Most significant air-ports in the US have or are about to have excellent track relationships. I acknowledge that Los Angeles is being very brief spotted in not preparing for a place beneath.
By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
As they tout a posh redo of the Tom Bradley International Terminal meant to reposition LAX as a travel hub for the new millennium, Los Angeles leaders are creating a potentially hobbling obstacle for the airport. The other big mass-transit infrastructure project nearby, the "Crenshaw/LAX" Metro light rail, will stop a full mile short of LAX.
That fact is almost certain to baffle and anger travelers to LAX, and help cement the old joke that "Los Angeles planning is an oxymoron."
Other cities are watching the situation with curiosity. Seattle Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray says his city's lone light-rail line was built from downtown straight to Sea-Tac Airport. It took "40 years of planning, voting and bickering" before its completion in 2009, and the airport stop is, predictably, "the busiest station on the line. People love it to get to and from the airport," he says.
1 World Way
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Region: Westchester/ LAX
Nothing like that is in store for LAX, a vast facility locked in by dense, urban development, and street congestion that seems destined to grow even worse.
On Jan. 4, Metro, the regional mass-transit agency, received final approval from the Federal Transit Administration to proceed with the $1.7 billion Crenshaw/LAX line, which will link the Expo Line and the Green Line.
Less than three weeks after that, Los Angeles World Airports spent a small fortune sending a lush, four-color PR brochure to more than 700,000 Angelenos, tucked inside the Los Angeles Times. It boasts that the striking new Bradley Terminal and other LAX projects will "lead Los Angeles into the future" and create tens of thousands of jobs.
There's no mention of how people will reach the traffic-gridlocked airport. It wouldn't have been good PR to detail how two of the region's key transit infrastructure projects, the LAX upgrade and the Crenshaw/LAX line, are being carefully planned — to pass each other in the night.
As Railway Gazette International delicately put it, the 8.5-mile-long Crenshaw/LAX line will serve "the area around" LAX.
But it won't go to LAX itself.
That decision by Metro mirrors the widely ridiculed 1992 decision by its predecessor agency, L.A. County Transportation Commission (LACTC), to abandon engineering work on a Green Line route to LAX. The Green Line instead went to El Segundo, where it delivers commuters to high-tech and aerospace companies.
So why isn't Metro spending the Crenshaw Line's hundreds of millions of dollars to build what everybody wants: a line that reaches LAX, just like rail lines in other cities, including Portland, Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle?
Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., will get a heavy-rail line soon, and it won't be "a mile away. [It] will easily be less than a quarter-mile from the terminals," says Washington Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
In Los Angeles, project manager Roderick Diaz says Metro isn't building a line to LAX, in large part because the Metro board wanted to use an existing rail right-of-way since it's cheaper than trying to buy numerous parcels of land or tunnel underground.
But that old right-of-way doesn't go to LAX.
"The story is that we are getting closer," says Diaz, who adds that Metro's goal is to reach LAX.
Metro's Environmental Impact Report for the "Crenshaw/LAX" line repeats a 1991 idea: "An automated people mover to connect passengers to the regional transit system is being contemplated." The people mover, a conveyer belt–like system, would have to be constructed over or under the bustling streets around LAX — a major engineering feat that's at least a decade away.
Metro's Diaz insists that LAX officials had serious plans for the people mover years ago, when the Crenshaw/LAX line was being planned. But now, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) spokesman Marshall Lowe says in an email, LAX is merely "re-evaluating" the idea.
In fact, Metro's 13-member board of directors, made up almost entirely of elected city and county officials with little education in engineering or mass transit, would have to persuade LAX officials — who come under jurisdiction of a different board, all political appointees of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — to construct it.
Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, predicts LAX will never build a people mover.
"Do I think they are going to complete it?" Schneider asks. "No."
If LAWA doesn't build it, Diaz says, Metro "will take on our own study to reach the airport."
Metro then could be faced with a job its predecessor couldn't handle two decades ago — trying to extend the Green Line to LAX.
Los Angeles seems destined to have two key mass-transit systems — LAX and light rail — aggravatingly close to one another but unconnected. Critics say the situation should be added to a long list of schemes that have failed to improve Southern California's mobility.
