Los Angeles International Airport executive director Gina Marie Lindsey says airlines have little interest in two projects favored by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti — an intermodal transportation center and an automated people mover.
She made the comments at Monday’s Board of Airport Commissioners meeting. Several members suggested to Lindsey that more efficient ground transportation — and thus less terminal area congestion –would make for happier airlines, but Lindsey pushed back against that assertion.
“I think the facilities that are most important are the airline used facilities,” Lindsey said. “They are going to want to have more gates and they are going to want to make sure their operation on the airfield is efficient. Those are going to be the most important determiners from the airline standpoint, other than the market — obviously the market has to be here for them. I don’t think they will care — in fact I expect we will have very energized conversations with the airlines relative to the automated people mover system. They are not universally loved at any airport that I am aware of. It doesn’t mean they don’t get done.”
Lindsey said both projects cost a lot of money and deliver no additional revenue. She said it is unlikely any passenger demand will be stimulated if ground transportation is slightly more efficient. That’s especially true of the automated people mover, which could whisk passengers from one terminal to the next. (Perhaps you’ve seen the APM in Dallas.)
“They’re non revenue,” Lindsey said. “There is no way to make money off of an APM. It’s essentially a sunk cost that you have to find other mechanisms to pay for. And they worry all the time that the mechanism to pay for them is going to be them. The way our rate structure is put together now they would not pay for all of it. But they certainly would get a share of it, and that’s where the energized conversation is going to happen.
“Both the Intermodal Transportation Center and the APM are going to be difficult conversations with airlines simply because they don’t have their own revenue stream.”
Commissioner Jackie Goldberg reminded Lindsey that the mayor supported both ground transportation elements. And she said she is convinced that LAX car and bus traffic is keeping some people from using the the airport.
“It takes 40 minutes at 1030 at night to get out of the airport,” she said. “This discourages people from coming to LAX. It just does.”
Presuming the projects go forward, Lindsey said it might make sense to keep costs low. City and airport officials are in the very early stages of deciding how to proceed.
“You could spend $300 million on an ITF … or you could spend a billion dollars,” she said. “And that’s part of the dilemma that I think we are going to have to collectively wrestle with. We need to collectively keep ourselves honest that we don’t overbuild. We have one airport where that happened already. And we need to appropriately size and scope the facilities for the use we expect they would get.”
That “one airport where that happened already” zinger is a reference to L.A./Ontario International Airport, which is operated by the city of Los Angeles. That airport opened a new terminal complex in 1998, with officials predicting the facility could handle 10 million passengers per year. Instead, the airport is handling around 4 million passengers per year.