Politics

Metro Board approves new stop tying transit system with LAX

A traveler pulls his bags while walking past an LAX sign at Los Angeles International Airport on Nov. 1, 2013 in Los Angeles.
A traveler pulls his bags while walking past an LAX sign at Los Angeles International Airport on Nov. 1, 2013 in Los Angeles.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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The Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with a plan to connect the L.A. International Airport with the Metro transit rail system. Paris has it, New York has it, even Phoenix has that kind of connection — but L.A.'s been left out of the club to date.
 
The plan would build a rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard — a new stop on the Crenshaw/LAX Line already under construction, 1.5 miles east of the airport. The station would be a connection to a monorail-like people mover system at LAX.

A map of the "people mover" L.A. World Airports could build that includes a proposed new L.A. Metro rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves on the Metro board, called the vote a historic opportunity to fix a symbol of failed transit planning in the past.
 
“Every great city has a train to the planes, and has an easy way to get around the airport that doesn’t depend on cars,” Garcetti told KPCC after the vote. “The buses and the limos and cars that choke up the central terminal [at LAX] are kind of a metaphor with what’s wrong with transportation planning in L.A.”
 
The success of this plan to address that depends on LAX’s commitment to building a $1.5 billion automated people mover (APM). Another Metro board member, L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, raised questions about the wisdom of building the rail station if LAX doesn’t follow through.
 
“This will be a beautiful terminal to nowhere should we not have an APM,” Knabe said, and asked for more of a guarantee from Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the agency that oversees LAX.
 
“I understand your concern about no guarantee,” said LAWA head Gina Marie Lindsey in response. “What I can tell you is that we’ve got very big problems at the airport that don’t get solved if the APM doesn’t get built. “
 
Lindsey’s agency is still studying the best routes for the people mover, which would connect airport terminals with transit and a consolidated rental car facility. She said it would help reduce vehicle traffic around the airport. LAWA hopes to have a more definitive plan for the system by December.  
 
“Waiting for the airport and Metro to finally connect has been sort of like the play ‘Waiting for Godot,’”  L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin said.

Bonin, Garcetti, Knabe and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also proposed a list of amenities to make the proposed rail station a welcoming and convenient place for passengers:  concourse areas, minimal walk distances between the metro trains and the people mover, public Wi-Fi and the potential to check in baggage.

“To make this work, this can’t just be another train platform,” Bonin said. “This is, in terms of function and scope, much closer to Union Station than to the Culver City Expo Line Station.”

The new station would cost an estimated $200 million, the Associated Press reports, and Metro officials say the people mover can be completed as early as 2022. The Crenshaw/LAX line is slated to be finished in 2019.

This story has been updated.