Building a better transit option to LAX

Passengers wait for a Green Line train to stop at the Aviation station, near LAX.
Passengers wait for a Green Line train to stop at the Aviation station, near LAX.
(Los Angeles Times)

Building a light-rail line directly into LAX would be expensive and would pose security risks, yet that hasn’t stopped advocates from keeping the idea alive.

Thursday, after an acrimonious debate, the Metro board of directors agreed to do a bit more analysis on how much it would cost to build light rail directly into LAX and how many people would ride it. But as of now, Metro’s environmental impact report will focus on options that stop the Crenshaw Line 1.5 miles from the airport and use a people-mover or type of monorail to shuttle passengers to their terminals, Laura Nelson reported.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, along with Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), have said that not extending the train to the airport would repeat the mistakes of the past. That’s a reference to the Green Line, which stops a couple of miles short of LAX, forcing passengers to get off the train in the middle of nowhere and take a bus the rest of the way to the airport.

But is it really so important for the train to stop directly inside the airport, as opposed to stopping at a transit facility a mile away? Either way you’ll have to get on a people-mover to get from the train stop to your terminal. Is it worth spending an extra $2 billion to build a train station at the airport versus an intermodal transportation center a mile away? What matters most to passengers is convenience and cost.


The biggest problem with the current Green Line stop is not the distance from the airport; it’s the fact that you have to get down from the platform, wait at the curb, haul your luggage into a usually too-crowded bus and then try and figure out where you’re supposed to get off. It’s neither convenient nor easy.

Plenty of other cities have train stops away from their airports. Newark Airport, for example, has a three-mile monorail system from the New Jersey Transit train station to the terminals. It’s a pleasure to ride. The Bay Area Rapid Transit System is building a three-mile automated train to carry passengers to Oakland Airport, replacing a bus connection.

Perhaps Ridley-Thomas and fellow advocates are overcompensating for the Green Line’s failure to reach LAX and the fact that the connection is so awful now. But as long as the new connection is built relatively quickly and gets passengers to the airport with the least amount of stairs, luggage hauling and transfers, that should make up for the mistakes of the past.


Asian Americans and the ‘model minority’ myth

Iowa Rep. Steve King lays an egg on the farm bill

What to do about the RV guy on my Brentwood street

Follow Kerry Cavanaugh on Twitter @kerrycavan and Google+