Update (1/2020): We just released a brand new report examining the recent ridehail changes at LAX – you can read more about it here.
Passengers who are looking for an Uber or Lyft ride out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are in for a major change starting October 2019. Below, senior RSG Contributor Sergio Avedian details all the changes for the drivers as well as passengers.
This is a rendering of what LAX will look like in a few years. The airport is currently under construction, and the best estimates are that this massive construction project will finish by 2025 – six years from now. In the meantime, LAX has become the second busiest airport by total passenger volume in the nation, closely following Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International.
LAX is an old airport. It was built in the late 50’s, refurbished and improved to accommodate the Olympics in the 80’s, but since then the passenger traffic has exploded. On an average day, over 240,000 passengers move through “the loop”, as drivers call it. Certain days, it is the loop from hell where pick ups and drop offs could take more than an hour. LAX is designed on two levels, lower level for all arrivals and upper level for all departures, but it was definitely not designed to handle the current day passenger volumes.
Since the location of the airport is right next to the Pacific Ocean, getting to the airport can only be accomplished from the North, East and South. In general the following is what one can expect to endure.
TNC companies, like Uber and Lyft, were allowed to pick passengers up starting in December 2015 in addition to drop offs under the condition that all drop offs and pick ups would be done on the second level (departures), creating massive traffic jams.
Changes Implemented as of October 2019
Starting on October 29, travelers looking to request an Uber, Lyft or taxis will be taken by shuttle from arrivals (Lower Level) to an adjacent parking lot, where they can book their rides, said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director of Operations and Emergency Management Division at Los Angeles World Airports. Drop offs at terminals will still be allowed to take place at departures (Upper Level).
The decision is in response to worsening congestion at the airport, which is undergoing a $14-billion overhaul of its aging road network and terminals. Major airlines have been adding routes, more people are coming to the airport in general, Wilschetz said. Passenger volume increased from 63.7 million in 2012 to 87.5 million in 2018, according to LAX officials.
The increased use of ride-hailing services has also contributed to the traffic, which sometimes backs up into nearby neighborhoods. “We understand that trying to get into the central terminal area is a challenge and has been for a long time, and we’ve been working to make that much better,” Wilschetz said.
The news was first reported by Skift, a media company that covers the travel industry.
Passengers will wait three to five minutes for a shuttle, Wilschetz said, and the trip should take no longer than 15 minutes total. The airport plans to reconfigure its lower-level curb to allow shuttle buses to have unimpeded access around the central terminal loop.
LAX will join other airports that have terminated curbside ride-hailing in an attempt to alleviate traffic. In June, San Francisco International Airport moved all domestic terminal pickups for Uber and Lyft to a central parking lot. Similar changes are also scheduled to take place at Boston Logan International Airport shortly.
While not involving a shuttle, pickups at La Guardia airport in New York City are similar to the set up LAX has proposed. While it can be confusing for passengers, it does seem to keep drivers moving, which is a plus.
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How Will Passengers and Drivers Be Affected By These Airport Pickup Changes?
As a driver, LAX could definitely produce lucrative rides for drivers as long as they know what they’re doing. I have probably done over 1000 drop-offs and pick-ups at LAX, and there are certain days I wish I was miles away. That is definitely true for Monday mornings, Friday and Sunday evenings. All business travelers seem to be coming in and going out at the same time.
Getting to LAX is the easy part, but the last mile sometimes will take the driver over an hour. I definitely think that terminating pickups at departures (Upper Level) will be a good thing. It will cut down on congestion. It will not eliminate it all together; since 2015, it is estimated that over 26,000 drop offs and pickups are done by Uber and Lyft on a daily basis.
For the past four years, passengers have been accustomed to being picked up at departures (Upper Level). I hope Uber and Lyft will send push notifications to passengers as far as the new procedures are concerned. The reason most passengers use Uber and Lyft is convenience and price over cabs, I am not sure they will like getting on a shuttle with heavy luggage after a long flight to just do the opposite in a few minutes and load them up again onto their rideshare driver’s car. I think it will create fewer opportunities for drivers to receive tips, especially if the passenger tipped the shuttle driver. The Uber/Lyft driver will probably be blamed for the delays these changes may cause, possibly resulting in lower ratings. Time will tell!
LAX officials Friday unveiled the new lower level lot, named LA Exit, which is located at 9610 Sky Way, an approximately three minute walk from Terminal 1. The green colored Shuttles will also run between all terminals and LA Exit every five minutes.
Other Options for Passengers
What other options are there for passengers in LAX? In addition to taking these shuttles to Uber/Lyft drivers, passengers can also use:
- For passengers who want to go between LAX and San Francisco, they can take a ride in Cabin
- For passengers arriving in a large group, they can arrange a pick up using Swoop
- Passengers can also arrange to be picked up in advance using Wingz
Uber and Lyft Comments Regarding the LAX Changes
“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.”
Uber was a bit more combative in its response. “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 and will continue operating at the airport,” the company 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.”
What do you think about the changes taking place at airports all over the country? Are the passengers going to slow down their usage of TNCs at airports? Are they going to be inconvenienced to the point that may affect the driver ratings?
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-Sergio @ RSG