Following on our op-ed in the LA Business Journal last week, Angelenos Against Gridlock is pleased to be expanding its editorial reach this week with a post on The Huffington Post, on the future of LAX.
The Future of LAX: How World Class Cities Connect Airports to Transit
By David Murphy, President, Angelenos Against Gridlock
Want to take public transportation to LAX? Good luck. The nearest Metro rail station is infamously far away — it’s perhaps the most common example cited when people make fun of Los Angeles’ inadequate rail transportation system. Whereas many other major world airports have subway stations a quick elevator ride down immediately below the terminal, at LAX if you were foolish enough to similarly attempt the connection on foot, the walk would take a tidy 57 minutes. (Of course, this is merely to make a point; a sane person would forgo the walk and take the provided shuttle bus, but that itself adds mightily to the connection time — and once at the station, the rail destinations are limited, and the station itself not likely to make the tourist feel safe or secure.) LAX does benefit from a FlyAway bus system, but buses are far less frequent than public transit trains would be, and get stuck in gridlock along with cars.
Thankfully, Los Angeles World Airports and Metro are both studying potential future rail connections and a potential airport people mover. A number of options are being explored, and Metro will be hosting outreach meetings later this month.
But it’s useful to step back for a moment and look at examples of how transit connections are done in other cities. Los Angeles has a history of getting things wrong; let’s take a moment to learn from others, both good and bad.
The distance between London Heathrow Airport and central London is about the same as the distance from LAX to downtown Los Angeles. Fly in to London Heathrow, and you can board Underground (“Tube” subway) trains directly from the basement of the airport terminals (perhaps after your international flight home, before you ride the adjacent elevator down to the trains, you’ll restock on milk and other vitals at the upscale grocery market in Terminal 5). But why take the Tube when you can also choose an express train system to downtown called Heathrow Express that’s run by the airport authority!
Opened by Tony Blair in 1998, Heathrow Express runs every fifteen minutes between London Paddington station and the airport. The express journey even beats driving: it takes just fifteen minutes to Central London, about three times faster than the Tube (and proportionally more in cost, $29 vs. $8 on the Tube). I dare you: try making it to LAX in fifteen minutes by car from anywhere in Los Angeles farther away than an airport hotel. But in London, you can depend on public transportation options to get you there reliably, quickly. It’s worth noting that it was the airport authority that built Heathrow Express. A five-mile tunnel and new underground track was constructed connecting the airport with preexisting track farther away. The capital cost was raised by the private company, BAA, that owns the airport, from the company’s own cash flow and from loans from the European Investment Bank and the Export-Import Bank of Japan. A manager with BAA noted, “The surplus of revenue over operating costs is confidential, but it is expected to give shareholders an appropriate return on capital investment. There is no cross subsidy from other parts of the business and there is no public subsidy.”