Airport Metro Conductor
Updated: Jan 3
What do surfing, road trips and family vacations to New York City have in common? For Tim Lindholm, they are all special chapters in a life filled with adventures inspired or enabled by public transit.
Growing up in Tustin, Calif., a well-heeled suburb of Los Angeles in central Orange County, Lindholm relied on the local bus to ferry him on weekends to his favorite surf spot, Salt Creek State Beach, near Dana Point. Whenever family road trips intersected with the paths of long trains, Lindholm’s father, a sales executive and model train enthusiast, would share stories about trains and railroad infrastructure. And for lasting impressions, nothing could beat the subway rides that stitched together family sightseeing adventures in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C.
Innovation on Track
Today, as the executive officer of capital projects for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), Lindholm is still helping connect public transit riders to adventures and fond memories of faraway destinations. He oversees the design, development, engineering and construction of Metro’s Airport Metro Connector (AMC), a new multi-modal transportation facility that will connect the agency’s network of buses and trains to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) via an Automated People Mover (APM).
Los Angeles World Airports, which will develop and operate the APM, broke ground on the project March 14.
“The AMC, in tandem with the APM, will fundamentally transform the traveling public’s access to and experience of LAX,” said Lindholm. “It will provide travelers with many new options for entering the central terminal area that will not require the use of a car or bus.”
Metro has positioned the AMC as a new “gateway” to LAX for transit riders, cyclists, pedestrians and users of ride hailing services. It will be served by two Metro lines and multiple bus routes, and will include passenger vehicle drop-off and pick-up areas, a pedestrian plaza and a unique maintenance and secure storage area for bicycles.
Passengers arriving at the AMC will take the APM on a dedicated, elevated track into the LAX central terminal area. Both the AMC and APM are expected to begin operations in spring 2023.
Transit has been a recurring thread in Lindholm’s life, but it was actually his love of camping and fishing that put him on the road to a career in #transportationinfrastructure.
“As a freshman at San Diego State University, I took a field trip as part of a geology 101 class and realized, ‘hey, this is really fun and I can get college credit for it,’” he said. One geology class led to another and eventually, to a bachelor’s degree in geology. Lindholm figured he’d end up in the oil industry, but again, life intervened.
After moving to Los Angeles to seek full-time work, he found himself walking down Hollywood Blvd one day. Teams of Metro workers were hard at work constructing LA’s first subway, the Red Line.
“They had all this decking and you could see that some sort of crazy infrastructure was being built under Hollywood Blvd.,” said Lindholm with a grin. “I knew instantly I wanted to be part of it.”
Soon thereafter, he landed a job working as a geologist in Metro’s environmental department. His main duties? Keeping an eye on soil conditions and providing a geologist’s perspective on safety, first at excavation sites as a member of the Red Line subway team, and later as part of Metro’s tunnel advisory panel.
“Tunneling is not something most people know how to do,” Lindholm emphasized. “You need everyone to build a tunnel – engineers, geologists, geotechnical people, structural engineers – plus people who actually know how to build the tunnel.”
Setting a Green Standard
The AMC is being developed by a partnership of Gruen Associates, a transportation planning and design firm, and Grimshaw Architects, a global architectural firm. Lindholm refers to the consortium as a “world class design team.”
Not that local officials didn’t have a say in the desired look and feel of the new facility.
“Metro’s board of supervisors, which includes LA county supervisors, the mayor of LA, and other local government officials wanted the AMC to be something special, to be a true gateway to Los Angeles and to reflect what Metro is all about,” said Lindholm.
As a result, he said, “the AMC is uniquely Los Angeles. It may look like an enclosed facility but actually it’s a giant canopy over a variety of intermodal facilities including light rail stations on the ground level, the APM on the upper deck, and several bicycle storage areas.”
The AMC also reflects the temperate environment of Los Angeles.
“One of the things that will make this station stand out is its low environmental footprint,” said Lindholm. “It has a lot of indoor/outdoor landscaping, a lot of natural light, and a lot of natural ventilation. We’re trying to make it a very efficient building that takes very little power and water to operate.”
Orchestrating the Dance
Of course, as anyone who has ever taken on a home remodeling job knows, success relies heavily on the choreography of the construction “dance;” i.e. the management of many tradesmen working in a relatively small space on multiple aspects of a single project.
According to Lindholm, Metro and LAWA maintain a good working relationship based on frequent and candid communication about their separate but intersecting projects. Still, he has both eyes open.
“The challenge will come from building a viaduct 50 feet up in the air, then building an airport transit station around it and making it seem like it was all built at the same time by the same person,” he said. “We want the AMC to be a seamless, well-integrated transportation center, not something that tells passengers which part of the station (Metro or APM) they are in.”
Pushing for Innovation
Most days for Lindholm begin with a short bus ride and a 10-minute commute on the Metro Gold Line train from his home in Eagle Rock to Metro headquarters above Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. He is, by his own admission, “low maintenance.” A well-brewed cup of coffee is all it takes to get his day started properly.
“A typical day for me is just keeping my door open so that my project managers can come in and talk to me about what’s going on,” explained Lindholm. In addition to leading the AMC effort, he manages more than 100 other projects for Metro, including Metro’s New Blue Improvements Project, a renovation of the agency’s Blue Line train, its oldest and second busiest line.
Between meetings, Lindholm focuses on project staffing issues, the readiness of Metro consultants to support his projects, and the timely procurement of construction contractors. It is a juggling act that requires patience, perseverance and faith in his staff.
“The thing I learned a long time ago is to remain calm in the face of adversity,” he said. “In this industry, when so much money is at stake and we’re doing a lot of acrobatic technical work, things are bound to go wrong. You just need to learn to handle it, make quick decisions, and not freak out.”
Delivering the Promise
Indeed, he recognizes that the AMC project still has a long way to go and will not be without its engineering and logistic challenges. He has great confidence, however, in the skills of the AMC development team, and in the knowledge that the citizens of Los Angeles are eager and hungry for a faster, more efficient way to get in and out of LAX.
“A lot of Metro projects include a large environmental impact component and a very extensive community input phase,” he explained. “For AMC, the environmental impact and community input processes have been the easiest part. All I ever hear from anyone is ‘Just get it done.’”
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