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The problem with Metro's 'people-mover' plan

For Metro, connecting Angelenos to LAX has become a dream as elusive as single-payer healthcare
Metro has built 80 stations since 1990, but you still can't take a rail line all the way to the airport

You don't need to be a mass transit planner to know that in a major city getting people to and from the airport is a big priority. For Metro, however, connecting Angelenos to LAX has become a dream as elusive as single-payer healthcare.

Metro has built 80 stations along 87 miles of track since 1990. But you still can't take it all the way to the airport. Year after year, the transit agency moves ever so closer without connecting the dots — like the Zeno's paradox in which you repeatedly have to cover half the remaining distance but can never quite finish your journey.

Now the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board of directors has signed off on a new station on the Crenshaw Line, at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard. "Officials say the new station will serve as a link to a people-mover system expected to connect a consolidated car-rental facility, a planned ground transportation hub and the LAX terminal area," Laura J. Nelson explained in The Times.

The thing is — with Metro, there is always a thing — the "people mover" doesn't exist. Not only doesn't it exist, it hasn't been started.

Not only has no ground been broken on the people mover, it hasn't been approved. And approval doesn't look like it's coming any time soon. The MTA board "agreed to proceed with further study," leaving passengers a mile and a half short of the terminals even when the new station is built.

Yes, Virginia, this be done. Even long-distance trains arrive directly under the terminals at the airports in Tokyo and Amsterdam. But not in L.A.

Budget problems, institutional sluggishness and bureaucratic turf battles have Metro currently scheduled to arrive at LAX proper in 2022. With luck, some  have predicted actual LAX service as "early" as 2020.  But let's face it,  the odds in favor of finishing a government construction job ahead of schedule is roughly equivalent to those of a talented musician winning a Grammy.

And, anyway, we won't care because we'll be taking our driverless flying cars to our destinations by 2020 or 2023.

It may not seem like it, but the MTA board may indeed have a solid plan — and I suggest it in this week's cartoon. Perhaps they're hoping to save the taxpayers a few billion bucks by doing nothing, and simply waiting for Mother Nature — in the form of seismic activity — to close the last mile and a half between the newlyapproved transit hub and the someday-probably-don't-know-when people mover.

Follow Ted Rall on Twitter @tedrall

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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