Traveling By Car or Air? Expect Long Waits

November 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re planning to hit the road today for a Thanksgiving break, bring a big dose of patience.

Wednesday is expected to be one of the busiest days of the Thanksgiving holiday travel crunch, with traffic watchers reporting by early afternoon that freeways out of town are moving at a snails pace.

At Los Angeles International Airport, between 228,000 and 239,000 passengers are expected to pass through the facility. A similar number of people will flow through LAX on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

LAX officials are expected a record 2.38 million travelers to pass through the airport during the holiday travel period, which began Friday and will end Monday. That’s up 2.3 percent from last year. The best days to pass through the airport are expected to be Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, when
a mere 174,000 to 195,000 people are expected to be at LAX.

If you’re traveling on the freeways, you won’t be alone either. The crush of travelers was evident on freeways as early as Tuesday night, with miles-long backups already making for extended drives heading out of town.

The Automobile Club of Southern California estimated that 3.87 million Southern California residents will be traveling for the long weekend, and 86 percent of them will be traveling by car.

Statewide, 6.26 million are projected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, the highest number of Thanksgiving travelers since 2007, when 6.44 million Californians took a holiday trip. The Auto Club is expecting 5.37 million statewide to go by car and another 693,000 to fly. More than 200,000 are expected to use other modes of transportation, about the same as last year.

The top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of the Auto Club’s Travel agents, are, in this order, San Francisco, San Diego, Anaheim, the Grand Canyon, and Santa Barbara. Nationally, Anaheim, site of the Disneyland Resort, is expected to be the second most popular Thanksgiving destination, according to the AAA.

Police Chase Reckless Driver from East L.A. to Commerce; Driver Got Away

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

(CNS) – A reckless driver led police officers on a wild chase from East Los Angeles to Commerce before evading his pursuers by heading west on the Glen Anderson (105) Freeway moving through Lynwood, Hawthorne and Inglewood, authorities said.

The chase began shortly before 11 p.m. Monday on the northbound Long Beach (710) Freeway in East L.A. The driver then switched to surface streets in Commerce, where he blew through red lights along the way.

Authorities tracked the speeding driver and occasionally was forced to back off as the dark sedan traveled some of the time without lights. The driver was believed to have hit 60 miles per hour or more on surface streets in Compton and Willowbrook, according to authorities.

A passenger in the car was seen waving a balloon outside the window, according to media reports. At one point two people in the back seat fled from the car before the driver continued on his way.

The suspect finally lost police as he drove into Inglewood, near Los Angeles International Airport.

FlyAway Returns to Patsaouras Bus Plaza

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The FlyAway airport shuttle started making stops again at the original Union Station stop in the Patsaouras Bus Plaza, after the stop was relocated to make way for renovation work.

The plaza will be reopening with some changes, according to a spokesman. Cars will no longer be allowed in the plaza area with the buses, and are restricted to a separate underground garage that can be entered on Vignes Street.

The Union Station FlyAway shuttle operates every 20 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., every half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and hourly from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

One-way fares are $9, with free admission for up to two children ages five and younger. Union Station garage parking is $8 per day, up to a maximum stay of 30 days.

FlyAway shuttles also pick-up and drop-off LAX passengers at stops in Hollywood, Long Beach, Metro Orange Line station in the San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys, and Westwood.

LAX Shooter Pleads Guilty to Murder

September 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A man who opened fire inside a Los Angeles International Airport terminal in 2013, killing a Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding three other people, pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges.

The plea agreement between Paul Ciancia, 26, and federal prosecutors will spare him the death penalty, but he still faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing was set for Nov. 7.

Ciancia pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts stemming from the Nov. 1, 2013, shootings in the airport’s Terminal 3, including the murder of TSA Officer Gerardo I. Hernandez.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, but the murder charge to which Ciancia pleaded carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Weapons charges carry another mandatory 60 years in prison, in addition to several years behind bars for other charges.

Members of the victims’ families filled the downtown Los Angeles courtroom, many weeping throughout the proceeding.

Marshall McClain, director of the union that represents airport police officers, said he hoped Hernandez’s family members would find some relief as a result of the plea.

“We hope the plea agreement will help Officer Gerardo Hernandez’s family heal and brings some closure to them from this horrific tragedy,” he said.

Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 at LAX and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle while carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition, along with a signed handwritten note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and “instill fear in your traitorous minds.”

Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.

The New Jersey native, who had been living in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles for about 18 months, was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. Federal prosecutors have cited Ciancia’s “substantial planning and premeditation.”

Ciancia purchased his weapon almost seven months prior to the attack and concealed it on the day of the shooting by tying two pieces of luggage together to create a carrying case, according to court records.

According to the plea agreement, Ciancia sent text messages to his brother and sister while he was being driven to the airport on the morning of the attack. In one, he called himself a “patriot.”

“I’m so sorry that I have to leave you pre-maturely, but it is for the greater good of humanity,” he wrote to his brother. “This was the purpose I was brought here.”

To his sister, Ciancia wrote that he had to “stand up to these tyrants,” and asked her not to let the media distort his actions.

