LAX is getting a new Automated People Mover system

April 11, 2018, 4:25 PM · Theme park fans might find it easier to get through America's second-busiest airport in a few years, thanks to a big improvement project that took an important step forward today.

The Los Angeles City Council today approved the biggest contract in city history, clearing the way to start construction on a new Automated People Mover system at Los Angeles International Airport. Slated for a 2023 debut, the Automated People Mover will connect LAX's passenger terminals with a new ground transportation facility as well as a new station on the LA area's Metro light rail.

"The new Automated People Mover will transform the LAX experience for travelers by removing the frustration of the tangled traffic inside the horseshoe," said Councilman Joe Buscaino, Chair of the LA City Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee, said in a statement. "Coupled with the new consolidated rent-a-car facility and the LAX/Crenshaw line, in a few short years going to LAX will become stressless for generations to come."

Bombardier Transportation will provide the trains and operating system for the People Mover. The same firm has provided systems for multiple airports around the world, including Dubai and London's Heathrow. The LAX People Mover will have a maximum theoretical capacity of 10,000 riders per hour. The $4.9 billion contract includes construction and 30 years of operation for the system.

LAX People Mover
Images courtesy LAX

The track will run down the middle of the "horseshoe" formed by the passenger terminals at LAX, connected to each by a series of new covered walkways. Passengers will access the People Mover's loading areas via moving walkways, escalators, and elevators. On the other side of the People Mover's loop will be stops for LAX's new consolidated rental car facility, a Metro light rail station on the new LAX/Crenshaw line, and connections with passenger drop-off/pick-up locations and other parking and bus lines. Here's the map of the project:

Connecting LAX project map

LAX has been undergoing substantial renovations over the past few years, including an all-new Tom Bradley International Terminal, a facelift for the horseshoe road connecting the nine passenger terminals, as well as new construction in most of the terminals, including vastly improved dining options. The upgrades landed LAX on the Top 10 list for the world's most-improved airports at last year's Skytrax World Airport Awards.

With the People Mover and the new LAX/Crenshaw line, visitors flying to LAX will be able to take the train (okay, a bunch of trains) from the airport to Universal Studios Hollywood, which is on the Metro Red Line. You'll have to make connections at Crenshaw to the eastbound Expo line, then at 7th/Metro to the northbound Red Line to Universal City. It might take a while, but you could do it! And hey, anything beats driving on the 405 and the 101, right?

Replies (17)

April 11, 2018 at 4:37 PM · It's possible to take public transit / flyaway bus to USH / LAX now. Flyaway to union station then red line to USH. But the travel times make it not worth it. This is a step in the right direction though. A good stop gap until Elon Musk's underground tunnels are ready :)

April 11, 2018 at 5:43 PM ·

The problem is it’ll open in 2023. That’s well after the LAX/Crenshaw Line opens in late 2019. The People Mover will solve the problematic horseshoe design of LAX. Fewer cars and shuttles will circle around the congested U shaped drop off and pick up areas.

I don’t recommend tourists use the Metro for leisure activities. The risk from an unfamiliar area and commute time is not worth it. Just take a shuttle van or bus to their hotel.

April 11, 2018 at 7:38 PM ·

Let us know when this system gets upgraded to Rocket Rods!

April 11, 2018 at 8:06 PM ·

The LAX Metro station won’t be open until 2021, so there will be a gap when buses will be taking the function of the People Mover to the Metro, but it will be two years, not four.

April 11, 2018 at 9:03 PM ·

The fact that this is the biggest contract in the history of LA illustrates why these kind of systems are never built and why WDW opts for buses & skyway gondola's instead of expanding its rail system.

Also does the new rental car facility means I longer have to drive into Inglewood to return the rental car? That was was a reason to get to see the real LA.

April 12, 2018 at 7:29 AM ·

This is why visitors traveling to LA should always try to fly into Orange County/John Wayne or Long Beach. LAX is a MESS, and will continue to be a mess for the foreseeable future. This People Mover is too little too late, and by the time it opens in 2023 (let's be real here, it's not going to actually open until 2025), LAX will be a completely different place and this new system will be a relic weeks after it's complete.

April 12, 2018 at 8:28 AM ·

LAX will be a completely difference place because a lot of other construction activities is also going on like the Midfield Concourse that will add 12 more gates to Tom Bradley International Terminal. My concern is 10,000 passengers per hour seems rather limiting. Another issue is drivers must be convinced to drop passengers off at the Arrivals and Departures area instead of tackling the horseshoe. From the People Mover station exit, the long walk to TSA (despite moving walkways) and then to the gates isn't convenient while handling a few suitcases while handholding a few kids. So many will still get dropped off at the awful horseshoe. Perhaps offer free luggage carts and some airlines should allow luggage check-in at the People Mover entrance.

They do need to redesign the horseshoe so drivers can immediate exit upon drop off of their passengers. Or allow free 30 minute parking.

April 12, 2018 at 8:12 AM ·

It took a few years, but Walt's vision for future transportation is happening! I hope it all works out well.

April 12, 2018 at 8:44 AM ·

LAX is probably the worst experience of any airport I've ever used... but I always end up using it because the fares are generally more affordable. It needs a fix badly, but I'm not looking forward to the next several years of construction happening in and around an already awful airport.

