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Green Line/LAX Update: The Sound of One Hand Clapping

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TRANSPO LA - There are many perceived shortfalls in our transportation system that the voter-approved Measure R half-cent sales tax was supposed to fix, and certainly connecting the Green Line to LAX was one of them.  However, that worthy endeavor is fraught with legal, engineering and financial obstacles—and perhaps the greatest one is that the “Metro Green Line to LAX” Project is not and cannot do what most of us think it will do … because it’s only one half of a necessary two-part process.
And the other half of that process really hasn’t begun.

It must be reminded to anyone reading this, and perhaps new to the whole “why didn’t the Green Line get to LAX” issue, that there will be not one but two light rails that run by LAX, and the concept of making everyone take a huge detour to traverse the loop of the central airline terminals (CTA) is ridiculous.

Without an expensive $1-2 billion project (or more!) of going underground to reach LAX (and a project so fraught with environmental and engineering issues that it would make any sane engineer run away screaming from such an adventure--an adventure that would make the Boston Big Dig perhaps look like a walk in the park), the closest that Metro can now go to LAX is by the publicly-owned Harbor Subdivision Right of Way (ROW).

And that means that MetroRail access to LAX just simply HAS to be indirect, and would connect via the remarkably-located intersection of Century/Aviation and adjacent Manchester Square to the northeast.  Century/Aviation, or Aviation/Century if you will (I’ve even seen it referred to as “A/C”) has been described by transit advocates as a “Union Station West” because it’s potential of connecting a total of four rail lines to connect Downtown, the Mid-City, the Westside, the South Bay and even the Southeast LA County Cities.

A Wikipedia diagram describes the benefits of how the Metro Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line will connect the Expo and Green Lines, and will do so via a $300 million trench that is required by the FAA to ensure the safety of incoming jets and not have the overhead electric catenary wires interfere with LAX electromagnetic operations.  This vital trench was arguably the main reason the Green Line never got to LAX.

But the Green Line was never supposed to go to the central airline terminals (CTA), because it was supposed to proceed beyond LAX to serve the Westside (the North Coast Extension) all the way up Lincoln Blvd. to Marina Del Rey, and/or have another extension to the Crenshaw Corridor and/or perhaps Sepulveda Blvd. all the way to the San Fernando Valley, and/or perhaps the Harbor Subdivision ROW to Union Station in Downtown.

Lots of good north-south rail lines (of which only the Crenshaw Corridor is ensured of being built at this immediate time) to provide alternatives to the nightmarishly-congested 405 and 110 freeways, to say nothing of economic, environmental and quality of life benefits to employers, tourists and commuters alike.

But for those accessing LAX?  They would need to depart off the MetroRail system at Century/Aviation, and proceed westward along that black-dotted line you see in the Wikipedia diagram.  And THAT’S the project that MUST be built by LA World Airports (LAWA), and NOT by Metro, if it’s to enter an airport that’s owned and operated by LAWA.

It’s up to LAWA to determine and approve the routing of ITS transit line, via a LAX People Mover that it will be either a Busway or a rail line, and have virtually no stops or lots of stops to serve the Century Blvd. Corridor and the hotels and businesses on it (who would certainly have to pay LAWA for these stops).

The main goal of the LAX People Mover, however, is to tie the CTA with a future Consolidated Rental Car Facility (planned to be at either 98th/Avion or Century/Aviation) and to tie the CTA with MetroRail at Century/Aviation … and to do so in a manner that serves the interests of LAWA (who’s paying for the People Mover), not Metro and the general public.

Questions of whether the Green Line to LAX will have enough funding and political will to move towards the Westside to serve either the Century Blvd. Corridor and/or Westchester with a budget of only $200 million remain to be answered.  It should be remembered that Measure R specifies this project as proceeding to Lot C (as demanded by the late state senator Jenny Oropeza) to ensure a rudimentary Westside access to be extended and enhanced by future generations.

Questions also remain unanswered regarding a widening or preservation of the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way to prevent the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line from precluding a future LAX/Downtown direct rail service between Century/Aviation and Union Station.

So while it’s excellent that the same team of Metro planners and engineers, led by Roderick Diaz, who is extending the Green Line to LAX as well as to the South Bay are also creating the Crenshaw/LAX Line (an unenviable task, to be sure), the LAX People Mover Project hasn’t really started yet, and it’s therefore impossible to really know WHAT sort of “Green Line to LAX” is the best one at this time.

So we hear the sound of one hand clapping (Metro), with the other hand (LAWA) being silent at this time.  They’re working together as best they can, which is cause for cautious optimism, but it’s unfortunately too early for both hands to clap together in an applause to which we, as taxpaying commuters, can all happily join in.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) –cw

Tags: Green Line/LAX, MetroRail, Crenshaw Corridor, Union Station, Downtown




CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 83
Pub: Oct 18, 2011

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