Los Angeles Long Overdue Transport Makeover

I have flown through Los Angeles International LAX multiple times over the last 20 years! I have used every one of its eight terminals with a range of current and defunct US and international airlines. If I was a commuter, then LAX is like one of my Grand Central Terminals! It is the world’s fifth busiest airport with almost 75 million people using it last year. And it is not good enough.

Ugly buildings, a sprawling, confusing terminal layout, poor signage, horrific traffic and poor public transport connections, underwhelming food choices (definitely improved in the recent Tom Bradley upgrade- see below). That is before we get to the hit and miss airport lounges and massive immigration queues.  One fifth of all flights are delayed -with an average delay of almost an hour (about 53 minutes). Think of the productivity loss that represents. One percent of all flights are cancelled.

As a geek who rates every airline, flight and travel experience,  I give LAX an overall rating of 34%. This is one of the worst airports I have ever travelled through. It is even worse than London Heathrow and Philadelphia which I give 52%. Only the Old Bombay airport was worse in my eyes at 30%. The new Bombay airport is actually better than LAX!  Skytrax placed LAX  at 98th out of 100 airports.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is in the midst of a  14 year $14 billion Capital Improvement Program at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) which started in 2009 and will finish in 2023. It includes the Tom Bradley Terminal upgrade (which was tremendous) and half billion dollar improvements each for Terminals 7/ 8 (United Airlines) and the 32-year-old Terminal One (Southwest Airlines). These changes bring better security screening checkpoints, checked luggage sorting systems and  better passenger waiting areas.

This month, LAWA released a Draft Environmental Impact Report for their biggest project of all,  a five billion dollar Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP) which will improve travel and access around the airport. Essentially, at the core, is a new three km ( two mile) Automated People Mover (APM) system that will have nine trains running through the middle of the central terminal area. LAX APM System and Pedestrian Bridges in the Central Terminal AreaThree stops will be linked to the terminals on either side by pedestrian walkways and there will be three other stations:

  1.  a new consolidated  rental car centre  linked to 405 Freeway with the aim of reducing the endless stream of car rental shuttles that circulate around the terminals- apparently shuttle vans account for 40 percent of the traffic in the airport.
  2. an intermodal transportation facility on the east side of the airport connecting to the city’s Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line due to open in 2019 
  3. an intermodal transportation facility on the west side of the airport for bus connections.

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 6.27.23 PM

Wait times will be an average of two minutes between trains.

Comments are invited for the LAMP by October 31st. Get building, I say! With all of these changes, LAX might be an acceptable airport by 2023? Can I also get friendlier immigration agents (contrast arriving at Singapore’s airport to LAX), clean taxis and fewer delays? What else would you want to see at LAX?


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  1. Many of your complaints can easily be addressed. TSA lines can be largely be avoided with precheck. t4 connects to international so you can use that checkpoint to bypass horrific lines at TBIT when flying non-precheck carriers. *A and OW lounges are some of the finest you’ll find in USA. GE easily bypasses long CBP lines at Arrival (through not the surely CBP officers which IME are among the worst.

    that leaves traffic, which it sounds is now finally on the menu. Personally I avoid LAX like the plague but it’s fine if you aren’t renting a car or need to get to the west side fast. Otherwise you are better off using BUR or SNA for O/D traffic.

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