In 1967, Los Angeles served 17 million airport passengers per year, with the city's Department of Airports projecting a threefold jump within 10 years.
In 1968, city workers drew up designs for passenger helicopters that looked like buses with giant propellers. The plan was to zip travelers from LAX to a "Metroport" downtown.
The idea didn't take off, so to speak. But neither did a forward-thinking 1960s-era plan for a rapid-transit rail-line system.
Today, Schneider says, every passenger at LAX creates 1.7 trips per head — because the vast majority are dropped off and picked up by another person. The congestion has created a chronic ripple effect that often engulfs the 405 freeway corridor and much of the Westside.
There is, however, public transit to LAX — if you can figure out how to find it.
The Metro Bus Center is less than half a mile away, on 96th Street. Fourteen bus lines ferry passengers there from across the region, and LAX provides free shuttles from there directly to the terminals.
But when Angelenos need to get to LAX, they don't exclaim, "Just head to the Metro Bus Center!" the way San Franciscans say, "Just hop on BART." At LAX, the Metro Bus Center is promoted on two pieces of paper posted at information booths. Touch-screen kiosks don't even mention Metro Bus Center.
When the Weekly rode the free shuttle, Juan Rodriguez, a student at UCLA, said Metro Bus Center lines "are not advertised at all." Rodriguez took Culver City Bus 6 from Westwood to the airport for $1. The routes "are not on one aggregated site," Rodriguez says. "It's a little hard to go to different sites, but once you figure it out, it is OK."
Matthew Coogan, director of the New England Transportation Institute, in 2008 ranked Los Angeles behind notorious laggers New Orleans and Atlanta on public transit serving its airport. "So they want me to get on a people mover, then a rail car, then transfer twice with all my luggage, just to get downtown?" Coogan asks.
He says L.A. already has a good solution: Four FlyAway shuttle buses now run between the airport and pickup sites at Union Station, Van Nuys, Westwood and Irvine. "FlyAway is a really good system," he says.
LAX spent megabucks touting the Bradley Terminal in its slick new brochure. But the city barely advertises the often-praised FlyAway, which is operated by LAWA. The FlyAway system moves only about 1 million of the 59 million people who use LAX each year, and the Westwood line is under frequent threat of closure.
Coogan says L.A. needs to give Fly-Away shuttles more support and "lane priorities on the streets." That doesn't seem to be in the offing. In 2006, LAWA promised to open eight FlyAway lines. Six years later, there are four.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The original story incorrectly stated that Dulles and Chicago airports have light-rail. The lines are heavy rail.
Most significant air-ports in the US have or are about to have excellent track relationships. I acknowledge that Los Angeles is being very brief spotted in not preparing for a place beneath.
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(To Sprint34) Taking the traffic pressure off LAX would definitely help things. But I'm not sure where you would build a new airport up in Palmdale. (Edwards A.F.B seems to have the prime spot). Plus the cost of another rail system (besides Metrolink), and the commuting time to get folks up there looks pretty daunting.
(To all) I see now that the Crenshaw Line won't get a switch to merge with the new Expo Line on the north end. This would have made it a "non-stop" to Union Station. And there's no convenient hook up on the south end. Sending a track down the middle of West Century Blvd looks the most practical path to get a train closer to the terminals. (Ugly and expensive, yes. Those palm trees on West Century would have to go.)
In order for this route to succeed, individual drivers, taxis and shuttles would have to make big concessions.The alternative would be to abandon tracks altogether, and build some sort of specialized bus route, like the Orange Line.
Just my two cents.
Maybe there is a silver lining to some faraway cloud for travelers using LAX. Without the "missing link" in the public transit route to LAX, maybe vehicle congestion and delays will become so aggravating that enough momentum builds for a better solution.That solution is construction of a publicly funded high speed commuter line from Downtown LA through the San Fernando Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley continuing to LAWA's facility in Palmdale. They have the acreage, all they need are the customers. Then the vision for a world class airport facility could be realized - LAX/Palmdale.
Once that facility reaches full operational capacity - the next phase would be to close down the current LAX/ Westchester facility.
