SUPERVISOR DON KNABE has submitted a motion to explore methods of bringing a light rail connection into Los Angeles International Airport.

For years, transit enthusiasts have been advocating for a Westside bound light rail train to connect to Los Angeles International Airport.
Much to their delight, Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe recently offered a proposal that would set in motion a regional connector to the nation’s third busiest airport.
Knabe’s Oct. 25 motion at the Metro Board of Directors meeting asked for a “detailed strategy” for a transit connection to the airport by 2020. It also asks the Metro CEO to report back with a plan, including exploring funding alternatives with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) as well as with local, state and federal partners and public-private partnerships.
LAWA is the entity that owns and operates LAX.
“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.
“A direct connection will not only benefit our residents, but also the millions of tourists who visit Los Angeles each year.”
Ken Alpern, who was recently reelected to the Mar Vista Community Council after stepping down two years ago, said having one of the light rail lines connecting to LAX is essential for the region to become more of a transportation hub.
“I’m grateful that Supervisor Knabe recognizes that this is such a high priority,” said Alpern, who is the chair of Council District 11’s Transportation Committee.
The supervisor, whose district includes the LAX region, said he thought it was a good time to test the waters regarding bringing a nexus between light rail and LAX, a regional and international hub.
“This is probably one of the most important things that we can do as far as having a mass transit system that is truly a regional connector,” Knabe said. “There are a lot of people who have an interest in seeing that happen.”
Knabe’s motion, which was approved 7-5, includes a timeline and required actions, such as an advocacy approach for coordination with federal agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.
Westchester resident Denny Schneider, a transit advocate like Alpern, is also in favor of a light rail connection to the airport.
“It’s about time,” said Schneider, a member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa’s Airport Relations Committee.
Light rail advocates contend the completion dates of the Metro Green Line could be fast-tracked with help from county sales tax Measure J.
Measure J extends for 30 additional years the existing one-half cent sales tax that was approved in 2008 when voters overwhelmingly passed Measure R, which is currently set to expire in 2039.
The measure would also fund infrastructure improvements, create jobs by repairing overpasses, bridges and tunnels as well as speed up subway and light rail connection to the airport.
Opponents of Measure J say that without outside finding, any potential Green Line connection is not feasible and will put additional burdens on taxpayers. They also say it will not create any new jobs since Measure R was passed four years ago.
The Green Line extension to LAX/Airport Metro Connector is currently projected for completion in 2035. The Crenshaw/LAX Corridor project, which will include a stop in Westchester, is slated to open for service in 2018.
Measure J proponents calculate that the airport connector project could be sped up seven years to 2028.
There is $200 million for Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan from Measure R. The current plan is to have the light rail system built by 2028 but according to Metro authorities, that is contingent on a financial contribution by LAWA.
Unlike the supervisor, Alpern backed Measure J. “Clearly $200 million for getting the train to LAX is only seed money,” he said. “We need to find more money.”
Schneider, who said he is usually a fiscal conservative, also supported Measure J. “The only way that this happens in my lifetime is with Measure J,” he said. “The (light rail system) will never be effective until it goes to all of the places that we need it to get to.”
Knabe credited the federal government and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Westchester) for backing light rail and her attempts to secure funding for light rail projects that will reach the Westside.
“Support from the federal government is critical,” the supervisor acknowledged. “It’s extremely important and I’m glad that Rep. Waters has worked with us on this.”
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Venice), who in January will represent a southeastern Los Angeles congressional district and former Rep. Jane Harman have also supported Los Angeles light rail efforts.
Alpern criticized Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey and other airport executives for not being more active in pushing for a light rail connection to LAX.
Lindsey has been quoted in a transportation blog as stating that LAWA authorities are considering a busway that could become “some kind of people mover” into LAX.
“Despite Gina Marie Lindsey’s unfortunate regulation of the LAX Metro Connector to a third-rate busway, I think the taxpayers recognize that this is long overdue,” Alpern said.
“If Ms. Lindsey is willing to disrespect the transit planners, it is my hope that she is at least willing to respect the will of the taxpayers.”
Schneider also had harsh words for airport officials, with whom he has battled for decades over the LAX Master Plan as well as a potential encroachment by the airport’s north runway into Westchester.
“I look forward to the day when LAWA gets its act together so that we can have a train into the airport,” he said. “And I thank our elected officials for keeping the pressure on LAWA.”
Knabe said with or without funding from Measure J, he recommends that the Metro board additionally explore public-private partnerships to get a light rail line into the airport.
The FAA is required to approve a rail extension into LAX.
LAWA and FAA officials could not be reached for comment.
Metro is scheduled to report back at the Jan. 24 board meeting.