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Joel Epstein Headshot

LAX's Poor Excuse for Mass Transit

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It was an article in the City Fix about a new metro line between Delhi, India's airport and Central Delhi that got my blood boiling about the sorry state of public transportation at LAX. Early next week I have to fly out of there and as I know from prior trips, it won't be fun. For starters, this trip I am on crutches due to a leg injury. So much for my effort to exercise more as I move into my second half-century. But even without a bum leg the trip to LAX is never a picnic. My best public transit option is Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus # 3. A bargain at $1 a ride, I pick it up close enough to my home, so that's not the problem. It is the slow ride unless it is very early or very late in the day and the inefficient connection from the LAX transit center to the terminal that raise the temperature in my veins.

When Metro's 30/10 Initiative or the visionary LA-born infrastructure idea some are now calling America Fast Forward happens, no one will be happier than me. But I fear that even then, Angelenos won't get true mass transit to LAX. In this often surreal town, the absurdist gibberish that comes out of LAWA, the city department that owns and operates LAX, about the infeasibility of bringing Metro to the terminals takes first prize in the fiction department. I wonder what it costs the cab and shuttle operators who seem to run LAWA to keep things that way?

With the world increasingly running laps around us as a destination for business travelers and tourists alike, isn't it time that Angelenos stopped accepting the airport commission's creative writing that it is simply not possible to bring the train to the plane?

My flight next week is to San Francisco, where I will exit my plane and get on BART for a quick ride to downtown. When I last lived in San Francisco is 1991, bringing the BART to the airport wasn't a possibility either. The difference between us and them is that San Franciscans had the foresight to realize their public transit vision. It is time Angelenos and LAX showed that same vision. A late bloomer, I have always been one who believes in better late than never.

According to the City Fix, the public-private partnership (PPP) that built the Delhi line between Indira Gandhi International Airport and downtown Delhi is one of the latest examples of using the PPP model to develop urban transport infrastructure in India. In order to improve the project's viability, the public transit agency built the line with private partners and the facility is leased out to a private company for operations and maintenance.

If a PPP is what it takes to bring Metro to LAX, then so be it. The time has come to give commuters to the world's sixth busiest airport a truly rapid mass transit option.

Yours in transit,
Joel