The City of Los Angeles could turn a nice bit of coin on long-term leaseholds for development on all of that beachfront property.
Getting rail to LAX seems to be a Quixotic venture. There seems to be no incentive for Meto and LAX to work together. And there seems to be no practical mechanism to motivate, or punish these people. (I've also heard stories that the parking lot companies, taxi and limo companies have petitioned on keeping a train out there, but I can't prove this.) Plus the FAA claims interference from the trains' overhead wires is a threat to the jets' avionics. This is if they use the old track bed next to Aviation Blvd. This all adds up to the same old LAX blues.
The costs of tunneling under West Century Blvd., or worse yet, tunneling under the runways would be monstrous. The Sepulveda Tunnel which passes under two of the runways has trouble with flooding and ventilation. That tunnel needs its own power plant just to function. Extra costs to keep in mind. A subway down to the terminals would be wonderful, but it might be cheaper just to rip up World Way and squeeze tracks in somehow. The Crenshaw Line off the new Expo Line might help, especially if it was a "non-stop" between LAX and Union Station to avoid changing trains. But that last mile or so, served by a "people-mover"... Maybe West Century and World Way do need to give up a couple lanes for train tracks.
Yes, the Flyaway bus works; but it is a hassle to get out to the bus stop with your baggage, and stand there in traffic and exhaust fumes. Then you still need a lift from Van Nuys or Union Station, etc. LAX was built for the car, back when the car was going to set everybody free.
So why isn't Metro spending the Crenshaw Line's hundreds of millions of dollars to build what everybody wants: a line that reaches LAXA simple question, "answered" here by a bunch of crap.
Governance of the city and county is a filthy, stinking, throbbing cesspool of corruption. The reason anything happens is because someone flushes large amounts of money into that cesspool.
Who benefits from the flaming stupidity exhibited here? Bonus question: Who benefits from the flaming stupidity of the Gold Line not going to Dodger Stadium?
Most major airports in the US have or are about to have good rail connections. I agree that Los Angeles is being very short sighted in not planning for a station underneath the LAX U. Any other solution will only frustrate passengers and cost more in the long run. Why not have it tunnel underneath the middle of the U with stops at Terminal 7 and 1, 3 and 4 and Bradley.
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Every time I land at LAX and go out to get picked up by one of the buses, I feel like I am arriving in a third-world country.
The lack of a decent rail public transit option at this, the flagship airport for the second-largest city in the richest country in the world, is simply disgraceful. I recently flew into and out of both Portland and SFO, both places that have rail connections to the airports. Coming back to LAX after those delightful experiences was an exercise in shame and anger.
It would be one thing if the bus system for LAX worked well. But it doesn't, and the design of LAX coupled with the sheer number of people using the airport convinces me that it never will. The Flyway buses suffer the same problem all bus-lines do when servicing LAX: picking up people from the airport is a mess.
You get off your flight arriving at LAX and head down to street level to wait for your bus. After finding the right pickup point (different for flyaway, hotel shuttles, super shuttle, etc), you crowd onto the little island that is far too small for the amount of passengers waiting to be picked up, so the crowd overflows onto one of the street lanes where angry drivers honk and menace you (who can blame them for being frustrated with the obstacle course set before them). Then the buses from various companies fight it out to get to the pickup point without blocking an outer-entry lane or another lane of traffic, which they often do and then get forced to move by an LAX police/security officer, and then you've got to wait for the next bus. If you're lucky, the bus is not already full when it swings by your stop. (I have had several times when I had to wait for the 2nd or 3rd flyaway bus before one had enough room for me to get on.)
But let's say you actually find and get on your flyaway bus. Great! Now you just have to wait while the bus stops at EVERY OTHER TERMINAL, jamming more and more people into the standing room of the bus. Woe to you if you have arrived at terminal 1. You can expect to sit on the bus for at least another 20+ minutes before even departing the airport, as the bus stops at the other terminals.
Imagine being an out-of-towner and having this be your first experience in L.A..
