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Los Angeles World Airports rejects plan to restore FlyAway bus service in Westwood

Passengers in line at LAX are pictured. Los Angeles World Airports rejected a proposal from the North Westwood Neighborhood Council to restore FlyAway bus services in Westwood. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Gabrielle Siegel

April 18, 2024 8:56 p.m.

Los Angeles World Airports rejected an initiative by the North Westwood Neighborhood Council to restore the FlyAway bus service in Westwood.

The NWWNC passed a community impact statement April 3 requesting the LA Board of Airport Commissioners and City Council to conduct a study and reestablish the FlyAway bus service from Westwood to LAX. The statement proposed adding a Westwood stop on the Van Nuys FlyAway bus service.

The service, which previously offered a direct bus line from Westwood to LAX, was discontinued in 2019 because of low ridership, according to a LAWA news release.

A 2019 study conducted by LAWA prior to the closure found that participants in a focus group preferred to pay surge pricing costs of ride-shares over using the FlyAway service during holiday times and exceptional situations. The study also found that FlyAway can take twice as long as taxis or transportation network companies because of additional steps and wait times.

The NWWNC statement cited the affordability and convenience of the FlyAway bus service, noting the disproportionate number of community members in the Westwood neighborhood who use LAX regularly but do not own cars.

“Given the changes the pandemic and subsequent recovery have had on travel patterns, the cost of ridehail trips, and other factors, in the years since the route was discontinued, we request at the least a new feasibility study and identification of a funding source,” NWWNC said in the statement.

LAWA, an LA city department that owns and operates LAX and the FlyAway bus service, sent a statement April 11 to the NWWNC stating the department had no plans to reestablish the route. The statement pointed to low ridership on the Westwood service as the source of its original closure and the reason for not restarting the route.

The Westwood line averaged just three riders per trip despite initiatives to increase ridership, including changing the stop location, using social media to promote the route and changing trip frequency, according to the 2019 news release.

“Prior to its closure in 2019, the service saw diminishing ridership year over year, dropping to just over 36,000 riders in 2018 despite focused efforts working with UCLA to encourage its usage,” LAWA said in an emailed statement. “This very low ridership level occurred in a year of record passenger volumes for LAX. In comparison, the Van Nuys FlyAway had over 1.1 million riders in 2018.”

[Related: FlyAway to fly away from Westwood after the LAX shuttle suffers low ridership]

The LAWA statement also explained that adding a stop on the Van Nuys FlyAway route would increase costs and diminish the experience for existing customers, potentially reducing ridership and offsetting any gains from restoring service to Westwood. LAWA said any future expansion of bus service will prioritize high-ridership locations.

The NWWNC aimed to restore the Westwood bus service to serve UCLA students in particular, said Jacob Wasserman, the secretary of NWWNC’s governing board.

“It should be restored for a few reasons. One is that after the pandemic, ridership patterns on public transit and travel demand has changed a lot,” Wasserman said. “Transit also provides a social service for people who don’t have access to an automobile, and that includes especially UCLA students.”

Wasserman said although Westwood residents can reach LAX using the Culver CityBus, Big Blue Bus and Metro, these modes of transportation are more difficult since the LAX Automated People Mover – an electric train system within the airport – is still under construction.

In addition to offering a more financially viable option for students, the FlyAway bus service would have provided a more environmentally friendly method of transportation, said Raag Agrawal, an NWWNC graduate student member.

“There’s another case to be made that it’s better for the climate to have a bus service that travels regularly between the two sites, because otherwise you’d have 100, 200 car trips,” Agrawal said. “Those are really, really bad for the environment versus just a bus that can carry a lot of people.”

Agrawal said the council suggested restoring bus service around times of higher demand for students, such as UCLA move-in and move-out dates as well as between quarters.

Wasserman said that despite the initiative’s rejection, NWWNC would look to have a similar conversation with LAWA in the future.

“We’ll see what the future holds,” he said. “It’s not off our table or off our plans, but obviously a bit of a setback.”

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Gabrielle Siegel
Siegel is a 2023-2024 slot editor. She was previously a 2022-2023 Copy staff member and has contributed to News, Sports, Prime and Photo. She is also a fourth-year communication and Spanish student from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
Siegel is a 2023-2024 slot editor. She was previously a 2022-2023 Copy staff member and has contributed to News, Sports, Prime and Photo. She is also a fourth-year communication and Spanish student from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
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