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SOURCEBOOK 2007 | GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Pre-pre-boarding made breezier

February 04, 2007|Dan Gaines | Times Staff Writer

THESE days, the only thing trickier than getting through an airport is making it there in the first place. Southern California's mass transit options are a mixed bag, but they shouldn't be ruled out. Meanwhile, new remote check-in services and special waiting areas for drivers picking up passengers can ease the hassle. Here's how:

1. Use cellphone waiting lots

LAX and Long Beach offer designated parking lots where drivers can wait for arriving passengers. Instead of driving 15 laps in airport traffic, you can relax in the lot until your friends or family members call to tell you that they're standing at the curb, ready to be whisked away. (Locations are shown in the maps on the facing page.)

2. Check LAX bags remotely

You can now check luggage through a service provider, BAGS, at the Van Nuys and Union Station Flyaway bus departure locations, for $5 each. Note the time and weight restrictions at www.lawa.org/vny/remotecheckin.cfm.

3. Consider direct daytime city buses

Bus service is frequent and less crowded in the middle of the day. If you have a good book and are near one of the half-a-dozen Metro buses that go to the transit center at Parking Lot C, it can be a breezy trip. (Culver City Bus No. 6, Torrance No. 8 and Santa Monica Blue Bus No. 3 go as well.) For bus and rail maps, and other mass-transit information, try www.mta.net/riding_metro or (800) COMMUTE (266-6883).

4. Account for transit when booking

If you live near John Wayne Airport and choose a flight from LAX that saves you $200, think long and hard about how much of that $200 you'll spend getting to LAX, and the value of the time and hassle.

5. Try the Burbank Metrolink/

Amtrak station

The Metrolink/Amtrak station at Burbank Airport is close enough for most people to walk and wheel bags to the terminal in about five minutes. (A shuttle van can be called if needed.) The train service is not frequent, so check schedules before you choose a flight. www.metrolinktrains.com/lines/schedules/

6. Use transit on the way home

Unlike getting a ride to the airport, coordinating a pickup can be more difficult because of flight delays and/or unexpectedly slow traffic. Vans, buses and taxis are available any time you arrive. Plus, it's better to check out unfamiliar transit options when you don't have a plane to catch.

7. Avoid rogue taxis

Unlicensed taxi cabs may be unsafe and rarely save you money. It's easy to avoid them in the airport; the airport runs staffed taxi stands. But unlicensed cabs aren't worth the risk traveling to the airport either.

8. For Ontario, try Metrolink rail

stations

The Upland and Montclair stations on the San Bernardino line and the East Ontario station on the Riverside line are just a few miles away. Montclair is best for finding taxis and bus connections to the airport, but any of them are a short taxi ride on your way home. (Note that weekend Metrolink service is limited.) www.metrolinktrains.com/lines/schedules/

9. Go Green

It is unfortunate for air travelers that the Green Line doesn't get closer than Aviation Boulevard. But even though you have to allow up to 30 minutes from Aviation to the airport, the free shuttle is often waiting for you. And connections from the Red and Blue lines can make the Green Line fast, if you can carry your bags.

10. Save for a rainy day

On a bright, sunny day when you have plenty of time, why not just spend a dollar or two on a bus? You can pocket the savings for a limo another time, perhaps when it's a rainy day with heavy traffic. You'll be able to sit back in the limo, maybe watch a movie and take comfort in the fact that you saved ahead for such service.

daniel.gaines@latimes.com

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