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

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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.

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.

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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.

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