You get off your flight arriving at LAX and head down to the central rail station, ideally placed in the center of the LAX "U", equidistant from the terminals. In one fell swoop, the rail doors open and hundreds of passengers simultaneously board and disembark the train in under 20 seconds. (Compare that to the 20+ minutes the flyaway bus takes to do it's multi-terminal passenger exchange!) That's it. This is more or less how it works at SFO, Portland, and Reagan International Airport in D.C..
---------------------------Of course, even if they do connect the green line to LAX proper, it won't be useful to most people. To get to downtown you'd have to take the Green Line for 20+ minutes to the Blue Line, transfer with all your luggage (which involves an elevator or staircase at the transfer station), and then take the Blue line a good 35 minutes before arriving at downtown L.A.. The right solution is to build a spur off the Crenshaw line that goes inside the terminal U. They claim it's too expensive, so they instead will build something that almost nobody needs.
Isn't the BART extension to Millbrae and San Francisco (SFO) airport considered heavy rail also?
Living here in the Bay Area the SFO BART Station at the international terminal is beyond fabulous! No dealing with traffic and bridges etc... plus when you arrive to the airport and need to head to a different terminal no problem! Just go up the escalator to the people mover cars that kind of look like Mini BART cars... these people movers also take you out to the remote rental car facility. I believe the BART trains also take you to the nearby Millbrae Station where you can get on CalTrain should you need to head down the peninsula to Palo Alto and Mountain View and beyond.
Construction on a BART extension to Oakland Airport has already started and you can see the pillars in the parking lots that leads to the Oakland Coliseum BART Station. This eliminates us having to drive to Oakland Airport as well.
In downtown San Francisco construction has already started on the new TransBay Terminal, where BART, MUNI, CalTrain, and all of the bus lines converge. It is supposed to be the Grand Central Station of the west coast and looks fabulous on paper. Bullet trains are supposed to be able to end there should that ever get built. Height limits on skyscrapers for I believe four towers have been approved on the TransBay site itself. Some of the proposals are for 80-90+ story buildings... we shall see.
The creme de la creme for us is that funding has just been approved for a 16 mile BART extension to downtown San Jose and the San Jose Airport with connections to VLA light rail in Silicon Valley. I THINK there will be a station at or near the site where the new 49er's stadium is at in Santa Clara.
I realize this is a story about Los Angeles light rail and it's kinda connection to LAX and not about Bay Area transit projects. My point is that if the notorious fickle Bay Area with all of it's NIMBY's can pull this off why can't Los Angeles? The LA Metro area should have had New York style subways and BART type transit systems traversing it decades ago!
BTW... I took AMTRAK from San Diego to Union Station then hopped on the Metrolink to Simi Valley. It was a nice ride without hassles... My surprise was at the lack of riders for 5:00 in the afternoon...
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Your headline misses the real point. Even if a subway was built directly to the airport, it can't service all terminals. Passengers will still need to transfer to a bus or a people mover. It doesn't matter if the subway stop is a quarter-of-a-mile or two miles away. The real question is whether the Crenshaw Line is needed at all, not if needs to be built closer to the airport.
Yes, the Metro and LAWA boards are different. But the author fails to mention that the Mayor of Los Angeles serves on the board of Metro and can appoint 3 members. In fact, he is the current chair. I think this is an important distinction, and would change the tenor of the article if acknowledged.http://www.metro.net/about/boa...http://www.metro.net/news/simp... "In fact, Metro's 13-member board of directors, made up almost entirely of elected city and county officials with little education in engineering or mass transit, would have to persuade LAX officials — who come under jurisdiction of a different board, all political appointees of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — to construct it."
Am I the only one that has actually looked at the LA Metro website? There is a SEPARATE project to link both the green line and the Crenshaw/LAX line to LAX. It is called the "Metro Green Line to LAX". While no specifics are given of how that will happen, I imagine that the green line extension is preferred or some sort of people mover, which would also make sense. I do agree, though, that the Crenshaw/LAX project title is misleading, since a separate project exists to connect to the airport.
Yes, but the taxi lobby is in heaven. Difficult public transit means more customers looking for a taxi! Just follow who benefits from no light rail connection. Same at most major airports.
