By Noel T. Braymer
Today the only direct way without a car to travel between Los Angeles Union Station to LAX if you are going to fly is the Union Station Flyaway Bus. Since it uses public roads it is subject to delays from heavy traffic. But not everyone is going to the airport terminals who travel to the area near LAX. Also many people who want to travel to the LAX area can’t do so by public transportation conveniently. By 2019 construction will be finished on the Crenshaw/LAX LA Metrorail line which will have shuttle bus connections to the LAX terminals. The LA Metrorail Green Line will also have a branch extended on part of the future Crenshaw/LAX Line sharing it to the area near Century Blvd for shuttle buses which will roughly cut in half the distance buses travel now between the terminals and the Green Line. The current shuttle station for the Green Line is at Imperial Highway and Aviation Blvd by the southeast corner of LAX. By 2023 there should be People Mover service to the terminals at LAX at a new transportation center station a half mile north of Century Blvd for rail and transit buses. What will be missing with both the Green or Crenshaw/LAX Lines is neither have direct service to downtown Los Angeles or to Amtrak or Metrolink passenger rail service.
For trips to LAX from downtown Los Angeles after 2021 with the Regional Connector subway by Metrorail, a person can catch the future extended Blue Line through downtown to the Green Line at Willowbrook. From there passengers can transfer to the LAX area on the Green Line. The other option is to catch the Expo Line downtown to Santa Monica and transfer to the Crenshaw/LAX Line at the connecting station at Crenshaw and Exposition Blvds. While an improvement over what is available now, it still doesn’t give direct service from LAX to downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority which is responsible for transportation in Los Angeles County including rail transit is looking at options for direct rail service between downtown Los Angeles and LAX. There are only 2 reasonable options: a connection between the Blue and Green Lines or the Expo and Crenshaw/LAX Lines.
To connect the Blue and Green Lines, the best solution would be to use the right of way of the Blue Line which it shares with the Union Pacific most of the distance between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach. At about the mid point between downtown LA and Long Beach is an old railroad junction at the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts which the UP has a branch line which turns southwest to El Segundo just south of LAX. In the area around Vermont Ave this Union Pacific branch line runs parallel at a short distance to the Green Line which is in the median of the Century Freeway. This would be a good location to build a junction to the Green Line for trains running on both the Blue and Green Lines. The other option would be to build the junction near where the Blue and Green Lines cross at almost a 90 degree angle at Willowbrook. This route will be slightly longer than using the Union Pacific right of way for the junction. Also since the Green Line is elevated in the Century Freeway and the Blue Line is at ground level at roughly a 90 degree angle to each other, a longer ramp going through more private property will be necessary than building a connection ramp at almost the same elevation and parallel to the freeway and Union Pacific right of way.
The other solution is to use the Expo and Crenshaw/LAX Lines . My opinion is this is the more likely alternative. There are plans to extend the Crenshaw/LAX line in the future north to connect with the Purple Line Subway being extended now to Beverly Hills and Westwood as well as connections to the Red Line at Hollywood. Building a portal junction to both to extend the Crenshaw/LAX line and connect trains from the Expo to the Crenshaw/LAX Line should be built at the same time to reduce costs. The advantages of going west first, instead of south is this alternative will serve a greater population and is an area with more jobs and traffic. It will also be fed with traffic on the Expo Line from west of Crenshaw and the Crenshaw Line to the north and connecting from the Purple and Red Lines. Also the Expo and Crenshaw lines have far fewer grade crossings than the Blue Line.
The biggest roadblock to using either the Blue or Expo lines is the street running both lines share in downtown Los Angeles. There are studies underway to increase capacity on the streets for both lines that run in downtown. The Blue Line turns east to run on Washington Blvd which means moving away from LAX in the west which makes for a slower trip than heading south down Flower Street with the Expo Line to junction at Crenshaw Blvd. Some upgrades or grade separations will be needed between Flower St and Crenshaw Blvd. But to add a second service sharing the Blue Line route will require much more grade separation than using the Expo Line. Most of the grade crossings needing to be replaced are between Washington Blvd and Watts to double existing service on the route. Most if not all of the Crenshaw/LAX line will be grade separated allowing for more trains than what the Blue Line can now safely run.
There are however more places people are traveling from going to LAX. The Green Line will have future connection with a new Metrorail Line that will share a new station at the Century Freeway with a planned LA Metrorail line from Artesia to Paramount in Southwest Los Angeles County. This line will latter be extended to downtown Los Angeles and Union Station. There are also long range plans to extend the Green Line east to the Metrolink Station for Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs. This Metrolink station is also planned for use by California High Speed Rail. With Green Line service extended this way would provide connections to LAX for Metrolink, High Speed Rail and possibly Amtrak passengers.