LAX Bans Rideshares and Taxis from Picking Passengers up from Terminal
The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has taken more steps in further resolving traffic congestion by banning all taxis and rideshare drivers from picking passengers up from the terminal curbside. The Central Terminal Area, where the majority of passengers are picked up and dropped off, currently has a maximum occupancy of 100,000 cars a day, and that cap is being challenged every day. As it stands, LAX has become one of the busiest airports in the world, and the airport has struggled for years to keep traffic congestion under control. The majority of it comes from taxis and rideshares who are forced to drive at a slower rate in order to find their passengers. Now, drivers will be forced to pick up passengers from an off-site area just east of Terminal 1. This new pick-up location, officially named LAX-it, will offer an abundance of amenities for travelers, and will ultimately relieve traffic until further developments are completed.
This new policy goes into effect on Oct. 29 and will not affect any drop-off locations for rideshare apps or taxis. Passengers will have the option to either walk to the off-site area or take a shuttle to LAX-it. Walking should take about 3-19 minutes, depending on which terminal you are coming from. The closest terminals (T1 and T7) will talk about 3-8 minutes, while the farthest terminal (T4 and T5) is about 19 minutes away from LAX-it. In the eyes of an opportunist, this is a great way to get your steps in for the day. For those who are unable to walk those distances, or simply don’t want to, there’s a shuttle service that will get you to LAX-it in 8-15 minutes.
The shuttles are free and will arrive every 3-5 minutes on the first level, outside of the baggage claim. Not only will this shuttle feature WIFI, but it will also run in its own lane, so it doesn’t have to compete with other LAX traffic. Passengers can expect a maximum of two stops before arriving and will have LAX staff available at every location for assistance. LAX has recognized the demand for assistance for people with disabilities and has made both the shuttle and LAX-it ADA accessible. Whether you are walking or taking the shuttle, after about 15 minutes, you can expect to arrive at LAX-it.
This off-site area, at the corner of World Way and Sky Way, will feature many amenities for travelers, such as free WIFI, restrooms, and charging station in case your phone dies mid-air. There are also some amenities that will help travelers relax if they have to wait for a ride, including benches with shaded umbrellas and local food trucks that will be changing all the time. Both the off-site area and the shuttles are equipped to handle individuals with disabilities as they are both in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Once you get to the off-site area, you will notice people aren’t scrambling to find their driver. Instead, rideshares are lined up in a first-come, first-serve manner, and when you call for a ride, you will receive a code that will get you into one of those waiting cars.
LAX isn’t the first airport to take on this style of rideshare calling; San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago all execute this method as well. Boston International Airport is expected to follow suit shortly. Rideshare drivers will also have a new “rematch” feature on the app that will make it easier to reconnect with travelers coming from LAX. In other words, once a Lyft or Uber driver drops a passenger off at the terminal, they can hit a rematch button and automatically be matched with someone waiting at the LAX-it area.
All of this is for one simple reason: to reduce the amount of traffic in the Central Terminal Area. By removing the rideshares and taxis from the CTA and move them to the LAX-it area, the airport is expecting to reduce traffic in the area by 15 percent. Not only will this new off-site area help control the chaos of traffic at LAX, but it will also remove 15,000 cars from the CTA every day.
“Anyone who has come to LAX knows that traffic in the Central Terminal Area can get rough, and we have heard from our guests that the current system with ride pickups can be frustrating,” said Keith Wilschetz, Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Emergency Management, Los Angeles World Airports. “LAX-it will provide an easy, efficient experience for guests using taxis and ride apps and reduce overall traffic in and around the central terminal area for all those driving to and from LAX and our neighbors.”
While all of this is intended to have good intentions, and only serve as a temporary place holder for people until the Automated People Mover is completed in 2023, many people are still not happy about this change. Most unhappiness is coming from travelers who see this as added travel to their already long commute. Rideshare company Uber has made a statement addressing their uncertainty about the situation.
“While we have concerns with aspects of LAX’s plan to move all rideshare pickups to a staging lot, we have shared those concerns directly with LAWA (Los Angeles World Airport) and will continue operating at the airport,” A spokesperson for Uber said in a statement. “In the meantime, we hope LAX will listen to and incorporate our input so that so that LAX passengers can continue to access rideshare service in a seamless way.”
Of course, this is going to take some time getting used to. San Francisco International Airport experienced an immense amount of backlash from travelers when their pick-up location was moved to the top level of the central parking lot. LAX can expect its own wave of backlash as many riders and drivers are going to combat the rule change. Not everyone has responded negatively, though. Uber’s competition, Lyft, seems to be taking a safer approach to this change and gladly welcomes the new idea, claiming to want to be a part of the solution in any way possible.
“We have been working closely with the Airport leadership regarding the impending infrastructure projects taking place at LAX,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “We look forward to continued collaboration on how to best reduce terminal congestion, lessen wait times for drivers and riders, and we are confident that we will be able to continue providing the best possible pick up and drop off experience for all Lyft users.”
Despite the attitude toward the situation, this change for LAX will force travelers to rethink their travel plans. Despite the short additional travel time, people still find the additional leg of travel unnecessary, and may not want to take so many rides. One alternative method people might try would be the option of using off-site airport parking. Instead of having to wait in line to take a shuttle to wait in another line to catch a Lyft or Uber, some people are going to choose to park at off-site locations and take advantage of their shuttle services. This will be much more cost-efficient and will probably get you home faster. LAX has dozens of off-site parking locations that are both near the airport and have shuttle services that run all day. It’s likely that these shuttles will be much less crowded than the LAX-it shuttles. Off-site parking rates start at around $9.
LAX-it will remain in place until about 2023 when the Automated People Mover opens up. This is all a part of the $14.3 billion capital improvement program LAX has been working on. Other improvements dedicated to relieving traffic congestion include improvements to all nine terminals, a new Midfield Satellite Concourse, a consolidating Rent-A-Car facility, two intermodal transportation facilities, and connecting the airport with the regional rail system. All of these improvements are going to cause further congestion for traffic, including the closure of 30 percent of curbside pickup areas.
All of these improvements prove to be necessary as LAX, the 4th busiest airport in the world, sees around 87.5 million travelers a year, a 3.5 percent increase from two years prior. This traffic is only going to get worse. Los Angeles is going to be hosting the Olympics in 2028, which is going to bring thousands more people to the area. By then, the airport hopes to have all of these developments completed so that it can handle such a huge collection of people.
Overall, The Los Angeles International Airport is going to continue to experience high levels of traffic throughout the airport, despite where passengers are being picked up. This does provide some relief to the situation and will ultimately leave the Central Terminal Area running more smoother without rideshare drivers driving around at a snail’s pace looking for their passenger. Many unaware passengers and drivers will disregard these changes at first, but eventually, people who use rideshare apps in LAX will understand just how necessary this change is for the airport. Hopefully, other airports see the success in reducing traffic by moving rideshares away from the airport and follow suit in the near future.