WHY I DON’T LIKE LOS ANGELES

R. and I just about have our trip to N. California all planned. There is one remaining detail, and it involves getting from LAX to L.A. Union Station. Before I go further, I will digress and link you a bit of L.A. history as once told to me by my friend Lisa (who lives in– and loves– L.A.).

The Seven Eras of Rapid Transit Planning in Los Angeles


I suppose you probably are wondering what that story has to do with the “one remaining detail.” For the sake of comparison, I will digress again and give you a couple of examples of similar journeys in other towns:

(The following figures are based on being ready to depart the airport at 8:30 am on August 8. Driving times don’t account for likely rush hour traffic.)

CHICAGO
O’Hare Airport to Union Station
Driving: 22 minutes; 17 miles
Public Transit: 47 minutes; 1 train; cost= $1.75

BOSTON
Logan Airport to South Station
Driving: 11 minutes; 5 miles
Public Transit: 7 minutes; 1 train; cost= $1.25

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL
Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l Airport to Midway Station (St. Paul)
Driving: 23 minutes; 8 miles
Public Transit: 45 minutes; 1 light rail+ 1 bus; cost $2.00

Okay, now we see how relatively quick, easy, and cheap it is to travel from the airport to the main Amtrak hub in each of these three major U.S. cities using public transit. Next we’ll see how it shakes down in L.A., the automobile driving capital of North America:

LOS ANGELES
LAX to L.A. Union Station
Driving: 22 minutes; 19 miles
Public Transit: 1 hour 25 minutes; 1 airport shuttle+ 1 bus; cost $1.25

Now that time, almost 40 minutes longer than the runner-up (Chicago), may not seem like much to you, especially given the low price. Consider, though, that our flight is scheduled to arrive at 8:09 am, and our Amtrak train is scheduled to depart at 10:15 am. Given those times, in any other of the listed cities we’d have time to spare. This could be important should our flight be late, or if road traffic is a mess (who ever heard of that happening on a Monday morning in L.A.?), or both. The L.A. public transit parameters give us no margin for error, assuming that boarding the train so close to the scheduled departure would even be possible.

The alternatives to public transit aren’t cheap. A shared van company promised a 9:45 arrival (again, cutting it close), but at a cost of $30. Taxis are 40 bucks. There had been a bus company that ran a route directly from LAX to Union Station, but it is no longer in operation. In fact, the number to the now-defunct company is forwarded to a private car service, whose customer service rep quoted me a price of $45, “plus tip.” (R. will attest to the fact that I am usually an extravagant tipper for someone on a fixed municipal income, but the notion that a tip should even be mentioned in a price quote strikes me as inexcusably crass.)

I really don’t like L.A. Fortunately, we’ll just be passing through.

4 comments on “

  1. Jeff says:

    Don’t get my wife started on L.A., she lived there for nearly 25 years and has nothing but bad things to say about it. How far north are you going in the state? I’ve taken a few trips to visit friends in southern Oregon, and have always changed planes in San Francisco, a town I’ve always wanted to spend more time in–in fact, if I ever go back, I plan on getting a car and driving north from there. Dunno how far the Amtrak station is fron the airport, however.If you have to go through L.A., hope your travels are as hassle free as possible. One word of advice, though–try not to breathe so much.

  2. Actually, Jeff, the only reason we’re touching down in L.A. is so that we can catch the Coast Starliner from there. If not for having a few relatives and friends in the area, I’d never inflict that town upon myself. Anyway, I’ve heard wonderful things about the train trip. Also, I’ve been to San Francisco several times (R. and I got married there), and I love it. Of course, it’s waaaaay too expensive for us to afford living there, but it sure is nice to visit. I highly recommend hanging around there for a few days. The Amtrak station nearest S.F. is in Oakland, which is just across the Bay (if you were flying into the Bay Area to catch Amtrak, you’d be better off landing in Oakland, anyway; it’s usually a cheaper flight). To get from Oakland Airport to S.F., you’d need only to catch the BART (insert “DOH!” here). Or you could rent a car, if you planned on driving north.

  3. Good luck guys. So goes interconnectivity of public transit in America. Don’t unload on California and LA too much. They’ve come a long way from where they were. They continue to construct an impressive light and heavy rail system at voter request. Sure, there’ve been a few cost overruns and delays, but history will be kind to their efforts. Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis may offer examples of easier connections between intercity rail and air, but they don’t compare to these even more progressive cities, where civic leaders have seen fit to have the Amtrak station AT the local airport: Milwaukee, Newark, Baltimore, Providence and Burbank. At several of them, Amtrak has code share agreements and through ticketing with the primary carrier at the airport. For example, if you were to fly Continental Airlines from Chicago to Stamford, CT or Philadelphia, you’d change planes at Continental’s east coast hub, Newark. But your connecting flight would be Amtrak’s Acela high speed train. How’s that for efficient use of limited air and ground space at airports? Doesn’t it make sense to reserve the airport for long-distance flights and put folks on fast trains for the shorter trip? This could happen all over if we had enlightened leadership in Washington instead of a U. S. Transportation Sectary barnstorming the country trumpeting the administrations kill-Amtrak plan!

  4. Thanks for the input, Monsieur D, and welcome to the blog world. I hope you find time to write your own; I’d love to read it.Anyway, I totally agree with your idea of using high-speed rail as an alternative to shorter flights. If we had a strong, centralized government like they have in China, a project like that could be completed within a decade. Of course, that would depend on what sort of lunatics were at the helm of such a government. So much for that thought…

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