LAX: Airport officials express ‘strong commitment’ for light rail station
By Gary Walker
Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) authorities announced Dec. 17 their “strong commitment and desire” to have a Metro light rail station connection into Los Angeles International Airport.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be exploring the possibility for such a station at LAX later this month.
LAWA officials believe an airport-owned property west of Sepulveda Boulevard in Westchester, on the east end of the Central Terminal Area within LAX, is one possible option for a direct nexus onto airport property with the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Other proposed options include an intermodal transportation facility in the vicinity of Economy Parking Lot C or Manchester Square in Westchester.
Airport officials believe the stations could have a direct connection to a future automated people mover system that would bring a “high level of service and connectivity” for passengers at LAX.
During a recent meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, LAWA reported that it has “substantially accelerated planning work and coordination with Metro staff to evaluate the best interface of our (airport) facilities with transit.”
Craig Eggers, the chair of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa’s Airport Relations Committee, welcomed the news that airport authorities would like to have a light rail station that goes into LAX.
“I’m thrilled,” said Eggers, a Playa del Rey resident. “Anything that can be done with ground transportation other than a Rapid Bus is good stuff.”
LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey told The Argonaut in a Dec. 6 interview that she strongly backs having light rail come into the airport.
“I’m a big believer in transit connections with airports,” Lindsey said. “What we are doing is acknowledging that the MTA is building a (Crenshaw Line) station at Aviation and Century (boulevards) and we will connect with that station – there will be a circulator.”
The airport director reiterated that the site that LAWA officials think would be a good end point for the light rail line would be close to an area near the administration tower at the Central Terminal area.
“We could not be more supportive of a very good, robust connection between light rail and the airport,” Lindsey added. “I feel like that means that you should get it as close to the airport as you can. Airports more and more are going to become transfer centers for people’s lives, and the more modal connections that you can tap into at an airport the better.”
County officials feel that federal representatives have an important role to play in making the Crenshaw/LAX Line connection to the airport happen.
“Not only is it necessary, but I am also very pleased to support this proposal and I will do everything that I can to work with our officials in Washington on this project,” pledged Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Westchester).
Proponents of light rail have been calling for a connection into LAX for years.
“I am thrilled that Gina Marie Lindsey and Los Angeles World Airports are dedicating various sites for a decades-overdue airport/rail connection, and I praise her and the hard-working Metro team led by Roderick Diaz and Cory Zelmer for working together for such a worthy cause,” said Ken Alpern, who chairs the light rail advocacy group, the Transit Coalition.
Alpern had previously been critical of Lindsey’s views on light rail entering LAX, citing statements in a transportation blog that quoted her as expressing more support for a rapid bus instead of a light rail connector.
The transit advocate noted that the public has supported having a Metro Green Line connection to the airport as well but there would be a cost for having it go into LAX.
“The taxpayers favor this project as much as any transportation-related project that has been proposed for this region and state, but they should be under no illusions about the price,” Alpern cautioned. “Whether it’s an indirect Metro rail/LAX people mover connection at Century/Aviation or a more direct Metro rail station in the Central Terminal Area, the cost to the taxpayer will be approximately $1.5 billion or more.”
Eggers thinks that it was inevitable that airport officials would eventually publicly back a connection with light rail to LAX for many reasons.
“I think it was a matter of time for this to happen,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine anything happening without this being a key component of (airport modernizations).”
Alpern, who is a member of the Mar Vista Community Council, thanked two county supervisors who are also Metro board members for their support of a light rail connector to LAX.
“I am equally thrilled that Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas are so supportive of an expedited connection to be built by 2020, and look forward to their efforts to work with the city and county of Los Angels., as well as with Sacramento and Washington (D.C.), to fund this worthy project,” said Alpern, who also co-chairs Council District 11’s Transportation Committee.
Knabe submitted a motion at the Metro Board of Directors’ Oct. 25 meeting, asking for a “detailed strategy” for a transit connection to the airport by 2020.
“Frankly, it’s embarrassing that the second largest city in America with the third busiest airport still does not have a direct transit connection,” the supervisor told the board. “While Metro talks about accelerating projects, there could not be a higher priority than connecting our airport to all regions of Los Angeles County.”
Metro officials are expected to report back to the board on Knabe’s motion at its Jan. 24 meeting.
The Federal Aviation Administration would be consulted on building such a connection to LAX. Other agencies that the FAA recommends that airport officials consult with include the state and local transportation departments and the Federal Transit Administration.