By Noel T. Braymer
In May I’ll be flying to Ireland. When I take a long flight I try to plan for every possible contingency before I go. From Oceanside where I live I have several options to fly to Europe. San Diego’s airport is the closest airport from where I live. There are no direct flights to Europe from San Diego. So a trip by air from San Diego can easily mean a trip to Europe of 16 hours or so with a layover of several hours. Also airfares to Europe are higher at San Diego than from LAX which also has more travel choices. I found a good deal online for a non-stop flight from LAX to Dublin in 11 hours. Better yet, this flight leaves in the early evening and returns in the late afternoon. This will make it easier to take the train to get to LAX than if the flight was in the morning. There were cheaper flights from LAX to Dublin. But one had a 16 hour layover in Iceland and another a 23 hour layover in Stockholm.
As part of my planning for my flight, I decided to make a dress rehearsal to find out possible problems getting to LAX and to find my way around the airport for my flight. I rode the last morning Metrolink train out of Oceanside for Riverside and transferred at Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo to the Metrolink train to Los Angeles. I’ll be riding Amtrak when I go to LAX in May on a mid day train. While the train to Riverside had plenty of empty seats, the train to Los Angeles had plenty of passengers before it left Orange County. The train was early arriving in Los Angeles around 10 AM. First I timed how long it took to walk from the platform to the Flyaway bus stop at Los Angeles Union Station. I also wanted to be sure how to get to the Flyaway bus stop and to get information and a bus timetable. The man in the Flyaway booth said he didn’t have timetables and told me I could get them at the Information booth at the west entrance of the station. I went to the Information booth and they didn’t have Flyaway Bus timetables either.
Latter on my phone I got the information online I needed for Flyaway Bus service. The Los Angeles Union Station Flyaway Bus to LAX is one of the busiest of the Flyaway Bus lines. It has 24 hour service with hourly service through predawn morning and service every 30 minutes most of the time, with 20 minute service during peak periods. The buses leave Union Station at the top of the hour and at the half hour most of the day. They leave Terminal 1 at LAX at 10 and 40 minutes after the hour most of the day. Flyaway says the trip time between LAUS and LAX is around 35 minutes depending on traffic. The Flyaway buses use the HOV lanes on the freeways which helps them to be faster and more reliable than driving alone The.one way fare is $9.75 cents. Flyaway Bus accepts most credit and debit cards, but not cash.You can also get your tickets online or buy them at a Metrolink ticket machine. I remember when the Flyaway service first opened about 10 years ago the fare was $6 dollars. The current fare is testimony of the popularity of the Union Station Flyway bus even as the price went up.
I wasn’t in a hurry to get to LAX on this trip, so rather than pay to ride Flyaway, I used my all day transit pass that came with my Metrolink ticket to ride LA Metro transit. I caught a Red Line subway train at Union Station and transferred at the 7th and Flower station in the commercial center of downtown Los Angeles. From there I transferred to a Blue Line train to Long Beach and then transferred at Willowbrook to the Green Line heading to the station nearest to LAX at Aviation Blvd. At the Green Line station I caught the shuttle bus to the terminals which are about 2 miles or just over 3 kilometers away. I got off at Terminal 2 which is where my flight in May will depart. While I was there I wanted to check out where Flyaway buses would drop off and pick up. By Red, Blue and Green Lines and then shuttle bus it took just over 90 minutes to get to the airport. It is about 19 miles or 30 kilometers between Union Station and LAX.
The Green Line shuttle bus seemed to run only on the lower level road at LAX. The lower level road serves passengers arriving at LAX and is where the baggage claim is. I went upstairs to the elevated roadway where departing passengers go to check in. I found my airline’s sign outside of the terminal. Since my airline only has one flight out of Los Angeles there was no one working check in for the airline when I was there which are shared with multiple airlines. But I noticed that the other airline signs matched up with the location of their check in, so I was sure this would be the right place.
I returned to the lower level and caught the Green line shuttle back to the Green Line Station. Traffic was very heavy at LAX even in the middle of the day with one way traffic on each road level. Most of the traffic seemed to be from buses, not private cars. The Green Line shuttle buses carried a good load of people and they ran often. Many of the people on the Green Line shuttle buses were employees working at LAX. Airports are major employment centers. When I got back to the Green Line Station, I walked and took pictures of construction of the next to open rail transit project in Los Angeles: the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The Crenshaw/ LAX line will directly connect to the Green Line and have connections for transfers to the Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
The Crenshaw/LAX Line will include better connections to LAX. It will also connect with the Green line at the Aviation Blvd station. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is expected to open by 2019 with service closer to LAX for it and the Green Line. By 2019 new bus connections with half the distance to travel as the current shuttle will be available at a new station at Century Blvd which is the entrance road to the airport. By 2023 the Los Angeles Airport will be operating a “People Mover” which will serve outlying parking lots, rental car using passengers and a new transit station on the Crenshaw Line roughly a half mile or kilometer north of Century Blvd.
Even by 2023 there won’t be direct service by rail between downtown Los Angeles and LAX. By 2021 a new subway tunnel will allow the Blue Line to reach Union Station and for passengers to transfer to the Green Line to the shuttle bus at Century Blvd. By 2023 passengers will be able to catch the People Mover. Passengers will also be able to catch the Expo Line downtown to Crenshaw Blvd to take the Crenshaw Line to LAX. There is discussion of building a connection to allow direct service to from downtown Los Angeles to LAX. But building a track connections between either the Blue and Green Lines or Expo and Crenshaw/Lax lines will be expensive since with both combinations the lines are at different levels with the Green Line elevated and the Crenshaw/LAX Line underground at the connecting points. Also both the Blue and Expo Lines are Light Rail services and have to wait at often long traffic lights in downtown Los Angeles.
Well, what did I learn? I am confident that I can get to LAX and back home catching the Flyaway buses and connecting to Amtrak without getting stranded in Los Angeles even if my flights are delayed. For most flights and for many people taking the train and Flyaway Bus doesn’t make sense, particularly for trips that only last a day or two. Leaving my car at an airport parking lot for 2 weeks would be very expensive. Being able to avoid long layovers for connecting flights is very attractive. But for many people living south and to the east of LAX there aren’t good rail/bus connections to the airport for most trips. A simple solution to this would be to have existing LAX bus service to Disneyland extended to the nearby Anaheim Transportation Center to serve passengers from Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties. This is a market of over 7 million people.
Another solution would be to run shuttle buses from the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station. This is at the closest point to LAX by intercity rail. There are plans to make the Metrolink station into a High Speed Rail station as well by 2029. There are also plans to extend the Green Line which terminate now at Norwalk to the Metrolink station. Planning for extending the Green Line to the Metrolink Station are 30 or more in the future. In the mean time adding shuttle buses could be done in a short period of time.