June 28, 2022 - From the June, 2022 issue

Transformative Capital Improvements Underway at LAX: LAWA’s Samantha Bricker

This month, Los Angeles International Airport handed over its new Consolidated Rent-A-Car facility to tenants for the final buildout, but that is far from all that’s in the works at LA’s busiest airport. For an update on the aforementioned, TPR spoke with Samantha Bricker, Los Angeles World Airport’s Chief Sustainability and Revenue Management Officer, about the numerous (ongoing and future) capital, operational, and workforce investments that she presently oversees. Spanning from an electric Automated People Mover, new stations and terminals, to electrified ground support and innovative methods of procurement, Bricker affirms that in the next decade investment in LAX will be transformative.


"We're in the midst of an estimated $14.6 billion capital improvement program, which includes the development of a new [electric] automated people mover…[and] have procurements out on the street for what we call our new Airfield and Terminal Modernization Program … a $6 billion project that we are trying to build ahead of the Olympics that will include a new Terminal 9 and a new Concourse Zero." -Samantha Bricker, LAWA

Samantha, with the LAWA title of Chief Sustainability and Revenue Management Officer, elaborate on the array of responsibilities you’re now entrusted with overseeing.

Samantha Bricker: LAWA has a lot of things happening right now. This title allows me to be involved in a lot of different aspects. I oversee the Environmental Programs Division, which includes noise, mobility, and parking. All of those have a lot of synergy together with our sustainability efforts. I also oversee the commercial development group, which deals a lot with rental cars, concessions, commercial development leases, terminals, and property development. Then, we have procurement.

My role allows me to look at things holistically. I can make sure that when we're preparing RFPs that we're following best practices and making changes that allow us to get the procurements on the street and get the developments and the bids. I get to have my hand in a lot of different things at the airport, and of course, it’s never boring.

Obviously, much of the infrastructure investment being made at LAX is intended to precede the Olympics and other global sporting events that will be taking place in Los Angeles this decade. Share what's now out on the street: ie. the electric automated people mover, new LAX terminals, and LAWA’s electrification program?

Well, we have a lot happening. We're in the midst of an estimated $14.6 billion capital improvement program, which includes the development of a new automated people mover that will be an electric train running from a new consolidated rental car facility. We're taking all of the rental car facilities, of which there are about 21, and consolidating them into one building that will be near the 405 and La Cienega, coupled with a train station. We will have two more train stations that serve as new remote access curbs, as well as a new parking structure outside of the airport. Then, there will be three stations inside of the airport. This will provide passengers with a clean and sustainable option for getting into LAX and also connect them with mass transit along the Crenshaw line and a large bus hub that Metro is building. We have about 50,000 employees who work at LAX, so providing a link to mass transit is crucial. Reducing vehicle miles traveled and reducing our emissions is also key.

We also have just environmentally cleared and have procurements out on the street for what we call our new Airfield and Terminal Modernization Program. That's a $6 billion project that we are trying to build ahead of the Olympics that will include a new Terminal 9 and a new Concourse Zero. It will include a brand-new roadway network that will separate airport traffic from local traffic, allowing less congestion in neighborhoods and smooth flow of traffic on Sepulveda. This will really reduce some of the delays that people find on the north airfield.

We have the roadway improvements right now out on the street for progressive design build. We're about ready to release a new PM/CM (project manager/construction manager) contract to manage the roadways. We will have a new procurement out on the street for the airfield improvements coming up very quickly.

In terms of electrification, we just passed an Electric Vehicle Purchasing Policy, which sets a very robust goal of changing our entire sedan fleet to electric by 2031. We have a target for all of our buses to be electric by 2030. We are installing about 1,200 smart chargers for electric vehicles in our parking garages, and we are venturing into electrification of ground support equipment. We have thousands of pieces of equipment at our airport, and we are looking to incentivize the airlines to go to electric ground support equipment.

We're pursuing sustainability on all levels of our capital projects, as well as their everyday operations.

