2 Big, Sexy Rail Projects Get Real


The LAX Automated People Mover (APM) and Regional Connector were described in such detail at the LA Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation and Goods Movement Committee last week that both projects began to seem really real, even though the APM won’t open until 2023 (construction begins in 2017) and the Regional Connector (construction underway now) until 2020. But still: A rail connection to LAX that could also resolve congestion issues? An underground light rail line serving so many DTLA neighborhoods? These really are world-class projects for lack of a better word, even if it’s hard to imagine what the construction period will be like, especially at LAX, 2nd busiest airport in the US (5th busiest in the world), where half of all travelers arrive by car to catch 700 flights a day.

About that 2.25-mile Automated People Mover (APM): It will be free and above ground with 6 stations (3 in the central terminal area and 3 outside) and trains arriving 2-3 minutes apart, allowing passengers to bypass the heavily trafficked roadway that currently connects the central terminal area and get to their flights, parking, a new rental car facility (adjacent to the 405) with all cars in one location (they’re now in 23!), and to the Crenshaw and Green lines. The APM will stop at 2 Intermodal Transportation Facilities, where people can park their cars, pick-up and drop-off passengers, and make connections to hotels, shuttles and other commercial vehicles. These facilities will include waiting areas, concessions, flight information kiosks, and self-service airline check-in where passengers can get their boarding passes. (Security screening will remain in the terminals, as will baggage check-in, at least for now.)

Rather than funneling everyone into the central terminal area, as the airport does now, the new arrangement offers passengers several points of entry to the airport from locations that are out of the hubbub and closer to freeways and major streets, and with easy access to Metro trains and buses. Metro will build a 96th Street Station linking the airport to both the Crenshaw and Green lines and buses, with an APM station located above. Yes, it’s complicated. But we were convinced. There’s more info and visuals here and here and here.

And then there's the mysterious 1.9-mile Regional Connector, mysterious because until now it was hard to visualize what it is: It's an underground light rail line that runs from the Gold Line Little Tokyo/Arts District station (now closed and being relocated underground and diagonally across the street at 1st and Central) to the 7th Street/Metro Center station. It will provide one-seat ride (no transfers) from Azusa to Long Beach and East LA to Santa Monica, and at the 7th Street/Metro Center station passengers can connect to the Red and Purple Line subways, the Expo and Blue lines, the Silver BRT (bus rapid transit) line, and buses galore.

The Regional Connector is surely another boon for DTLA since it serves almost every downtown neighborhood, including Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Civic Center, Historic Core, Broadway, Grand Avenue, Bunker Hill, Flower Street and the Financial District. There will be 3 new underground stations at 1st and Central, 2nd and Broadway, and 2nd Place and Hope. Most sections will be built with a tunnel boring machine, though some will be built using the “cut and cover” construction method, which will allow more streets to stay open longer!  More info and visuals here.

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