U.S. passenger numbers are at record levels, but packed terminals aren’t stopping them from enjoying wait time for a flight.
From midnight of Friday, July 16 until (hopefully) 5 a.m. on Monday, July 18, a 10-mile section of a major Los Angeles traffic artery will close for construction, causing gridlock concerns and hampering transfers to and from LAX.
City officials have urged residents to plan ahead for their trips, and either leave before the closure or do their best to stay at home and avoid travelling this weekend. Warning messages have been set up all over the freeway, Los Angeles celebrities have echoed the advice for residents to stay home by reaching out to fans through social media, and the media has been steadily reporting on it. Officials expect surface roads, canyon roads, and local neighborhood streets to be congested as motorists use them as alternatives. But for many folks, including business travellers and those who transport them, staying at home is not an option.
Noune Bagdasarian is the general manager of West Los Angeles-based KLS Limousine Service and in charge of planning the logistics for the freeway closure.
"We're letting the drivers who live in the Westside take cars home with them so we can dispatch from there, and that helps us avoid having to have drivers come in from Burbank and the [San Fernando] Valley to do a pick up at LAX," she said.
"Also, we're urging clients to use the Burbank airport instead, but if they do use LAX and are coming from the Valley, we're charging garage-to-garage and advising them to schedule pick-ups five to six hours ahead of time. Everyone else will be taking all the known alternate routes, like the canyon roads, the 101 [freeway]. It'll be chaos and there's really not much anyone can do."
Bagdasarian has also advised clients to stay in hotels close to the airport.
Limousine Connection's Chris Hundley has done the same. "I said, 'let's take you to an airport Friday night, stay in the hotel, and take the shuttle to the airport for your flight. We're not sure if it'll take one or six hours to get to LAX, and who needs that stress? Go to the airport the night before.' Some are going to do that," he said.
Hundley said everyone on his team is versed on the alternative routes, and he has cars strategically staged in different areas to make sure they're on time to pick up their clients. "If it takes a couple hours longer to get to the airport, well, that's not your fault," he said. "But we have to make sure we get to the client on time."
He said there is no magic route that nobody knows about, and one of the alternatives he plans to avoid is the Pacific Coast Highway, because he expects that to be one of the first alternates to be gridlocked. But despite all the logistical headaches, Hundley remains positive, and explained that this weekend could very well benefit from what he called the "Olympics Effect."
When the 1984 Olympics came to L.A., the media blasted out messages for residents to avoid unnecessary driving in the area because of gridlock and other traffic nightmares. "I drove [during the L.A. Olympics], and it was the best traffic ever because [city officials] scared everyone into submission," Hundley recalls. "I'm hoping they will have scared enough people into submission this time so that it won't truly be 'Carmageddon' traffic."
Stein shares Hundley's optimism. "At the end of the day, it’s a weekend, and we're hoping that no one's really travelling," Stein said. "We're hoping for the best and ready for the worst. Our chauffeurs are ready."
For an interactive graphic of the potential traffic jams this weekend, click here.
— Michael Campos, LCT assistant editor
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