Rethinking Landside at LAX
Landside access to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is notorious for traffic congestion. To improve landside access, the airport has recently completed several projects such as adding additional traffic lanes and is embarking on new projects such as a people mover in the $5.5-billion Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP). Here, I suggest another cost-effective project.
The "horseshoe" design requires all cars and buses to completely travel though all terminals at the airport. Additionally, the close proximity of so many terminals and parking structures causes lots of merging traffic in a small area. Currently the the horseshoe is divided into departures on the upper level and arrivals on the lower level. Additionally, the supports for the upper level divide the lower level into outer through lanes and stopping lanes for buses and inner stopping lanes for cars. Last, the inside of the horseshoe is filled with parking structures.
The current situation could be greatly improved by switching the position of of cars and buses on the lower level and prohibiting buses from the upper level (which is already planned for later this year).
- This change would reduce the number of trips for buses, the largest and least manuaverable vehicles in the horseshoe. Currently, these vehicles take one trip around the horseshoe to drop off passengers on the top and then take another trip around the bottom to pick up passengers. This operation is quite inefficient: could you imagine if city buses traveled this way?
- The constant merging of buses with passenger cars on both levels would cease. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems have show us how efficient buses can be when provided with a dedicated right-of-way.
- This configuration would speed up buses because they would not be merging into and out of the through lanes and because there are no traffic lights inside the lower level. This would reduce the number of buses required which would further reduce congestion.
- The car pick up area on the lower level could be configured to match the drop off area on the upper level by providing a double-wide pick up lane.
- Last, while cars often get "trapped" inside the lower level, buses want to stop at each terminal so this would not be a problem for them. And while buses would no longer be able to access the parking structures, buses do not need to access parking.
While the completed (adding lanes) and proposed (people mover) projects may reduce congestion, they are incredibly expensive. Adding lanes to congested roadways typically does little to improve congestion and is instead an expensive way to move a few more people. The people mover will greatly improve the passenger experience and replace many buses such as rental car shuttles, the Lot C shuttle, and the Green Line shuttle, but it is also incredibly expensive.