Opinion

Braving LAX for holidays? Have hope, in 10 years it's going to be a nice airport

L.A. needs a world-class airport now

The Los Angeles Airport Commission voted Thursday to move forward with a $4-billion plan for a people-mover train that will carry passengers through the airport and connect with a rail station and rental car center.

The timing for the vote couldn't have been better. This year when holiday travelers arrive at LAX and find an utterly unpleasant experience -- traffic jams on the arrival and departure decks, confusing shuttle pickup and few convenient transit options -- airport officials can honestly say, "We've got a plan to fix it."

LAX has been ranked among the nation's worst airports in terms of customer satisfaction. It's dingy, disconnected and dull. Airport officials have begun to address those long-standing problems. There are a bunch of new restaurants and stores, and construction is underway in all terminals as part of a major modernization effort.

It’s about time. Los Angeles politicians always talk about building “world-class” things. Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wanted a world-class transportation system. Councilman Joe Buscaino wants to turn a 100-year old-pier in San Pedro into a world-class urban marine research center. Councilman Curren Price wants to transform the old convention center into a world-class convention center. Councilman Jose Huizar wants to legalize L.A.’s world-class street food scene.

All of those are great, noble ambitions. (Except, maybe the convention center. Do we really need to spend millions of dollars for exhibition halls and meeting rooms?) But the first thing visitors from around the world see when they arrive in Los Angeles is an outdated, dysfunctional airport. LAX is the one city facility that really should be world class. Or at least presentable.

The plans call for an automated people mover to connect passenger terminals with a consolidated rental car center in Manchester Square, new pickup and drop-off areas and Metro’s planned Crenshaw Line station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard. The idea, as CurbedLA explained, is to help people avoid getting “trapped in that terrible horseshoe road.”  

Airport staff will begin environmental review on the transportation system next month. Construction is scheduled to start in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2024.  The commission also approved the construction contract for the $1.25-billion midfield concourse that will add 11 passenger gates. 

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