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Opinion

Editorial: Should we let public transit riders cut to the front of LAX security lines? Absolutely

LAX security lines
Holiday travelers line up for security screenings in Terminal 7 at LAX.
(Los Angeles Times)

Here’s a perk for public transit users that just might help fight the trend of declining ridership: Let travelers who take the bus or the train to Los Angeles International Airport cut to the front of the airport security lines.

That’s the idea being explored by the city of Los Angeles. It’s inspired by Boston’s “Ticket to Skip” program, in which people who take a shuttle bus or ferry to Logan Airport get priority access to TSA security lines. Travelers who take mass transit still have to pass through metal detectors and have their carry-ons X-rayed, but they don’t have to wait long to do so. Considering how tedious and time-consuming some security lines can be, this is a real advantage for transit riders.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield proposed the idea as a way to ease the notoriously bad traffic congestion around LAX. After all, the more people who travel to the airport on mass transit, the fewer cars there will be to clog the horseshoe-shaped terminal and the roads leading into the area.

It could also boost ridership on the Metro “C” Line (formerly known as the Green Line), the new Crenshaw Line train, which is slated to open this year, and the variety of bus lines that serve the airport, including the LAX Flyaway Bus. After ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft were permitted to serve the airport, ridership on buses and shuttles plummeted.

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And, frankly, it’s about time public transit riders got some perks.

Transportation planners spend a lot of time wringing their hands over the nationwide trend of declining transit ridership. And they’re right — it’s a real environmental and mobility problem when people choose to slog away in carbon-spewing, traffic-clogging single-occupancy vehicles rather than use more efficient, environmentally friendly public transit.

But for many people, taking the bus or train is a choice. Transit agencies need to realize they are operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and they’ve got to deliver high-quality, convenient services — and some incentives — to keep riders and attract new ones. Offering priority access to airport security lines is a comparatively cheap and easy way to entice people to try mass transit.

Front-of-the-line service is also a more egalitarian way to discourage driving to LAX than, say, congestion pricing. A common complaint about express lanes, toll roads and other pay-to-drive initiatives is that they allow the wealthy to buy their way to faster travel. But transit is affordable and accessible, and virtually anyone could take advantage of the incentive to bypass the security line.

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And, major airports already allow certain fliers priority access at security, such as first-class passengers and travelers with “Elite” status in an airline mileage program. Why not let the hoi polloi join VIPs at the front of the line? That’s one surefire way to make mass transportation to the airport more appealing.


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