$200-million station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard would link to airport via automated ‘people mover’

By Gary Walker

Councilman Mike Bonin points out the big disconnect on L.A.’s public transit map

Councilman Mike Bonin points out the big disconnect on L.A.’s public transit map

The days of stepping off a train to wait for a shuttle bus to LAX — or just begging friends for a ride — may soon be over, and with it some of the traffic gridlock associated with the airport.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors last week approved plans for a $200-million light rail station in Westchester that would serve as the nexus for an automated “people mover” to and from airport terminals.

The Metro Crenshaw/LAX line stop at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, about 1.5 miles east of LAX, would also connect to ground transportation and rental car hubs using what has been described as a monorail-like system.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas — each on the 13-member Metro board — backed the LAX station plan that was adopted unanimously on June 26.

“It’s embarrassing to be known as the second-largest city in America with the third-busiest airport that still requires travelers to get to the terminals by car or a shuttle from the nearest rail station. We’ve spent decades trying to find a solution to one of Los Angeles County’s biggest regional transportation issues, and the process has been frustrating at times,” Knabe said.

While calling the vote a promising beginning, Knabe said the plan must still find support from the city-appointed Board of Airport Commissioners, which governs Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the agency that oversees LAX

“Though this is a major milestone, we must be wary of the hurdles we still need to clear. Metro must continue working with LAWA and the Board of Airport Commissioners to ensure that a people mover will be constructed and that we won’t be stuck with a state-of-the-art rail station to nowhere,” he said.

LAWA officials did not return calls for this story.

“We will need to stay vigilant to ensure a first-class passenger experience remains the top priority for both Metro and the airport, but this is a giant step forward,” said Bonin, who campaigned last year on the promise of seeking a light rail connection to LAX.

Bonin noted that the Metro-approved concept shared many of the elements of his earlier LAX Connect plan, which would have had trains stop at an intermodal transportation center constructed on airport land.

A Metro study concluded, however, that ridership numbers would increase and construction costs would drastically decrease under the current plan to connect the airport to a light rail station via a people mover.

“By incorporating many of the ideas that made LAX Connect so appealing — passenger amenities, easy and convenient transfer, co-location of other forms of transit — at the 96th Street station, we are truly creating the world-class airport connection that Angelenos want and deserve,” Bonin said.

The plan approved by the Metro board is “the best and most realistic compromise that we can hope for at this time,” said Mar Vista Community Council member Ken Alpern, who also sits on a special council district transportation committee convened by Bonin.

The station is the second Metro-approved Crenshaw Line stop in Westchester. Another at Century and Aviation boulevards has already been approved, and funding is being sought for a possible stop at Hindry and Manchester avenues.