Given your dual role overseeing sustainability and revenue management, elaborate on the sustainable, cost effective & innovative technologies that have been proposed for inclusion in design and construction bids?

We did a series of meetings earlier this year called a ‘request for industry comment.’ We went out on the street and let people know that we had this roadway RFP that was about to go out. We wanted their input before we did the procurement, so we talked about things like innovative construction techniques and innovative procurement methods. We got input from many firms, subs and primes, of the best ways to move forward. People proposed a lot of different building techniques, maintenance of traffic, data techniques, and technology.

What we're doing as part of these roadway networks is actually taking out Sepulveda Boulevard and rebuilding it. We need to make sure that we can continue operations to the airport while this new roadway is being built. That is going to take a huge amount of innovation, and that's what we're looking for. This RFP that's on the street right now for design-build does have a section for innovation. We want people to come to us with their proposals of how to do this within a time period, how to maintain traffic to the airport, what innovative construction techniques can be built into the project, and how we alleviate the impacts on our adjacent communities.

We're also looking at a variety of innovative ways of getting people out of their cars during construction, but also long-term. We want to reduce vehicle miles traveled to the airport and greenhouse gas emissions. We are looking at things like intelligent transportation systems on major corridors into the airport that will help not only synchronize lights, but provide data and smart technology so that we can change lights or provide messages on digital signs.

We're doing a congestion pricing study, which our board just approved yesterday, that will look at how we access the airport and these new facilities along the automated people mover. Our horseshoe is very valuable real estate--how do we price it accordingly? We're looking at things like a new Flyaway bus, which instead of just fixed route service, we're bringing on provider who will be able to provide on-demand service.

We've also formed a Transportation Management Organization for our employees to incentivize them to take other ways to get to the airport. We've partnered with the city of Inglewood on a shuttle that takes employees in Inglewood to the central terminal area in 17 minutes on average. I don't think you can get anywhere in LA in 17 minutes.

Pivoting, VX News recently published an interview with Ingrid Merriwether, who's been contracted to implement LA's regional contractor development and bonding program to help small and diverse businesses win government contracts. Share some of  LAWA’s procurement initiatives to advance diversity, inclusion and equity?

Inclusivity is a really important part of what we're doing at LAWA. One of the things that we've done is actually include inclusivity as part of our scoring criteria for procurements over a certain level. In addition to having a small or a disadvantaged business goal, inclusivity can mean being involved in mentoring programs or bonding programs that help your subs. This allows us to score people not just for meeting the goals, but also giving them extra points if they have innovative ideas on inclusivity or have a good track record.

My role is also overseeing procurement. One of the things that we're going to be doing is centralizing procurement. Right now, every division does their own procurement, which makes it very difficult to get procurements out ahead of time and give people notice. That makes it very hard for us to reach new primes and subs who would be interested in bidding on projects.

We're coming up with an outreach group in our procurement division that will work with each of the divisions on their procurements and get the word out. One of the biggest issues is that by the time an RFP is out on the street, teams have already formed. It's very hard for people to break in. Also, by having these requests for industry comment, it gives us a way of getting the word out ahead of time before an RFP is out on the street, so we get feedback from primes and subs. We can then incorporate that into our RFP and make it more competitive for folks.

We do have a very active Business, Jobs, and Social Responsibility division. We've been very involved, for example, in hiring fairs. Recently, we've been struggling to get workers at the airport. We have a lot of shortages in our concessions group, bus drivers, and airport operations. We've had hiring fairs where we get hundreds of people to partner with employers. They get offers on the spot to get people to work at the airport, and then we process their badging right away. That group is an integral part of not only working with our small businesses, but working with our local communities on local hire, and getting the right people to be able to work in the airport.

In addition to being CSO you also manage revenue. Elaborate on the latter responsibility. How is LAWA, a proprietary department of the City of LA, funding its ambitious capital program?

