By Gary Walker
Travelers who lament that light rail and commuter trains spanning the region don’t connect up directly with Los Angeles International Airport may have an ally in L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
Bonin, who represents the area, is proposing a new transportation hub in Westchester that would reduce vehicle trips to LAX by linking light rail to airport terminals via a “people-mover” conveyance system.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to start construction next year on an 8.5-mile, roughly $2-billion Crenshaw light rail line that would pass within 1.5 miles from the airport, according to the agency.
The project, funded by county Measure R sales tax proceeds and a federal loan, is slated for completion in 2019.
Bonin unveiled his LAX Connect proposal for an intermodal transportation center near the intersection of 96th Street and Sepulveda Boulevard on Oct. 30 at a community meeting in Westchester. He recently traveled to Washington D.C. with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss the plan with federal transportation officials.
“I am very eager to talk about this because it is absolutely essential to get the Metro [light rail] system connected to airport,” Bonin said during the meeting. “It is my number one priority.”
Los Angeles International Airport officials at last week’s meeting presented slides illustrating Bonin’s proposal to link the Metro Green and the Crenshaw light rail lines to the transport center, where travelers could then board the people-mover.
In Burbank, a similar plan is underway at Bob Hope Airport. Its regional intermodal transportation center is slated to have an elevated moving walkway for transporting rental car customers, rail and bus passengers directly into the airport’s passenger terminals.
“The LAX Connect Plan is the ‘betterment’ to the Metro Green and Crenshaw/LAX Lines that we’ve demanded for years or even decades,” said Mar Vista resident Ken Alpern, co-chair of the Transit Coalition, a mass transit advocacy organization. “It’s the best compromise we have between competing needs to access LAX from both the west and the east, and from both the north and south.
“For the Westside, it is especially nice in that it avoids having bus routes or a future Westside Green Line extension up Lincoln or Sepulveda boulevards that would force Westsiders to divert as far east as Century and Aviation [boulevards] only to then have to double back west,” Alpern said.
LAX officials said during the meeting that the airport would put funding toward a transportation facility along the lines of Bonin’s proposal.
Finding a way to connect mass transit to the airport has vexed lawmakers for decades.
In October 2012, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe called on Metro’s board of directors to develop a detailed strategy to connect rail 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,” Knabe told the board at the time.