“There wasn’t a terrorist attack on Nov. 1,” he wrote. “There was a pissed off patriot trying to water the tree of liberty.”

After he shot Hernandez at a passenger ID checkpoint and the officer fell to the ground, Ciancia got on an escalator heading into the terminal, prosecutors said. When he saw Hernandez still moving, Ciancia went back and shot the officer repeatedly, prosecutors said. Hernandez was shot a total of 12 times.

Moving back into the terminal, Ciancia shot TSA Officers Tony Leroy Grigsby and James Maurice Speer, along with a civilian, Brian Ludmer, according to court records.

Ciancia continued into the terminal but was shot in the neck and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He spent two weeks recovering at a hospital before he was transferred to a federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles, where he remains in custody.

Millions of Californians Have Holiday Travel Plans

December 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A record 12.3 million California residents — 7.6 million of them from Southern California — will travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Los Angeles International Airport officials said they expect a record 3.5 million passengers to pass through the airport during the holiday travel season that began Friday and ends Jan. 3, up 7.9 percent from last year. That would make LAX the nation’s busiest airport over the holidays, officials said.
The Auto Club’s estimate of 12.3 million travelers statewide represents a 1.3 percent increase over 2014. Eighty-nine percent of travelers, or 6.8 million Southern Californians and 10.9 million statewide, will travel by car — also a 1.3 percent increase from last year, according to the Auto Club. More than 598,000 local residents and 965,000 Californians are expected to fly, which is
a 0.4 percent increase over 2014.
The most popular destinations for Southern Californians over this Christmas-New Year holiday, according to a poll of Auto Club AAA Travel agents, are, in this order, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona and Mexico.
Officials at LAX, meanwhile, said they expect the busiest days for passengers will be Dec. 30 (232,000 passengers), Dec. 23 (226,000 passengers), Dec. 21 (224,000) and Dec. 27 (220,000). Christmas Day will be the slowest day, with 179,000 passengers, while 180,000 are expected on New Year’s Eve and 186,000 on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
The average daily passenger volume at LAX is 193,000.
Airport officials said passengers should arrive early over the holiday season and expect crowded terminals and domestic flights at 90 percent capacity.
Nationally, the Auto Club projected that the number of travelers will top 100 million for the first time in the 21st century, increasing by 1.4 percent compared to last year’s Christmas-New Year holiday. This year marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for end-of-year holiday travel.
The organization also said that the Southern California contingent will be the highest number this century.
Gas prices will be drastically lower over the holiday season than 2014 in most areas of the country. But the savings over last year will not be as great in Southern California, where the current average price of $2.75 a gallon in the Los Angeles area is only 15 cents lower than at this time last year. Gas prices are not dropping as quickly locally due to a refinery outage in Torrance that continues to affect supply. Nationwide, the average gas price is around $2 a gallon.
The Auto Club’s analysis of average hotel, air and car rental expenses for this year’s holiday season shows that average airfares from Los Angeles to several popular destinations will be mostly lower than at this time last year, but hotel rates at AAA 3 Diamond properties are up by an average of 4 percent, and car rental rates at popular destinations are up an average of 3 percent over 2014.
While year-end holiday travel will be spread out over a number of days, the Auto Club advises travelers that local freeways beginning this weekend will likely be more congested with holiday travelers.

Holiday Travel Expected To Set Record High

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A record 2.1 million passengers are expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport over the 11-day Thanksgiving holiday travel period, a jump of 6.9 percent over last year’s record of 1.96 million passengers, officials announced Tuesday.

“As more people choose to work, visit, study and play in Los Angeles, LAX keeps on breaking records,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “L.A. is a world-class destination for visitors from around the globe, and this is great news for our local economy.”

The holiday travel period begins Friday. Airport officials said they estimate 205,000 passengers to pass through the airport on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then jump to 219,000 on Monday. An estimated 197,000 travelers are expected at the airport Nov. 25, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and the following Friday will be the slowest days, with 147,000 and 170,000 passengers, respectively.

Los Angeles World Airport Executive Director Deborah Flint urged travelers to “reduce the stress of holiday travel by planning ahead and allowing extra time for getting to LAX.”

Airport officials also encouraged people to use public transportation, including the FlyAway bus service and Metro Green Line, to avoid congested traffic at the airport. They also urged people who are picking up visitors at the airport to use the Cellphone Waiting Lot at 96th Street and Vicksburg to avoid circling the airport and adding to the congestion.

Los Angeles City Council Delays Action on Uber Pick Ups at LAX

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City Council temporarily put the brakes Wednesday on a plan to allow ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers from LAX so the city can further scrutinize passenger safety, disability access and other issues.

The council voted 11-2 to assert authority over an Airport Commission decision last month to allow ride-hailing companies to make pick-ups alongside taxis, shuttle vans and other transportation services at Los Angeles International Airport, which would become the largest airport in the country to permit such operations.

The move to halt the plan was spearheaded by Councilman Paul Krekorian and backed by five council colleagues who claimed “significant questions remain” as to “the propriety of mandating background checks, clean fleet requirements, non-discrimination and equality of access,” among other issues.

