Regulations

Leading Industry CEOs Advocate For Airport Access

Martin Romjue
Posted on September 27, 2018
Large transportation company executives David Seelinger, Cheryl Berkman, and Michael Fogarty have started a new group, Association of Transportation Affiliates, to advocate keeping the LAX traffic loop available to licensed charter party carriers for curbside client drop offs and pick-ups. (LCT file photos)
Large transportation company executives David Seelinger, Cheryl Berkman, and Michael Fogarty have started a new group, Association of Transportation Affiliates, to advocate keeping the LAX traffic loop available to licensed charter party carriers for curbside client drop offs and pick-ups. (LCT file photos)
LOS ANGELES — Southern California operators are facing one of their biggest challenges to date as Los Angeles International Airport looks toward changing the ground transportation access at the central terminal area.

At stake is whether luxury transportation services will continue to be able to pick up and drop off their clients at terminal curbsides starting in 2023.

New Advocacy

In an effort to find solutions, a group of leading industry executives and company owners formed the Affiliate Transportation Association (ATA) in August, a non-profit trade and lobbying group set up to work with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). ATA is headed by Cheryl Berkman, CEO of Los Angeles-based Music Express; David Seelinger, CEO of EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, based in Secaucus, N.J., with operations in El Segundo; and Michael Fogarty, President of Addison Lee Group North America based in Mahwah, N.J., with operations in Los Angeles. Berkman serves as president of ATA, with Seelinger and Fogarty as vice presidents. The group also gets advice and support from Music Express’ attorney, Gary Dye, and Jonna Sabroff, industry consultant at EmpireCLS and a former Los Angeles area operator.

ATA is partnered directly with Advocates for Fairness in Transportation (AFT), a political action committee fund led by the same principals.

Traffic piles up entering the LAX central terminal area on a weekday in late August. (LCT file shot)
Traffic piles up entering the LAX central terminal area on a weekday in late August. (LCT file shot)
Airport Challenges & Plans

The LAX central terminal area has seen a perfect storm of heavy traffic congestion in recent years caused by rising airline passenger traffic, the addition of transportation network companies (TNCs) permitted in 2016 that now compete with taxicabs and charter party carriers such as chauffeured and limousine services, and long-term construction projects to upgrade terminals. ATA estimates LAX will likely reach 100 million passengers annually within the next few years. LAX had 85 million passengers in 2017.

To reduce traffic congestion, accommodate future passenger growth, and provide scheduled access to the CTA, LAWA has proposed a $5.5 billion Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP) in the central terminal area (CTA) which would create three new structures outside the CTA. LAMP is part of a $14 billion capital improvement program at LAX, started in 2009.

According to the proposal, which is not final, an automated people mover would run on a 2.25 mile elevated guideway with three stations outside of the terminal loop and three inside the terminal loop. The stations outside the terminal loop include one at the Consolidated Rent-A-Car Facility (ConRAC), one which will connect to the Metro light rail system (airport Metro connector), and one at the Intermodal Transportation Facility – West (ITF-West), which is a 4,700 stall parking structure. ConRAC, the people mover system, airport Metro connector (AMC), and roadway improvements are scheduled to be done in March 2023, and ITF-West in 2021.

According to an ATA presentation referencing LAMP documents, a proposed ITF-East facility on a 22-acre site east of adjacent to Aviaton Boulevard between W. 96th and W. 98th Streets would include an automated people mover (APM) station, a commercial vehicle curb, and internal circulation roads, among other proposed elements. The ITF East facility would be connected via a pedestrian walkway to provide access to the proposed Metro AMC 96th Street transit station.

ITF-East would provide curb areas for "pick-up and drop-off areas for private vehicles, limousines, taxis, and other commercial vehicles [emphasis added]. Commerical vehicles using ITF East would include shared ride vans, FlyAway buses, charter buses, transit buses, and charter vans. A short term parking area with about 200 spaces wold be provided for certain commerical vehicles to park or dwell while waiting for passengers," according to the ATA presentation, which was made to Southern California operators on Aug. 23 in Studio City.

What concerns ATA is that commercial vehicles would no longer access the CTA and be relegated to ITF-East. Personally-owned vehicles, however, would still have access to the CTA, a LAWA spokeswoman said.