April 12, 2018 at 8:50 AM ·

This made me laugh - but aren't all People movers Automated?

April 12, 2018 at 9:37 AM ·

Brian, yes they are. But some people may not know this.

Russell I doubt it would take another 2 years to open. Maybe it'll be delayed 6mo-1yr max. All the changes are designed to work together so I don't understand why you think it'll be a relic upon opening? I'm really glad they are doing all this. LAX is one of my least favorite airports and I avoid it if I can. But even with the changes LA needs to another major airport, especially with the 2028 Olympics. Neither SNA or BUR can really expand.

April 12, 2018 at 10:01 AM ·

Public works projects ALWAYS take 20-30% longer than originally estimated, along with costing 60-80% more than anticipated (usually caused by the delays). Find me a major US transportation project that finished within the schedule and budget originally established upon announcing, and I'll give you my acres of oceanfront property in Kansas.

The problem with public transport in LA is that it's all patchwork. The individual lines and systems don't work together to create a cohesive, reliable network. Each individual system looks out for itself instead of working with neighboring/competing systems to ensure smooth connections and on-time performance. That's why people are still driving around in their cars and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for hours on end. This concept is just one of many threads to sew together the patches of LA's haphazard transportation network. However, leaders and planners should be thinking outside the box to find new, forward looking solutions to these problems instead of using an old, outdated system at a significant cost.

April 12, 2018 at 10:37 AM ·

Trains are not the 21st Century, but what are you going to do? LA will continue to have a patchwork because the trains don't fit everyone's commuting strategy, but the Metro is pretty consistent so I really don't understand this complaint. People drive cars because there's no direct transportation system from home to work or school or shopping. It really doesn't fit LA's transportation scenario. You can't force the issue. However, trains and people mover to LAX makes sense since it is a known destination that can be served by dispersing how guests arrive and leave. That is it's ultimate goal and I think it will do it's job quite well even if LA transportation issues aren't resolved. And significant cost is not a hindrance to these public works projects. I didn't vote for the new sales tax to fund these transportation projects, but I have to pay for it now.

April 12, 2018 at 11:26 AM ·

I think LAX should be more bold like other urban airports have started doing, and take steps to limit (and eventually prohibit) vehicular access to the terminal. Subway, streetcar, and bus terminals should be placed within walking distance of the airport, foregoing the need for a people mover. Having a parking garage take up a majority of the center of the horseshoe is a waste of useful space. Cities and municipal airport authorities need to treat urban airports more like downtown train stations and raze their short-term and premium garages in favor of multi-modal transit hubs that benefit the most travelers.

April 12, 2018 at 8:14 PM ·

Aside from no direct walkable streets to LAX, it would have been better to have Metro go direct to the airport. Walking outside with luggage is not a good idea in any scenario. It's just dangerous with vehicles, homeless, and solicitors lingering about.

I agree that not having a parking garage in the middle of the airport would be better and just have the parking outside so everyone is forced to use public transportation, but many international airports allow drop-off at the terminals so the likelihood of eliminating direct drop-off at LAX is even less realistic.

Did you know that an urban city like Taipei Taiwan with a well known subway/train system didn't get an airport connection until March 2, 2017?

"After a 20-year wait, the train service is finally set for its official launch

On March 2, Taiwan will officially launch a rail service that will allow visitors to travel from its Taoyuan Airport to central Taipei in just 35 minutes, finally catching up with Asian rivals such as Seoul and Hong Kong in offering direct rail links from the airport to the city."

LAX isn't that far behind, but still behind.

April 12, 2018 at 12:11 PM ·

A few airports are trying - Boston/Logan is proposing to charge a toll just to enter the airport property, even if you're just driving in to pick-up/drop off. Heathrow and Frankfurt are removing proximal parking in favor of transit hubs, and Kansai has been virtually car-free since it was built on a man-made island.

I think about the mistakes public officials continue to make regarding our transportation infrastructure and just shake my head. Where I live near Washington, DC, local officials thought it was smart to spend $10 billion to extend the Metro (city subway) to Dulles Airport, which is 20 miles west of downtown. There were plans on the books to build a high-speed rail line for about half the cost through existing right of way that would have gotten travelers from the formerly growing (now shrinking) airport to downtown in less than 20 minutes. The greed of local officials that saw $$$ from extra subway stations between the former subway terminus to the airport caused them to fund this absurd Metro extension that will take airport passengers almost 90 minutes to get from the airport to downtown. Not only that, but once they decided on the Metro plan, they bickered over relatively minute costs of tunneling under already developed land and the location of the Dulles Airport station looking to save "pennies". Because of that, the delays in approving the project upped the costs nearly 30% despite officials opting for the cheaper above-ground option and an airport station location that is over a half mile from the main concourse (was originally going to be right under the concourse).

April 13, 2018 at 6:14 AM ·

Hopefully Bombardier will do a better job of making trains for LAX than it has making streetcars for Toronto. Delivery dates keep being moved back and the only excuse is supply chain problems. Bombardier is poorly managed and is a huge money pit to the Canadian taxpayer.

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