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Plans for LAX Won't Fly

June 29, 2002

Re "Details Sketchy in Hahn's LAX Modernization Plan," June 23: Mayor James Hahn's plan is ludicrous. Los Angeles International Airport is quite efficient for its size. Its U shape allows for convenient drop-off no matter what the airline and easy transfer between terminals. Compared with London's Heathrow Airport (the world's fourth-busiest airport) or New York's Kennedy Airport, (among the world's busiest), both of which appear to be scattered haphazardly across the countryside, the world's third-busiest airport--LAX--is quite user-friendly.

The best course of action for LAX is to leave it alone and do two other things: First, utilize other regional airports more fully. London, New York and Chicago, the three regions in the world that board more passengers per year than the Los Angeles area, all use multiple airports to handle their air travel needs. Second, build the California high-speed rail system. Now in the planning stages, the system would connect San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego with 200-mph trains.

Making high-speed rail available would sharply reduce the need for short-haul flights, since high-speed rail is faster than flying for city-center-to-city-center travel under 500 miles. Short-haul flights are undesirable because they clog valuable airport terminal space, pollute heavily per passenger-mile and entail a lot of hassle and wasted time for a brief journey.

A recent trip to France, on whose rail system California's will be based, gave me personal experience with the TGV [high-speed train] service. There is no need to buy a ticket days or weeks in advance, check in early or endure repeated and intrusive searches. While on the train one can use one's own cell phone or other electronic device at any time during the journey. The ride is extremely smooth, quiet and comfortable, despite speeds up to 186 mph.

Let's try an intelligent alternative to Hahn's plan. LAX isn't broken and doesn't need fixing.

Chris Ford

Los Angeles

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Once again the city of Los Angeles and Southern California in general are completely missing the point regarding the modernization of LAX and planning for the future of air travel in our five-county region. How smart is it to expand the capacity of a small-acreage airport surrounded by residential neighborhoods and located in one of the most traffic-congested areas of the region? How smart is it to have one international airport to serve five counties? How smart is it to have 50% of this airport's runway capacity pass over a major state highway? How smart is it to place the new "safe and secure" passenger facility between the two flight paths where aircraft pass on either side at 400 feet and hundreds of miles per hour?

Who are the real stakeholders when it comes to LAX? Are they the community members who must bear the ever-increasing traffic, noise and pollution? Are they the people who actually must suffer an even longer drive through increasing congestion only to endure an even longer preflight wait created by a remote terminal? Or are the stakeholders just the Chamber of Commerce members and the downtown high rollers the mayor seems to love to talk to?

Whatever happened to the mayor's commitment to a regional solution to air travel? Why has Hahn not replaced the Los Angeles representative to the Southern California Regional Airport Authority when our place in that organization has been vacant since January?

Harry Rose

Los Angeles

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Mr. Mayor, before you spend millions in proposals for new airport buildings and roadways at LAX, couldn't you just fix the escalators? I am a purser for a major airline flying out of LAX. I fly international flights, and we carry a large suitcase and tote bag on our four-to-six-day flights. Pursers also carry briefcases. Eighty percent of the time when we land at LAX, one or more of the escalators is turned off or broken. We are forced to walk down long flights of stairs with heavy baggage--an accident waiting to happen.

My airline has four 747s arriving before noon. That means 1,400 passengers and 80 crew members use stairs instead of escalators. We've been told the Department of Airports is responsible and that it can't fix the equipment because of two reasons: 1) lack of money and 2) the existing escalators are so obsolete it can't get parts to fix them. One moving sidewalk in a very long hallway has been out of service for over six months.

Whenever we complain about the safety issues involved, everyone simply shrugs his shoulders and says, "There's nothing we can do." This has been going on for 10 years. Excuse me, but $103 million has been spent on contracts that have since been abandoned? Elderly passengers, families with children and flight attendants are using stairs each day. It's shameful!

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

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