February 13, 2018 - From the February, 2018 issue

LA's 2028 Olympics Already Catalyzing Transformative Infrastructure Investments

With the award of the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles, the city and region are investing in building out some of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in North America. The push to accelerate these projects for the Games promises to yield important capacity and technological advancements—not to mention copious business and development opportunities over the decade to come. At VerdeXchange 2018’s FutureBuild, Renata Simril, president of the LA84 Foundation—which distributes the surplus from the 1984 Olympics to youth sports programs throughout the city—led an expert panel that included: LA Metro CEO Phil Washington, AECOM Global Sports Leader Bill Hanway, Los Angeles World Airports Chief Innovation Officer Justin Erbacci, and LA Department of Convention & Tourism GM Doane Liu.


Renata Simril

"LA's third Olympic Games has been presented as 'a new Games for a new era' that will benefit our communities. They promise to minimize risk, maximize sustainability, and harness technology to leave a new legacy for Los Angeles and the Olympic movement." —Renata Simril, LA84

Renata Simril: Throughout history, the business, civic, and political interests of our city have harnessed each Olympic Games to transform Los Angeles—as well as the Olympic movement itself—and to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

The 1932 Games was the first mega sporting event in the city of Los Angeles. It was driven by the desire of real-estate business interests to put Los Angeles on the world map—and it did just that.

It was a physical transformation in Los Angeles, with the development of the first athlete’s village in Baldwin Hills and the planting of more than 30,000 palm trees, many of which still exist today.

The 1984 Games was financially transformative. It was the first privately financed game, and it yielded the largest surplus in Olympic history, which still stands today. It was a sustainable Games, in that we only had to build three new venues.

The 1984 Olympic Games is a gift that keeps on giving through the work of my foundation, which has supported 3 million youth and their families by funding sport and structured play opportunities in the eight counties of Southern California.

Our third Olympic Games has been presented as “a new Games for a new era” that will benefit our communities and connect the Olympic and Paralympic movement to the future. The Games promises to minimize risk, maximize sustainability, and harness technology.

Bill, set the context for the 2028 Games concept. 

Bill Hanway: Over 10 years, things will change; certainly, technology will evolve. Most importantly, Measure M is going to have a huge impact on public transport.

Even in 1984—with just one public transport line—we still had a successful Games. In 2028, the city will be fully connected. In our plan, each sports park is entirely accessible by public transport. No private cars will be used at all during the course of the Games.

Sustainability is paramount, and there is nothing more sustainable than using one stadium—the Coliseum—for three straight Games. USC has already started construction on a $270 million renovation. We are then going to put another $120 million into making it ready for the Games.

Renata Simril: Phil, talk about how you’re using the next 11 years to accelerate transportation projects. 

Phil Washington: Our Board recently approved the “28 by 2028” initiative to build 28 projects by 2028. It includes some projects from Measure R in 2008, and many from Measure M, which passed by a 71 percent majority in 2016.

This initiative alone is the most ambitious transportation infrastructure initiative this country right now. Our plan to finish all of these projects in 10 years is a herculean feat. The contract value of this initiative is in the neighborhood of $50 billion.

Renata Simril: Justin, in 1984, LAX had to accommodate 34 million passengers; this year, we’re exceeding 84 million passengers. How is the airport accommodating that growth in passenger travel?

Justin Erbacci: We have a very ambitious capital program at LAX geared around three topics: to help people get to and from LAX; to make the journey through LAX easier and more pleasant, and to improve operations—to increase on-time performance and mitigate delays.

In terms of getting people to and from LAX, we will probably begin construction on the automated people mover this year. It will allow people to get to the airport from remote facilities, then take the people mover into the central terminal area. That will alleviate a lot of the traffic and congestion that we see at LAX today.

For the first time, we will connect the airport with Metro, which is a great accomplishment. We also will build a consolidated rental car facility that will connect with the people mover, so you can get into the central terminal area in minutes.

We’ll also have an intermodal transportation facility, which will have centralized parking and a curb for remote drop-off and pickup for passengers—again, so you don’t have to drive into that congested central terminal area. This is a significant investment in making it easier to get into and out of LAX.

