Crenshaw/LAX Line Operations Plan Being Debated, Will Affect Green Line

Metro staff recommend Alternative 1 - the new Crenshaw/LAX line and the eastern portion of the Green Line be operated together as a single line. Diagram via Metro staff presentation
Metro staff recommend Alternative 1 - the new Crenshaw/LAX line and the eastern portion of the Green Line be operated together as a single line. Diagram via Metro staff presentation

The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line is nearing completion and is expected to open in late 2019. At yesterday’s Metro board System Safety, Security and Operations Committee, there was some debate over how Crenshaw rail will interact with current Green Line operations.

Map of Metro Crenshaw/LAX light rail line. Image via Metro fact sheet
Map of Metro Crenshaw/LAX light rail line. Image via Metro fact sheet

The under-construction Crenshaw Line will extend south from the Expo Line along Crenshaw Boulevard. It will continue southwest through Inglewood. From there it will connect with LAX via a people mover (called Landside Access Modernization Program – LAMP) at the future 96th Street Station. That airport station and people mover are also under construction, but will not fully open until 2023 – a few years after the Crenshaw Line.

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Metro’s planned Crenshaw Line 96th Street station connection with LAX people-mover. Rendering via Metro

The southernmost end of the Crenshaw Line is at the Green Line, immediately west of the Green Line Aviation Station.

That Crenshaw/Green junction, a T-intersection (though close-up it is more of a Y-intersection or wye), presents new possibilities for Metro rail operations.

At yesterday’s meeting, Metro staff presented their plans for how the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines will operate. Staff are recommending Alternative 1 (see top diagram), which would combine new 8.5-mile Crenshaw Line operations with the Green Line east of LAX to form a ~24-mile L-shaped line running from Expo/Crenshaw to Norwalk. Under Alternative 1, the remaining ~3-mile western portion of the Green Line would run just from LAX to Redondo Beach. (Metro has funded plans to extend this part of the Green Line farther south to Torrance, so that ~3-mile line will become an ~8-mile line in about a decade.)

Under Alternative 1, South Bay riders would take the train to LAX, then transfer there to go east toward Norwalk or north toward Expo.

Metro staff’s Alternative 2 would combine Crenshaw with the southwest end of the Green Line. This would mean a north-south line ~11 miles from Expo/Crenshaw to Redondo Beach (extending to ~16 miles when the Torrance extension is built) and an east-west Green Line ~17 miles from LAX to Norwalk.

Mostly to focus LAX access via the future 96th Street Station, neither of Metro’s two alternatives would keep the current one-seat ride from Norwalk to Redondo Beach. Riding the Green Line between Redondo Beach and Norwalk would require a transfer at LAX.

Under both alternatives, at rush hour, trains on both lines would run at six-minute headways, so transferring at LAX would be a roughly three-minute wait.

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Boardings for Green Line and projections for Crenshaw/LAX Line, Image from Metro staff presentation

Metro staff justify their Alternative 1 recommendation on the grounds of connectivity to LAX, consistent headways, minimizing transfers, maximizing ridership, and operational constraints at the wye-junction. From the staff report, Alternative 1 is expected to serve “significant transfer activity currently occurring between the Green Line and major north-south bus corridors, such as Vermont Avenue … [anticipating that] many customers will migrate to the Crenshaw/LAX Line.” Metro staff emphasized that operating the combined Expo-Norwalk Crenshaw-Green would make sense operationally, serving “matching capacity needs” on these two legs that are both higher ridership than the Redondo Beach leg.

Staff made the case that operating all three combinations (Redondo-Expo, Norwalk-Expo, and Norwalk-Redondo) through the wye is possible, though it would result in worse headways, hence overall longer trip times. Staff also also stated that Crenshaw/LAX Line infrastructure is constrained to a minimum five-minute headway, which would appear to rule out Crenshaw operating as a frequent-service trunk (similar to shared Blue/Expo tracks downtown today) that would feed both ends of the Green Line.

Staff did acknowledge that operations may change as travel patterns change, especially with future extensions: Green Line south and the Crenshaw Line north.

At yesterday’s meeting, the committee heard two public comments from South Bay representatives opposed to Alternative 1 due to less “one-seat service” for riders from their area.

County Supervisor and Metro boardmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents South Los Angeles and who has long championed the Crenshaw/LAX line, supported the staff recommendation as “hook[ing] this up in a way that is satisfactory to the broadest number of stakeholders possible.” His position may be at odds with County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents the South Bay. Hahn was not present at the committee meeting, but committee chair John Fasana stated that Hahn had requested that the item be discussed at next week’s full board meeting.

At the Metro operations committee, the item was agendized to be received and filed, with no decision. Fasana disagreed with staff’s assertion that this was a more-or-less just a technical operations decision, but that the board should explicitly understand and decide these operations plans.

From a high-level system viewpoint (and given existing constraints), the Metro staff recommendation – Alternative 1 – makes sense for now. What Alternative 1 does not provide is simple one-seat rides for a relatively small population of South Bay riders taking Metro past LAX.

Tune in to the full board meeting next Thursday June 28 for further discussion and, hopefully, resolution of Crenshaw Line operating plans.

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