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We are not taxpayer-funded. We get all of our funding from aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue. I mostly oversee is the non-aeronautical revenue. That includes things like concession revenues, parking revenues, revenue from rents, and property deals. That's an area that really is ripe for a lot of opportunity.

We just did a presentation to our board on all of the things that we're working on for revenue opportunities. There are typical things like expanding our concessions, opening new lounges, or opening common-use lounges where people can pay for a day pass.

Another idea that we're pushing is our digital marketplace. That’s ordering concessions through an app and having it delivered to your gate. We’re looking at things like ghost kitchens to have centralized kitchens that can be more flexible and really expand the concession space.

We also have opportunities with the automated people mover with what's called the West Station, which is about 50,000 square feet of meet and greet space near Tom Bradley. We are looking at things like a business center, sleep pods, and concessions going in there.

We're also looking at how we maximize our development opportunities. When the project is done, there'll be surplus property fronting of Century Boulevard near La Cienega and Aviation. We'll be able to develop that space. We also have an area on the North side on that we call the Bow Tie that's 66 acres available for development. We also have areas in Van Nuys where we're redeveloping hangars and private terminal areas, as well as on our land in Palmdale.

Parking is also a huge source of revenue. We've implemented what we call smart parking in our parking garages, where we now have EV charging, valet, premium parking, and a reservation system. That's all bringing in a lot of revenue.

It's really quite exciting because we have so many innovative opportunities going forward.

Given you will asked at VerdeXchange’s upcoming VX2022 Conference, does LAWA anticipate securing federal or state funding to support its planned and ambitious capital program?

We're not dependent on it, but we do get FAA grants for work at the airport. We also have FAA funding for things like our residential sound insulation program, where we sound insulate homes in our adjacent communities.

We are looking at things like Build Back Better, to see what we could be eligible for. We have a lot of upcoming projects that we have now changed to follow the federal procurement process so we might be eligible for those grants. We are looking especially at opportunities for electrification and EVs going forward. This ground support equipment for electrification will put us in a good position to apply for some of those grants. We're also looking at grant opportunities for the electric buses.

With LAWA being a LA City proprietary department, how does the airport integrate its capital program with the other City agencies and other proprietary departments to effectively leverage its investments for the benefit of the City ?

We partner with a lot of the other departments, especially DWP, as we have a lot of shared interests. We've been in discussions with them about some of the hydrogen opportunities, electrification, and even things like micro grids and resiliency.

We also have a Mayor's group that convenes a sustainability forum every month where all the sustainability deputies across the city of Los Angeles share information and partner together. There are a lot of opportunities, shared values, and shared needs. If we can work together on a lot of these opportunities, it's of big benefit for the City of LA. 

Lastly, how has LAWA learned from the practices of other airports around the world to improve service and operations at LAX?

We're very involved in ACI World, which is Airports Council International. There are various committees on everything from security to technology to sustainability. Working with other airports is really the best way to look at a lot of issues and see what works and what doesn't.

One of the things I'm very involved in right now is workforce hiring, and how difficult it is for airports. It goes way beyond the pilot shortage you hear about. People complain that concessions aren't open late at night; we don't have enough people to staff them. We don't have enough bus drivers to run our system.

For many of the airports, sustainability is a big issue. One of the big issues we struggle with is PFAS. It's very difficult for us to deal with because the FAA has mandated that we use a firefighting foam that contains PFAS, but we have state law that tells us we can't use PFAS. It puts us in a difficult position. We work closely with other airports around the world to see what they're doing and how they're handling these issues.

As well, aircraft are the biggest source of emissions. How do you deal with that issue when you don't regulate airplanes? We can do whatever we can at the airport, but we can't control the airplanes that American Airlines or United Airlines buy. Climate change is really big around the world, and airports are really struggling with attracting people to work there because of the idea that they're polluters. How do we double down on sustainability efforts to deal with those issues? We have water groups, sustainability groups, technology groups. We are constantly working with other airports and getting information from contractors on best practices. We're always looking to meet with folks and get ideas of what's working elsewhere.

 

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