THE LOS ANGELES DISCONNECT - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, council members Janice Hahn, Tom LaBonge and Bill Rosendahl, and Gina Marie Lindsey, Los Angeles World Airports executive director announced today the findings of a report released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LACEDC), which concludes that “new construction at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will create nearly 40,000 jobs, generate $2.62 billion in worker income, $6.9 billion in revenue, and help the Los Angeles area recover from the ongoing recession.”
This, along with the news that the city is now attempting to connect the Metro Crenshaw light rail line to the airport, all seems like a move into the future, but what is missing from this? The Port of Los Angeles is also moving ahead with its years of planning on waterfront development—hundreds of millions in public improvements and even though these two “ports” are part of the same city, there seems to be no imperative to connect the dots between the LAX and POLA. It just seems so logical, but not likely to happen any time soon.
The problem is historical if not political. Ever since the oil companies and Detroit automakers helped push America into the auto age by buying up the Pacific Red Cars, Los Angeles has increasingly become more disconnected from itself as the population expanded and an entirely new network of freeways dissected our landscape.
Sure, if you have the luxury to travel at nonpeak commute times, which seem to be getting narrower each year, you can travel from the Harbor Area into downtown LA in half an hour. But commuting with the hoards can double your transit time or more and Los Angeles (both the city and county) aren’t going to get any smaller as time goes on.
One can argue that it was just as time consuming to travel by Red Car 100 years ago in Southern California as it is today, with all of our expensive freeways and gas-powered cars. Time is distance in our modern world and it’s also the cause of a certain “disconnectedness” that we Angelenos feel about being citizens of this great metropolis.
Los Angeles remains the sole exception in the world of international airports that isn’t connected by rail to the rest of the city. I haven’t looked closely at the world’s seaports, but I’d bet that Los Angeles is also one of the few that doesn’t connect its cruise ship industry to the airport by rail–– bringing some 500,000 passengers per year from all over the world.
The amount of lost time spent on our “modern” freeways due to congestion, if added up, would equal the loss of hundreds of millions of hours that could have been better spent connecting people, our families, friends and even political representatives, as opposed to fighting traffic to get to work, home or city hall. Then there’s the Green Line, which was built years ago along the center of the 105 Freeway, but ends two and half miles short of connecting to LAX.
Yet, for years the city has had the option to build a light rail line on what is called the “South Bay Loop,” which starts near downtown LA passes right by the airport and could connect to the Green Line. The SB Loop then proceeds south through Hawthorne, Torrance and into Harbor Gateway at about Sepulveda Boulevard, just north of the county sanitation plant. Would this be such a leap of faith to then connect this into Wilmington or even use the abandoned Red Car right-of-ways along Normandie as the LA/CRA study suggests?
As the City of Los Angeles contemplates its future by continuing to centralize certain of its cultural assets like the proposed AEG convention center and NFL stadium into a few square miles of the city in which the majority of its citizens don’t live or work, it is imperative that the discussion of connecting the airport and the seaport to the rest of the metropolis by something other than more freeway congestion be offered as an alternative solution.
Should AEG consider an investment into the light rail infrastructure as part of its “mitigation” and pay back for LA’s investment? Should the LAX commission invest in connecting the airport to the seaport as an extension of it transportation impact of expansion?
And likewise, is the Board of Harbor Commissioners considering what mitigation it is responsible for with its expansion of the waterfront to increase both tourism and container traffic?
We will never be able to solve our traffic problem for the long-term by adding Diamond Lanes and double-decking our freeways. If we don’t begin fully connecting this city with rail, the entire Los Angeles region will become even more dysfunctional than it is today.
The mayor and all of his department heads, along with the City Council need to get off of their east/west mantra of rail connectivity and consider the logical transit paths already in planning and reconnect the city to itself for its citizens.
(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News. More of Allen … and other views and news at randomlengthsnews.com [[hotlink]] where this column was first posted) -cw
Vol 9 Issue 33
Pub: Apr 28, 2011