Monday, June 11, 2007

Airport in Middle Age Asks for Larger Pants

For most people, as you age, your metabolism slows, and one day you realize that none of your pants fit at the waist. What happened? Why didn't I work out more? Why did I eat all of those cheeseburgers at In-N-Out? You knew this day would come, and yet you didn't plan for it.

That's what Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is feeling now. From its humble beginnings as Mines Field to its current status as the fifth-busiest airport in the world, the airport has struggled with growth and purpose.

I mentioned in a previous post that I grew up very near the airport, and I've seen its strange progress and unbecoming aging. I've seen wide portions of neighborhoods and three holes of a golf course swallowed by airport expansion. (Westchester Dad at the blog has some photos of the "ghost neighborhoods" at the time of their forced desertion.)

Now the airport wants to expand again. In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Jennifer Oldham wrote an article that provides a fair overview of the situation: political pressure, changes in leadership, conflicts of interest, neighborhood tensions, passenger traffic demands, questionable safety concerns, the necessity to modernize.

There is no doubt that the airport has been poorly planned, and its runways are prone (by design or user error) to accidents. It's also quite clear that it is considerably more run down than some of its nearby cousins (Phoenix, John Wayne in Orange County, San Francisco, and San Jose). Though, the next time you fly in to Dallas, Minneapolis, or Denver, consider how long it takes to get to the airport from urban areas. These places were designed with room to grow. Airports like LAX and Boston can only grow with major pains, hemmed in by poor thinking and unfortunate placement.

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