They don’t quiet have it right. First if the line goes directly into the airport where should it end in the airport? There are 20 plus terminals with circulating busses that go to outlining parking, rent-a-car lots, bus service to several cities downtowns, van service, taxi’s etc. There is the Green Line that goes east to Norwalk with a Los Angeles and Long Beach connection and south to Redondo Beach. The Crenshaw Line will run north. So just which line and how would it reach the airport and where? A off and on again people mover plan to circulate to all the terminals, the rent-a-car lots, major parking lots and the transit center which would have the LRT. Many of the bus service that now goes to the airport could also go to the transit center. There could even be porters to move luggage cross platforms between the LRT and the people mover.
I wrote a while ago about this issue in terms of getting conveniently from LAX to Downtown (or many other places via Metro). You can find the ideas here: https://stevemwhite.wordpress....
While I know there will be a people mover connection or something at the airport, I wish that it would be the only connection. As it is, riders need to make another 1-2 transfers to get to most destinations, and that won't change with the Crenshaw Line. They'll have another route to take, but not necessarily a better one.
Thanks for the correction Dan, we'll fix that today. If anyone would like to see how close the heavy rail goes to Dulles terminals, see the pdf at www.dullescorridorrail.com/pre.... It might make some of you want to cry. --Jill Stewart, LA Weekly managing editor
Just a minor correction: Chicago and DC have heavy rail, not light rail. LA's Red and Purple lines are also heavy rail, while the Blue, Gold, Green and Expo lines are light rail.
It's pathetic that Los Angeles has always been treated like a third-world city when it comes to public transit. If we truly want a respectable, competitive transit system, we should stop building lines TOWARDS a destination, but rather build it directly TO the destination! (duh!) And indeed, we should provide DIRECT, one-seat rides, as opposed to force people to make dozens of transfers! This is why it takes FOREVER to travel by public transit in L.A.I absolutely agree with the majority of the commenters: truly, the rail line should actually REACH the airport; if other cities (across the nation, and across the globe) can do it, so can Los Angeles Time to get serious about investing in our future, and provide mobility options to people!
All of the airports with direct rail access have a single terminal design (with multiple concourses). L.A. and New York have airports with multiple terminals. It is impossible to build a station to serve them all. Some kind of people mover would be necessary.
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That's why I fly Burbank whenever I can. There is a Metrolink stop right across the street from BUR where I catch the train to Union Station. Then the DASH bus or Red line to get downtown.
Follow the payoffs from the cab companies and shuttle operators. Only in LA could two rail projects miss the airport.....when an existing right-of-way is sitting there.
Even before I moved to CA last year, I knew the LA Metro rail is a joke. LA will never be a tourist mecca unless the Metro links everything DIRECTLY & QUICKLY. What is wrong with the govt officials of this city?! They cite cost of acquiring parcels, well, what do you think that cost will be in 10, 20, or 30 years, LOWER?! The time value of money, HELLOOOOOOOO. The last time I was walking out of LAX the hallway looked like a run-down shady place, so backwards... either lead LA to the future or get out, enough taxpayers money has been wasted
LAX was built to serve a region that had a fraction of the present population. In reality, the current LAX can attribute its location and its inherent limitations more to accident or coincidence than to any kind of vision or planning.
For decades, LAWA's vision has been for the facilities in Palmdale and Ontario to become the regions major air transport facility.
And for decades LAX has undergone numerous incremental expansions and modernizations as stopgap measures waiting until LAWA had sufficient infrastructure and full service hub connections at Palmdale or Ontario.
The situation has only become dimmer for any prospect of Palmdale taking over major duties from the current facility. Such is the result of logjam politics in Southern California. You have to please everybody before a grand project can move forward. Once everyone has been promised some modification to please their interests, the grand project has been severely altered and burdened as too no longer meet the original cost/benefit calculations.
What can't be achieved as a public governmental endeavour could get done as a private for profit project sooner than you might predict.
Under the current financial trajectory, the City of Los Angeles may soon be backed up against a wall and forced to deal with the reality of selling assets to satisfy creditors.
A single corporate entity could purchase LAWA assets and carry out the plan. Turn Palmdale into revenue producing regional air transport hub and initiate highest/best use development for bluffside property with cool Pacific breezes in Westchester.
