Threatened with closure just a few months ago, the FlyAway shuttle in Westwood that takes passengers to and from the LAX airport received a six-month reprieve Monday night when the Los Angeles World Airports’ (LAWA) Board of Airport Commissioners agreed to a compromise with UCLA.
Starting in early August, the clock starts ticking for the FlyAway to prove that it can survive without a heavy subsidy from the airport and can attract new riders, said Renée Fortier, director of UCLA Transportation. Prices will rise from $5 one-way to $10, and, although service will continue from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., shuttles will only depart once an hour, instead of every half hour as they currently do during peak travel time.
For the first time, there will also be an overnight-parking option for travelers: UCLA will dedicate 25 FlyAway-only parking spots in Parking Structure 32, next to the shuttle stop on Kinross Avenue. The agreement also requires UCLA to market the service to Bruins to increase ridership and set aside $58,000 to pay for the extra shuttles and dorm-to-airport service the FlyAway traditionally offers on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We’re very grateful that the board chose to continue the service because it is very important to UCLA and the community," Fortier said. "I would have preferred if they had agreed to it for an extra year, but it gives us time to market the park-and-ride spaces and to let LAWA market them to Westwood businesses and neighbors."
The airport commission supports FlyAways at several locations, but a report showed that while all the FlyAway services need subsidies, the Westwood subsidy was among the largest. Demand was only 50 percent of what was expected, with an average of seven riders per bus — but during holidays, the buses are packed, Fortier noted.
"For our students, it’s extremely important to keep the FlyAway," Fortier said. "Even going to a $10 fare, it’s still a much more affordable way for them to go to the airport. It’s also used by people who are coming to or from UCLA on business, and it reduces car trips, which is not just good for the community, it’s good for the environment."
UCLA students, other Bruins and local community members fought the proposal to cancel the service, showing up at airport commission meetings to voice their objections, Fortier said.
"We heard from the community — not just UCLA — that the FlyAway was very important to them and that they appreciated not having to drive their cars to the airport," Fortier said.
The meeting gave UCLA, the community and the airport commission a chance to address some issues that had not been raised for awhile: the $5 shuttle rate and parking for travelers, Fortier said.
As a result, UCLA will offer 25 FlyAway spots for a $6 daily rate on weekends, an $11 daily rate at midweek and $59 to park for an entire week, all pre-paid, said Dave Karwaski, manager of planning and policy for Transportation. These rates would also apply to UCLA parking permit holders. If those 25 spots fill up, UCLA will dedicate more spots in increments of 25, with a maximum of 100 spots, Fortier said.
Given all the changes and improvements, Karwaski said, "We’re cautiously optimistic" that the airport commission will renew the FlyAway when it comes up for review in February.