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Will LAX people mover be a game-changer for travelers using the airport? L.A. hopes so

Will LAX people mover be a game-changer for travelers using the airport? L.A. hopes so
The City Council has approved nearly $5 billion to build and operate a people mover at LAX. (Los Angeles Times)

After decades of debate and failed plans, it appears L.A. will soon finally have a rail link to Los Angeles International Airport.

The new people mover system comes after numerous aborted rail plans, including a bullet train from LAX to Las Vegas, another high-speed rail line from LAX to San Diego and the Green Line, which was supposed to go to LAX but never did. L.A. has fallen behind many other American cities when it comes to mass transit options at its main airports.

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Here is what we know from the pages of The Times:

What exactly is the people mover?

The train is expected to begin service in March 2023.

It will stop three times in the center of LAX's arrivals and departures area, with moving walkways to connect travelers and employees to each terminal.

East of the airport, the trains will connect to a ground transportation hub for shuttles and taxis and a Metro rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard. Reaching a terminal from the Metro station should take less than 10 minutes on the train, airport officials said.

At the end of the line, near the 405 Freeway, the people mover will stop at a consolidated car rental facility, eliminating the need for the lumbering rental car shuttles that account for 1 in 5 curbside boardings at the airport.

The people mover will connect to the rest of the Metro rail network via the Crenshaw Line, now under construction. From there, riders can access downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Pasadena and other communities covered by Metro's rail lines.

Why has this taken so long?

The idea of connecting LAX to some type of rail line has been around for decades. But these plans faltered due to funding issues and political opposition.

In the early 1970s, there was a plan for a train that would have linked LAX to the San Fernando Valley. That plan would have had a train depot at the Sepulveda Dam area with possible future links to Palmdale, Pasadena and beyond.

At one point, the idea was for the high-speed "Air-Cushion" train to go all the way to Las Vegas, traveling at 300 mph.

But the plan died.

In the 1980s, there was talk of a privately financed bullet train through LAX and on to San Diego. That didn't go very far either.

Why doesn’t the Green Line go to LAX?

The original Green Line design drafted in the 1980s included an LAX extension.

But Metro officials couldn't decide where the station should go inside the terminal complex and cut the project from their 20-year plan.

Ultimately, the project ran out of money when the price tag on the 20-mile Norwalk-to-Redondo Beach line tripled. Further complicating plans, the Federal Aviation Administration worried that an extension of the Green Line, which is elevated south of the airport, might interfere with airport navigation and runway sightlines.

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For years, the Green Line became known as "the train to nowhere."

How hard is it to get to LAX?

A study published this year by the travel app Travelbank ranked all major airports in the U.S. It used an index that includes the time it takes during morning rush hour to get to the terminals from a nearby metropolitan center on public transit and in a private car, as well as the cost of taking Uber and public transit for the trip.

LAX ranked 21st out of 23 airports in the study, which found that it takes 33 minutes to get to the airport from downtown L.A. via transit and 50 minutes by private car.

An Uber ride costs $40 from downtown Los Angeles, the study said.

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