I’m generally not shy about criticizing LAX for overspending on silly projects. Oh sure, the new Bradley Terminal was needed, but it could have been done for a lot less without hurting the passenger experience. But now, the airport has approved a plan to spend $4 billion on a whole bunch of other improvements outside the airport itself. That’s a lot of money, but so far, this looks like money well-spent.
My not-so-fancy map above (fancy rendering available here) shows just what’s happening here, but it probably needs some decoding. The central piece of this plan involves an automated people mover that will run down the center of the terminal area. The recommendation was to go with what they call a “spine” in the terminal area instead of a loop. That means there are only 3 stops (aligned with the roadways that cross today).
This will save money and reduce complexity a great deal. I like that. It will also make it quicker to get to the high-numbered terminals and from the low-numbered terminals. (In a loop, you’d have to go through all the other terminals before getting to your stop, but now you don’t.) But it does mean longer walks are required to get between the stations and the terminals. It looks like United drew the short straw here and will see the longest walks to its terminals 7 and 8 at the southeast of the terminal area. But the parking garages will also be connected to the walkways, so it will make for easy walking designed for people with luggage.
Once this people mover gets outside the airport, a large swath of LAX-induced destruction will take place to make room for a ton of development. The first stop will be the west Intermodal Transportation Facility. This will sit partially on the eastern end of the mammoth long term parking Lot C. The other half will sit on what today is a rental car lot for Avis, but that won’t be needed anymore.
The west Intermodal Transportation Facility will have a big garage for long term parking (the primary reason for this facility’s existence), a spot to drop passengers off, and a bunch of shuttles (I think). The idea is to create a place where people can drop off travelers without having to go into the central terminal area. Though it’s important to note that they are going to keep the terminal area as is so people can drive in if they want. And with less traffic, that should be a better experience.
The next stop on the people mover is the east Intermodal Transportation Facility. This will also have long term parking, but more importantly, it will be at the 96th St/Aviation stop on the Metro rail. This is going to be built for the new Crenshaw Metro rail line which will go north through Inglewood, Hyde Park, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park before meeting the Expo line. That heads west to Culver City and Santa Monica or east to go to downtown LA.
This new station will also have some service from the Green line. The Green line was incredibly built to stop 2 miles short of LAX thanks to powerful lobbying forces against public transit. You have to take a very slow shuttle bus into the airport today. But when the new station opens, it will come up to 96th St/Aviation as well. The Green line goes south to El Segundo and Redondo Beach. It also goes east through Hawthorne and Lynwood before ending in Norwalk. It crosses the Blue line, which goes north to downtown LA and south to Long Beach (where there’s a stop only a 15 minute walk from my house).
That’s a long way of saying that this station will actually be fairly well-connected to a lot of places.
After that stop, the people mover ends at the new consolidated rental car center. Anyone who has rented a car at LAX knows that this is something that’s sorely needed. Today the rental car companies all have their own facilities scattered everywhere. They are generally in places that don’t provide the easiest freeway access. And it can be a real pain to find the drop location once you return. All that goes away with this new facility, which will actually be right next to the 405 freeway.
How are they getting all the land for the east Intermodal Transportation Facility and the rental car center? It’s all going to sit on top of a lost neighborhood, Manchester Square. Manchester Square, everything within the red border you see in the image above, was a small working class neighborhood that came up around World War II. But over the last 20 years, LAX has been buying up land bit by bit directly from the homeowners. What you see today is mere remains – mostly empty lots punctuated with dilapidated houses. You can see a map of the properties that still need to be bought.
As I said earlier, this is a whole lot of work. It’s no surprise that the price tag is so hefty, but it’s worth it. The only downside here is that it’s going to take forever. The project won’t be done until 2023. I don’t believe any of the big changes will open before 2021. This should all have been done long ago (and proposals have been floated time and time again), but at least it’s finally moving ahead.