We’re also investing a significant amount of capital dollars to make the experience within the terminals more pleasant. We are building a new Midfield Satellite Concourse right now that will bring additional state-of-the-art gates for airplanes to come through, so you don’t have to go out to the remote gates and bus into the terminal area.

We’re also making significant investments to improve all of our terminals, and potentially to build additional concourses to meet this big growth we’ve been experiencing.

Renata Simril: Doane, how is the Convention & Tourism Department engaging with all the growth in Los Angeles, and thinking about welcoming the world in 11 years?

Doane Liu: We are aggressively negotiating with a private developer—our partners at AEG—on plans to expand and modernize the Convention Center to get us, finally, one million square feet contiguous.

We’re the anchor of the Downtown sports park, which I think is the anchor of all the sports parks. The Convention Center, even without the expansion, is the host of 10 different sporting events—five Olympic and five Paralympic. That makes us the busiest venue of all the venues in the bid. And that doesn’t even include our next-door neighbors at Staples Center and Microsoft Theater. It’s going to be a busy place.

Renata Simril: Many of these projects are not new ideas; we’ve been talking about them for decades. How are the Games are acting as an organizing principle to bring the city together and get some amazing megaprojects completed?

Bill Hanway: The power of a fixed deadline that cannot move under any circumstances has both benefits and negative consequences.

One issue is that you don’t have the luxury of managing major projects against the global economy. In London, the crash of 2008 coincided with the period when we were bidding on contracts, so we ended up with great prices on great teams coming to build that work. Then, of course, the economy took off after the Games, and the Olympics looked great. Obviously, exactly the opposite occurred in Rio.

Having the deadline is great, but I do think having 10 years works to our benefit because it allows us to manage that process a little bit better. It gives us targets to deliver great public transit innovations; it also gives a little bit of breathing room. 

Phil Washington: The pride that comes with hosting a big event like the Olympics is huge. That alone brings people together—the pride of having the world come to Los Angeles. It’s exciting.

Renata Simril: Let’s turn to technology. Think about this: The iPhone didn’t exist 11 years ago. It has changed the way we live, work, play, and interact. The first iPhone app was launched in 2008, and now there are 2.2 million mobile applications. Back then, tech magazines touted that mobile phones would replace paper, and that you’d use them for your boarding pass. Now, we’re talking about facial recognition to board an airplane.

Ten short years ago, Chevrolet unveiled a green model car—the Chevy Bolt. But it didn’t hit the market until 2010, just eight years ago. Now, Hyperloop is purported to be completing its third phase of testing, and is working aggressively to have a prototype system by 2021.

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How are you thinking about incorporating that pace of change so that the projects you build today won’t be outdated 10 years from now?

Phil Washington: We don’t know what we don’t know, of course. That’s why I think it’s important for government to allow the private sector to introduce new technology. We must allow the vehicle for technology to enter into our government institutions.

One thing that was very important to me when I arrived at Metro almost three years ago was to create what I call the Office of Extraordinary Innovation. That office is designed to work with the private sector, so that we will be less prescriptive in our design specifications for projects.

I find that government is overly prescriptive in almost everything we do. We tell the private sector exactly how to do this or that, instead of concentrating on end performance and what we want the project to be.

Justin Erbacci: Like Metro, we are looking to be at the forefront of new technologies. We’re working with startups and incubators to identify and adopt technologies that may have applications for the airport.

Recently, for the first time in the United States and potentially in the world, we had passengers board an international flight without a passport or a boarding pass. They simply used their faces. We’re working closely with CBP, TSA, and other groups to further advance the use of biometrics to make the passenger journey that much easier.

I’m quite convinced that there will be, in the 2028 Olympic Games, technology used that we haven’t even heard of today. We constantly need to be working with the private sector to encourage new technologies and figure out how we can adopt them as soon as possible.

Bill Hanway: We are learning from our colleagues in Tokyo and Paris. Tokyo is looking at huge advances in event security technology: Rather than having people wait at a gate to get into a venue (which is already a security risk), the goal is to be able to track people’s movements as they come straight through the venue, so there’s no cluster of people.