Maybe you wanna go back to your double-wide meth lab and stop crapping up these comments with your pathetic spam.
Your comment seems to illustrate the growing difference between the social/political public culture in Los Angeles Metro Region and the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose Metro Region.
Maybe we are moving closer to the reality of cleaving California into two separate States.
Why not? It could result in a more efficient, viable structure for each of the new states - both the southern state and the northern state.
That only leaves the question for the rest of the country - do they want to keep southern california or just cut losses and hire a broker to solicit offers for a buyout.
There should always be a separate rail / subway within the airport, this article is about first GETTING to the airport in an efficient manner, different topics. Please visit a major city airport like JFK and follow up on your own message.
Ok does LA want to be grand and efficient like SF & NYC or keep milking any sort of travelers/tourists like majority of mid/small cities?!
Hmmm....JFK has no direct train service from NYC. They have Jamaica station, which is the exact same thing Metro/LAWA is planning for the future Aviation/Century station on the Crenshaw Line. From there, people can take trains to South Bay, Norwalk, Hollywood (northern extension of Crenshaw Line) or Expo Line. Do people not realize a train DOESN'T go to JFK?
Very true. However, the main, "central", station of the rail line does need to go directly to LAX, underground. After that, a people-mover can transport people around the terminals. But one way or another, the current plan (dropping off passengers a mile away from the terminals) is really sickening... it will not solve anything, and is barely any better than the current Green line station
Metro is using the existing ROW.......that ROW stops short 1 mile of the airport. There is no ROW directly into the airport.
Taking the traffic pressure off LAX would definitely help things. But I'm not sure where you would build a new airport up in Palmdale (Edwards A.F.B seems to have the prime spot). Plus the cost of another rail system besides Metrolink, and the commuting time to get folks up there looks pretty daunting. And the one-percenters would gobble up any beach front property if LAX were to close. That part of the city would still need an airport for some time to come.
Getting back to a practical, and maybe even attractive LAX commute; we have Crenshaw Blvd., which looks like it used to have an old Pacific Electric trolley line.
Then we have we have the old Santa Fe track going by LAX,
Patching together some route from the two may be the way to go.
But to really sell this ride, the MTA would have to put in a switch merging this line with the new Expo Line to make it a "non-stop" to Union Station. Subways, people movers; getting travelers to and from their flights without walking a mile from the train? The alternative would be to abandon tracks altogether, and build some specialized bus route, like the Orange Line. Maybe it would need its own bus lanes, on yet another deck above or below World Way.
I want this route to succeed, but we may have to give up glamor for practicality.
Just my two cents.
It's true that there's no direct line to JFK, but there is a rail/people mover from Jamaica station to JFK that works perfectly.
In 2011 LA had 26.9 million visitors, which was a record.
In 2011 NYC had 50.2 million visitors (also a record).In 2010 Orlando had 47.8 million visitors.In 2009 Chicago had 39.5 million visitors (down from their norm in the 40s).In 2010 Vegas had 37.3 million visitors.
So...yeah, you could stand to do with some improvement.
But don't worry, you're beating the pants off of New Orleans, so there's that...
Also, Newark International has an AirTrain, since 1996, which takes you to a commuter rail station. Both AirTrains are people mover systems that stop at multiple terminals, but the JFK has an extended portion that take you 7 miles from the airport to the Jamaica commuter rail station. Sure, it's not ideal to have multiple transfers, but it's something.
When the FlyAway buses (why are they all registered in Wyoming?) aren't stuck in traffic or don't blow a tire like mine did the last time I trusted them to get me to LAX on time.
(It was wonderful, we stopped just south of the Sepulveda tunnel, a not-so-long distance from the airport, but could I just walk there? NO! The Sepulveda tunnel is off-limits to pedestrians (and bicycles))
Do the LA visitor numbers take into account visitors to Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and other independent cities whose visitors come from LAX? And while I know that Pasadena is better served by BUR, I also imagine that there are many non-locals that fly into LAX instead.
Regardless, the Flyaway Bus is a perfectly fine alternative all the various agencies and civic entities get their act together.