ATA and AFT are working with LAWA to modify plans and find constructive alternatives. LAWA executives already have responded positively to AFT/ATA's overtures to work with them to find the right answer for allowing licensed “for hire” vehicles — officially designated as TCP charter party carriers regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission — to pick up and drop off in the CTA under the new design.

Vehicles stack up trying to enter a congested parking deck across from a terminal at LAX during a weekday in late August. (LCT file shot)
Vehicles stack up trying to enter a congested parking deck across from a terminal at LAX during a weekday in late August. (LCT file shot)
Protecting Access

As of now, luxury transportation and limousine services account for only 5% of the vehicles moving through the CTA, but their clients provide airlines up to 30% of ticket sale revenue used to justify robust LAX flight schedules. They are concerned the plan would deprive them of their primary appeal and selling point: Easy drop-off and pick-up at terminal curbsides.

Losing such convenience could reverberate throughout Southern California’s visitor, tourist, and event-related economic generators, as the region would become less competitive with others in attracting conventions, meetings, high-end tourism, and corporate roadshows.

“Our desired goal is every properly licensed operator will be able to pick up and drop off at the central terminal,” Fogarty told LCT. “It would cut the value of what we’re providing if we have to drop off at a train terminal. It would be devastating.”

National Precedent

How the final LAMP plan is configured could set an example for airports nationwide as they also grapple with anticipated increases in passenger counts and ground transportation activity.

“It really could be a nationwide industry problem because companies all over the world farm in to Los Angeles and people like myself and thousands of operators in California deliver their passengers at LAX,” Berkman told LCT. “We really need the whole industry to understand what we could be up against.”

In the Aug. 23 ATA presentation document, Berkman stated: “Our clients have made their views clear. They expect limousine companies they rely on for transportation to and from LAX to maintain curbside terminal access within the CTA.”

Terrorism

Among primary concerns outlined in the presentation are fears about security in the CTA. ATA’s position is only permitted commercial vehicles curbside would reduce LAX’s exposure to car bombs and other catastrophic terrorist events, since commercial vehicles must be licensed, inspected, and regulated, and in the case of charter party carriers, drivers and chauffeurs background checked and vetted.

A 2006 Rand Corporation study on LAX vulnerabilities estimated a 500-pound curbside bomb detonated in the right lane of the LAX CTA loop in front of a busy skycap sidewalk area would cause numerous deaths outside and inside the terminal.

Operators Reach Out

GCLA President Mo Garkani addresses LAX matters Sept. 27 at the Greater California Livery Association meeting at the LAX Marriott (LCT photo)
GCLA President Mo Garkani addresses LAX matters Sept. 27 at the Greater California Livery Association meeting at the LAX Marriott (LCT photo)
ATA’s next step is to gain members and donations for its efforts. Fogarty reiterated the organization represents all licensed operators and is open to all for membership and support.

“David, Cheryl, Jonna, and myself have been working together to advocate on behalf of the entire industry,” he said. “It’s an important issue. We are willing to invest in the resources and public relations to help drive this process.”

Also joining the effort is the Greater California Livery Association, the 300-member state trade group that advocates on behalf of the state's TCP charter party carriers. During a membership meeting in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, GCLA President Mo Garkani said the group has formed a committee to work with LAWA officials on the future commerical vehicle access issue. "We will try to reach out with the ATA to work out a proposal beneficial to all operators," added Mark Stewart, a Southern California operator and former GCLA president who is helping the group on legislative issues. GCLA leaders have met several times with officials at the LAWA Landside Management division during the last eight months to learn details of LAMP and gain a clear understanding of the proposal, he said.

Questions/information:

Operators interested in ATA membership and support can access a FORM HERE (ATA is working on a website). For more information, contact:

[This article was updated 9/28 from its original version to correct the cost of the LAMP plan and personal vehicle access to LAX, and add more details. It was updated again on 10/3 to include GCLA developments].

Related Topics: Advocates For Fairness In Transportation, airport rules, airports, California operators, Cheryl Berkman, city regulations, David Seelinger, Jonna Sabroff, LAX, Los Angeles operators, Michael Fogarty

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