On the construction side, we constantly have innovate. We have a great opportunity in Los Angeles, where we either have existing venues in place or everything we’re building is temporary. For our beach volleyball event in Santa Monica, some of the structures can be done with 3D printers using sand, which then returns to the beach after the Games. At the CES convention last week, the first 3D metal printer was introduced. How will that affect our ability to construct temporary venues?

These are all things that are going to impact us. We’re working very closely with Paris so that anything that they develop there, we can transfer to LA very quickly.

Renata Simril: There’s an unknown factor to technology, without question, but there are also some known advancements that we will be dealing with by 2028—the driverless car, for example. How are you accommodating technologies like these in your planning? Will athletes be transported in driverless buses and cars in 2028?

Phil Washington: I think they will! Autonomous buses are on the horizon, and I think we’ll see them in the next five to seven years.

Right now, many of our projects include some type of tunnel boring. We have been talking with Elon Musk about his quest to make tunnel boring five times faster than current technology. If that came to fruition, it would be incredible for our projects. And I think that technology is coming sooner than we think.

The things on the horizon now are very exciting, and I think we’ll see a lot of them right here in Los Angeles before the Olympics.

Justin Erbacci: I agree. LAX is one of the most popular emerging destinations for all of the transportation in the city, and we have already identified use cases in and around the area for autonomous vehicles. Our goal is to pilot them in the next couple of years. Certainly, by the Olympics, I think they will be in full force.

Also, there are companies pursuing the technology for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles—and planning to have those in service by the Olympics. We work with those companies to land and take off at LAX, to facilitate better transportation to and from the airport.

Doane Liu: One of the competitive factors that we face in the convention business is the number of hotels within what we consider walking distance. Certainly, a streetcar would be a good benefit to the Downtown area.

We’re proud to be LEED Gold certified, and one of the first convention centers in the world to get that designation. We’re in construction right now on 2.16 megawatts of solar, which will be the largest convention center solar project possibly in the whole country. We’re at 72 percent trash recycled, and we’ve even just opened our own garden on our rooftop. We’re actively looking at all kinds of ways to lead on sustainability.

Renata Simril: Bill, one of the key tenets of the 2028 Games is maximizing sustainability. Besides the beach volleyball stadium of sand, what sustainability innovations are you looking at?

Bill Hanway: We’re working closely with our partners, like AEG, UCLA, and Doane’s department, that already have sustainability targets that we’re trying to enhance and support. For example, the Coliseum is now the first major stadium in the U.S. that operates on zero waste. For us, it’s about how we tie into the systems that our partners already have in place, and then add to that with our future plans.

Phil Washington: When we can move 200 people on a three-car consist, that’s hugely sustainable. Oftentimes when I’m on the train, and I look around and the train is packed, I think, “What if all these people were driving?” We’d be even more congested.

We think about sustainability in every single thing that we do. In fact, we are going to an all-electric fleet on the bus side. The goal is to be all-electric—all 2,000 of our buses—by 2030.

Justin Erbacci: We are working with the airlines to take a look at things such as biofuels and solar electric power. We are trying to be at the forefront of those technologies.

Renata Simril: At FutureBuild and VerdeXchange, there are lots of business interests in sustainability, technology, and real estate. How do these interests take advantage of, or get in the running for, bidding on the work that’s coming down the pipe?

Phil Washington: With the new tax reform law, the corporate tax rate has gone from 35 to 21 percent. Now, 53 of the Fortune 500 companies in this country are in California. We are making a big push to go out to those corporations and say to them, “You’ve got this big influx of money coming in. You need to invest in infrastructure.” We are looking to do a summit to educate these companies on the value of investing in infrastructure.

For small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses, there are going to be so many opportunities. Metro wants Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), Small Business Enterprises (SBE)s, and other small businesses to prime our projects, and to have the traditional primes sub to them. We awarded our first contract with that structure about three months ago for almost $100 million. We’re being very aggressive on how we structure these contracts to provide opportunities for small businesses.

Justin Erbacci: Our board very strongly supports inclusivity, and requires it as part of our investments. We are not only putting aggressive inclusivity targets on all contracts for different types of small local businesses, but also, we are implementing several outreach programs to connect small and local businesses with the primes.

We are also asking many of our primes to do their own outreach, and part of their investment needs to be dollars invested toward inclusivity and incorporating local small businesses into their bid.

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© 2018 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.