Local leaders Thursday celebrated the beginning of construction on a people-mover system at Los Angeles International Airport that for the first time will allow the region’s flyers to get their terminals entirely on public transportation.
The $4.9 billion, 2.25-mile shuttle system — dubbed the Automated People Mover — will take about four years to complete.
The end result will be a system of automated, electric-powered trains arriving every two minutes at three stations just outside the airport, and three inside the airport’s terminal loop.
Officials said each train will carry up to 200 people at a time, for free. They said the system in total is expected to carry about 85 million passengers per year.
The completion of the people mover will mark the end of what for decades has been something of a sore point for the area’s public transportation boosters — a light-rail network that stopped miles short of the region’s biggest airport.
“We can’t have a truly world-class airport until we have public transit that brings people right to the terminals,” Garcetti said.
Metro still won’t reach LAX itself, even after its still-under-construction Crenshaw/LAX line through South L.A. and Inglewood is completed. The last station on the line will be built at the intersection of Century and Aviation boulevards, about a mile from the LAX sign at the airport’s front entrance. But the people-mover will fill the mile-long gap.
The Automated People Mover train is seen above the terminal loop at LAX in this rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
The LAX Automated People Mover is seen in a rendering at Olympic Hall at the West Station. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
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Escalators lead to the Automated People Mover station, as seen in a rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
A pedestrian plaza is seen with the People Mover train above in a rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
The entrance to the Intermodal Transportation Facility for the Automated People Mover is seen in a rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
The Automated People Mover train is seen heading into LAX in a rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
A pedestrian plaza with an LED curtain wall is seen under the Automated People Mover at LAX in a rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
The Automated People Mover pulls into a station at LAX in this rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
The interior of an Automated People Mover train at LAX is seen in this rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
The Automated People Mover train is seen in a rendering. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
A rendering shows the LAX Automated People mover as it rides by the iconic Theme Building. (Image courtesy of LAWA)
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents South L.A. and parts of the Westside and South Bay, said Metro could now finally be considered a “grown-up” public transportation system.
Both Garcetti and City Councilman Mike Bonin of Westchester and Playa del Rey said they hope the people-mover will help end decades of suffering for nearby residents dealing with airport-related congestion on their streets. The system could end up reducing the number of cars circling the LAX loop each day by the thousands.
“People will forget that there was a moment when we didn’t have (public transportation to the airport),” Garcetti said. “I’m hoping they will remember this moment and just say ‘LAX works.’”
Before the groundbreaking on Thursday, work on the people-mover had already begun. David Graham-Caso, a spokesman for Bonin’s office, said crews were already working to bury power lines and relocate water mains and other utilities.
He said major construction — what he called the “columns and cranes” stage of the project — wouldn’t begin until 2020. Funding will come from “a combination of airport revenue bonds, existing airport revenue” and fees on passenger tickets.
Construction on the people mover will be happening at the same time as other modernization efforts across the airport, all intended to be wrapped up by the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
Bonin said the entire effort was massively complex, given that the airport would have to continue to operate that entire time — “like doing open heart surgery on a patient who is awake while you’re doing it,” he said.
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents a district that sprawls from the South Bay to Hacienda Heights, said the people-mover would complete plans in the works for decades. She said she remembered talking with her brother, former L.A. Mayor James Hahn, about a public transit connector for the airport when she was an L.A. city councilwoman, back when they both were elected in 2001.
She said the project will be well worth it for residents who know the specific pain of trying to catch a flight out of the L.A. area.
“We in Los Angeles know the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘Hey, can you give me a ride to LAX?” said said. “In a few years, our answer to that dreaded question will be, ‘No, take Metro to the Automated People Mover.’”
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