LAX’s traffic nightmare could end with new people mover, but you’ll have to wait

The running gag among Angelenos is that the seven words people least want to hear are “Can you pick me up at LAX?”

City officials are hoping the line will lose its clout as the long-promised people mover nears completion. The first automated cars for Los Angeles International Airport’s electric people mover arrived this week, marking a major milestone for the $2 billion project, which is due to be completed by 2023.

“After decades of saying no, from airport directors saying I don’t want to give up my parking earnings … from people rolling their bags down Century Boulevard asking friends to pick them up or drop them off, the hell we knew at LAX as will be a thing of the past.” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in front of a gleaming white electric car that an airport official affectionately dubbed “Bonnie.”

Running along an elevated 2.25-mile route, the free system promises to ease the maddening congestion that’s an airport staple. The cars, when full, will be able to carry 10,000 passengers an hour in and out of the busy airport, one of the busiest in the world.

An estimated 200,000 people move through the airport every day. The 12-seat cars can go about 50 miles per hour and take about 10 minutes to travel from one end to the other of the system, with stops at six stations.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveils the people mover at LAX on Tuesday.

(Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

“If you’re flying or departing during rush hours,” Garcetti said, “you can hop on a sleek, spacious car every two minutes.”

LAX has earned a reputation as a consistently difficult airport, and has been ranked by magazines and surveys as one of the most congested and most difficult to navigate airports in the country. More than $15 billion has been poured into a year-long modernization plan that is expected to be completed next year.

“We are completely transforming the way the traveling audience gets to and from LAX. At the heart of this modernization is our automated people mover,” said Justin Erbacci, chief executive of Los Angeles World Airports. “When open, guests and employees can soar above traffic and never have to drive their car into the central terminal area again. Unless, of course, they really want it.”

He added: “With the World Cup in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028, we will be rolling out the red carpet like never before in our history.”

The route for the people mover is largely complete, but work is still being done on the six stops. There are three stops in the so-called central terminal area, basically the center of the airport where the parking lots are located. These stations will have pedestrian walkways leading to the terminals.

The other stations are off-site, one at a consolidated car rental company, another at a parking garage. The last station is called Airport Metro Connector Station. It connects to the metro’s larger system, which connects to the yet to open Crenshaw/LAX line. The Crenshaw line runs east from the airport to Crenshaw Boulevard, terminating at the Expo line.

The city bought 44 cars made in Pittsburgh by French company Alstom. The first cars were taken to the airport on a flatbed truck this week, with the rest expected to arrive in the coming weeks. Testing will begin early next year.

The aluminum-hulled cars are 95% recyclable and generate electricity every time they brake, using the kinetic energy generated during braking, similar to Teslas. LAX’s traffic nightmare could end with new people mover, but you’ll have to wait

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