX (or at least Century/Aviation) with only one transfer. Access from the Red and Purple lines will still require two transfers (though there is a distant-future hope of extending the Crenshaw Line up Fairfax to reduce this to one).

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