THE BLOG
06/25/2014 07:27 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2014

A Train to the Airport? We're Poised for Progress

For decades, the lack of a public transit connection to the region's major airport has haunted Los Angeles. Every major city in the world provides a convenient and affordable way for residents, tourists, workers and travelers to reach their airports. Only Los Angeles has required travelers to schlep their luggage from bus to bus, or employ some combination of shuttle vans, taxis and obliging friends and family.

But tomorrow, the Metro Board has the opportunity to end this embarrassment and move from debate to action, taking the initial steps toward approving a public transit connection that will take people, finally, to the airport.

Seven options have been under consideration, and the route recommended by Metro staff is to connect the new Crenshaw Line to an automated people mover at a new station at 96th Street, that then will carry passengers to a newly built front door to the airport.

This approach makes a lot of sense. It is the most cost effective option and promises the most convenient transportation experience for travelers.

As everyone knows, this is our one opportunity to get this right.

Angelenos and our visitors deserve a world class airport -- and one that is easily accessible via public transportation.

Last January, I proposed that our deliberations be guided by a few basic principles:

o Riders Rule
o Fiscal Prudence Matters
o Innovate, don't obfuscate

I believe that the work completed addresses these core issues.

A 96th Street people mover connection clearly accomplishes our goal of putting riders first -- taking public transit users to the airport as quickly and conveniently as possible, while posing a nominal inconvenience to non-airport bound passengers.

The next most feasible option is projected to cost $1 billion more. That is not only a non-start politically, but stretches the definition of fiscal prudence to its snapping point.

Metro did its job well. Staff assessed a variety of factors in recommending the people mover at 96th Street, including convenience of use, trip time, compatibility with operating our larger transit system, consistency with the airport's overall goals of reducing congestion in the central terminal and creating better amenities for travelers, and timeline for construction.

The 96th St Station fares well on all of these factors, not just cost.

This leads me to my last principle -- innovate, don't obfuscate.

We have learned through this process, to think creatively. The people mover will run more frequently and will be more spacious than a train running into LAX. Connecting a proposed consolidated rental car facility, the Crenshaw Line and a new front door to the airport to the Central Terminal will create a significant convenience for the estimated 54,000 airport-bound passengers that are expected to use the people mover on a daily basis.

We don't need to reinvent the wheel here. This is an efficient and convenient system used by dozens of the largest airports in cities throughout the country such as New York, Denver, Oakland, Houston, Miami and Washington DC. And they work.

However, to achieve this, the Metro Board must continue to move forward in lock step with the airport, as the recommended alternative clearly requires the Board of Airport Commissioners also endorse this Automated People Mover alignment, and moreover, fund and build it.

Measure R was approved in part based on the commitment made to connect the airport to public transit. We have the resources to meet the commitment we made to voters and to do it in a manner that complements our system and enhances the overall airport experience.

I am confident that a 96th Street People Mover Station clearly accomplishes our goals -- to get public transit users to the airport as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Our next goal should be to see this connection built not in the projected year of 2022, but when the Crenshaw Line opens, in 2019. I also plan to introduce a motion, in collaboration with my colleagues, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Don Knabe and Councilman Mike Bonin, at tomorrow's Board meeting that will lead to the development of a station that is attractive, architecturally significant, and provides real customer amenities for travelers entering into the airport.

We can do this. In five years Los Angeles can proudly join the ranks of world-class cities where in every way but this one, we proudly lead.