Council members Mike Bonin, whose district includes the airport, and David Ryu voted against the action.

The city’s Transportation, Commerce and Technology Committee will discuss the issue Aug. 18 before the matter returns to the full council.

Krekorian said the Airport Commission “wholly ignored” concerns he raised along with fellow Councilman Paul Koretz about whether ride-hailing companies are adequately regulated to ensure the safety of passengers.

Krekorian and Koretz sent a joint letter to the commission last month saying they would not support an agreement that lacked certain safety regulations that is “substantially similar” to one imposed on taxi companies, including provisions addressing disability access, insurance, environmental requirements and other issues.

Bonin said he supports the Airport Commission’s agreement, saying it contains requirements for “background check information” and institutes “very smart and innovative protections for neighborhoods around the airport.”

“I think there’s a lot of smart stuff here. I think as we delve into it, the rest of you will see a lot of that,” he said. “I look forward to having a robust discussion, but I will be voting no today.”

Uber drivers clad in blue and pink-shirted Lyft drivers filled the council chamber to speak against the action, while a contingent of taxi drivers — many of whom have complained ride-hailing companies skirt city regulations and have an unfair competitive advantage — also made a showing, though only a few spoke publicly on the issue.

Ride-hailing drivers said pick-ups at LAX are among the top requests made by passengers, who they say enjoy the low cost, payment methods and the ability to book trips on their phones.

Many said passengers often arrange to be picked up at a location near LAX, since ride-hailing companies are not currently allowed to pick up passengers directly from the airport.

“It’s kind of like, everybody wants a cheeseburger from McDonald’s — everybody wants it. It’s just something that needs to happen. I think a lot of people like the convenience of it,” Lyft driver Brandon Bailey told City News Service.

Bailey said Lyft does background checks that flag a driver’s criminal history, and the company operates a mentorship program to ensure the quality of drivers.

Despite the council’s action Wednesday, Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo said the company is hoping to see ride-hailing services incorporated at LAX by the end of summer.

“Riders and driver-partners across Los Angeles have voiced their strong support for more safe, affordable transportation options like uberX at LAX,” Amodeo said.

Lyft also issued a statement calling on the council “to move quickly and make options like Lyft available for Los Angeles travelers.”

Koretz said that no matter what he feels about ride-hailing companies, “they are going to wind up at the airport,” but he noted that the Airport Commission-adopted agreement is a rare opportunity for city leaders to consider stronger regulations for such companies.

The city is otherwise powerless to improve upon regulation adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission, which has jurisdiction on the companies.

The CPUC “put in the most minuscule level of regulations and prevented cities from going further for reasons that are not apparent to me,” according to Koretz.

Koretz’s position received a boost Wednesday, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that at least four men who received citations from Airport Police while driving for Uber have criminal convictions that would bar them from operating a taxi in Los Angeles.

The drivers were convicted of child exploitation, identity theft, manslaughter and driving under the influence, according to court records cited by The Times.

Ride-hailing companies are allowed to drop people off at LAX, but only transportation companies with permits can legally make pickups.

To obtain a permit under the Airport Commission-approved agreement, ride-hailing companies would need to have an active permit from the California Public Utilities Commission, sufficient insurance coverage, pay a $4-per-trip fee and a monthly licensing fee and follow other requirements.

Garcetti announced in his State of the City speech in April that he intended to allow ride-hailing companies to pick up passengers at LAX. The ride-hailing agreement approved by the Airport Commission is “part of my agenda to make getting around L.A. easier, faster and more affordable,” Garcetti said after the panel’s vote.

Let’s Move Forward on the Sale of Ontario International Airport

January 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce agrees with Mayor Garcetti that the City of Los Angeles should sell Ontario International Airport (ONT). The business community believes that there is no strategic reason for the City of L.A. to continue to own and operate ONT, as long as the City of Ontario, or some other appropriate entity, continues to operate the facility as a commercial service airport for our region.

The City of L.A. took over the management, development and operation of ONT at the request of the City of Ontario in 1967. During the last 48 years, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has increased the size of the airport from 485 acres to 1680 acres and invested more than $500 million in facility improvements. LAWA currently holds about $63 million in bond obligations on these improvements.

The major item that has not been resolved is price. ONT breaks even financially and is a valuable asset. LAWA had two unsolicited offers to purchase ONT in the last two years; both of which would have netted LAWA well over $350 million after paying off the bonded indebtedness. Because there are $7 billion worth of improvements underway at LAX and another $4 billion on the drawing board, the money from a fairly valued sale of ONT could be put to great use by LAWA and the City of L.A.

We encourage Mayor Garcetti and the City of Ontario to conclude negotiations in 2015. Likewise, we encourage Mayor Garcetti, the L.A. City Council and the Board of Airport Commissioners to continue to move forward as briskly as possible with the planned improvements at LAX. All of us look forward to celebrating LAX as one of the finest airports in the world – as it was 30 years ago for the 1984 Olympics. The sale of ONT could help accomplish that goal.

And that’s The Business Perspective.

The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.                         


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