LAX Connector Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Don't get me wrong. It was a civic-planning tragedy when L.A.'s Green Line was built with no connection to the airport. Why build a wildly expensive new line and stop within a mile of arguably the most trafficked place in Los Angeles? It makes no sense.

That said, there's a lot of talk these days about finally spending the money to connect LAX to the Green Line. And, I have to be honest, it strikes me as completely misguided.

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Think about it: If the Green line suddenly did connect to LAX, here is how you would get there from Union Station (which, as it stands now, is your most probable access point to LA's rail lines, unless you live along the 110 or 105 corridors.) First, you would need to take the Red Line to 7th street, where you would then transfer to the Blue line, taking you to Imperial and Wilmington. From there you would need to wait to transfer again to the Green line. Take a look at the crime stats near that stop, by the way, and tell me how long you'd want to wait outside with a suitcase or two. I count two robberies and an assault ON THAT BLOCK this month alone.

That's three trains, 42 minutes of travel time, plus wait times for two different transfers. I think we can safely assume that even if everything is running on schedule, at maximum efficiency, that's an hour-long trip minimum--not to mention the pain of carting around your luggage.

Anecdotally, meanwhile, I've ridden the Flyaway bus dozens of times from Union Station and never had a trip last longer than 45 minutes. I've arrived late at night, narrowly missed a bus, and had to wait 30 minutes. But at night there's no traffic on the roads, so the trip is a breeze from there. It's safe, it's clean, it's cheap, it's efficient and it runs on a regular, easily predictable schedule.

Metro's tentative planis to link the currently-in-construction Expo Line to the airport by way of a Crenshaw connector. That would open up the airport route to a larger segment of the city and avoid sending Hollywood-bound tourists to the less-than-secure Imperial and Wilmington stop. But that plan would still require multiple transfers to access the majority of places where people are likely to go--and Crenshaw isn't close to shovel-ready.

From user perspective, the LAX connection, as our system stands now, would be the least efficient, least bang-for-your-buck endeavor L.A. could undertake. Expanding Flyaway to new locations makes infinitely more sense than spending hundreds of millions to build a system that's less rider-friendly than the one we have now.

L.A.'s Metro rail plans have plenty of urgent holes. If you think not connecting the Green Line to LAX was a mistake, how a Westside Extension that doesn't go all the way to the beach? As it stands now, the line will stop around the 405.

And how about the fact that the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor rail line, as it's currently planned, doesn't go nearly far enough down the 405? It runs from the Valley to the aborted Westside Extension terminus. It doesn't even connect to the Expo Line. Meaning Valley riders can't access the beach communities. Nor LAX, even if the Crenshaw Connection is built.

Once Expo is finished and a beach-bound Westside Extension AND the Crenshaw connection AND an additional north/south route along the 405 corridor--giving the Valley access and city riders two lines to the airport--then it might make sense to finish the airport connection.

But until then, it's just a vanity project. Something to make us look good for tourists.

L.A. needs a rail network for Angelenos. Not for show.

The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the Cailfornia Endowment.

About the Author

I'm a veteran LA-based journalist and editor who has been a staff writer with the LA Weekly and senior editor of the LA City Beat. I'm currently a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, editor for Fishbowl LA, and ...
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It's funny that Mr. Fleisher calls rail to LAX a vanity project for the tourists, but he complains about the subway not reaching the beach.
In reality, extending the subway to the beach would be a much bigger and more expensive vanity project, as Westwood and Century City would generate much more traffic. Santa Monica would be sufficiently covered by the Expo Line.
LAX needs rail not just for the tourists (and Los Angeles is still a tourist destination) but for the army of airport workers. The FlyAway bus is good, but it isn't designed for commuters. Rail would attract both tourists and regular commuters.

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Los Angeles happens to be the most park poor major city in America. Giving working class neighborhoods easy access to the beach is not a vanity project. It is an essential part of building an equitable city. The Expo Line is a nod in that direction, but does not take into account the needs of Valley riders--nor any riders significantly north/west of the 10/110 corridors.

The LAX connection, as it's currently planned, will have minimal impact on commuters. Yes, a north/south line up Crenshaw would be nice--although if it's at grade, as it will likely be planned, I fail to see how that's much better than existing bus routes. Yes, LAX has a significant number of employees, but how many of them live anywhere near the Expo-Crenshaw-Green Lines? More than the number of people who commute between Santa Monica and Downtown? Not according to this job density map.

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I'm sorry for those who read this article as it appears the writer decided to make little attempt to fully research the story. It appears he did all his research online as opposed to actually taking the trip on the line. I'd made several trips on the rail to and from LAX. Many times from Pasadena Gold Line stations as well as from Union Station and from City Walk and I can say that the metro is incredibly safe and the Wilmington station is one of the safer ones on the line. It is such a large transfer point that the LA county sheriff's department is there at most hours of the day. I wish and hope that metro will go all the way to LAX and look forward to the day, but to say the LAX connector is inefficient is like saying the 1st leg of the CAHSR is a rail to nowhere. Try flying to JFK, or La Guardia. Newark or Dulles. Oakland or O'Hare. Most airports are out of the way from the city and take two to three transfers on the local transit system.

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What an insult to my intelligence. The author here says "don't get me wrong" then proceeds to make error of fact after error of fact.
The Green Line is not "suddenly" going to connect to LAX. There are no plans to "connect" the Green Line to the airport.
The new Crenshaw line (line H on your map) is what will connect to LAX. The Crenshaw line will use the Expo line from downtown to USC to Crenshaw, south past Leimert Park, Inglewood and LAX, and connect to the Green Line in El Segundo.
Meanwhile, the "Downtown Connector" will bring through train service across downtown from Union Station to the Expo, Blue and Crenshaw lines.
That means a single train could travel from the Gold Line to Union Station to Staples Center to USC to Leimert Park to LAX. One train, straight through.
The entire concept of this blog is based on an error.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I would expect KCET to vet blogs for accuracy. This blog is inaccurate.