Los Angeles International Airport officials Friday defended a plan to end curbside pickups by ride-hailing and taxi companies in the terminal area, saying such a move will ease what is becoming an increasingly jammed traffic situation at the airport.
But the move is being met with skepticism by the transportation-service companies, with a taxi-driver association calling it a likely “mortal blow” to an industry already crippled by ride-hailing services.
Keith Wilschetz, the airport’s deputy executive director of operations and emergency management, told reporters that unless some action is taken, the line of vehicles trying to get into the LAX Central Terminal Area will continue to worsen.
“By 2022, the average sunny day is going to be exactly the same as the day before Thanksgiving,” he said.
In an effort to combat that trend, beginning at 3 a.m. Oct. 29, the airport will no longer allow taxis or ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers in the terminal area. Instead, passengers arriving at the airport will have to take a shuttle bus to a nearby pickup lot, dubbed LAX-it.
Wilschetz said the shuttles will have a dedicated traffic lane in the terminal area, ensuring passengers will never wait more than five minutes for a shuttle, and the ride to the lot will take a maximum of 15 minutes.
He stressed that ride-hailing and taxi companies can still drop off passengers in the terminal area. The new system applies only to pickups. Wilschetz said people arriving at the airport can still order their Uber, Lyft or taxi rides when they get their luggage at baggage claim, and their car will be waiting for them when they arrive at the remote lot. He also noted that passengers will no longer have to cope with the traffic in the Central Terminal Area once they are picked up, since the remote lot will put them right on Sepulveda Boulevard.
Uber issued a statement saying it has been working with airport officials to prepare for the lot’s opening, and it still has some concerns that it hopes are ironed out.
“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 (Los Angeles World Airports) and will continue operating at the airport,” according to Uber. “In the meantime, we hope LAX will listen to and incorporate our input so that LAX passengers can continue to access rideshare service in a seamless way.”
Some of those concerns, outlined in a four-age letter to airport officials, include what Uber calls the “insufficient size” of the lot and insufficient traffic lanes in and out of the lot. The company also called on the airport to conduct a formal “test run” of the lot sometime in October “to get a better understanding of how the lot will perform.”
Lyft issued a statement saying, “We have been working closely with the LAX airport leadership and we look forward to continued collaboration with the airport leadership on how to best reduce terminal congestion, lessen wait times for drivers and riders and provide the best possible pick-up and drop-off experience for all Lyft users.”
The Taxi Workers Association of Los Angeles sent a letter to airport officials critiquing the plan, saying the taxi industry has already been “decimated” by the “unfair and predatory competition” by ride-hailing companies, and forcing taxis out of the terminal area “is likely to deal a mortal blow to the industry teetering on the verge of collapse.”
“Our analysis of the data shows that the current plan is unlikely to achieve stated goals and that this decision will disadvantage large groups of travelers, including those who are disabled, and is unfair to taxicab drivers,” according to the association.
According to documents obtained by the travel reporting website Skift, LAX’s airline passenger traffic rose from 59 million in 2010 to 87.5 million last year, and the impact of ride-hailing traffic has contributed to growing traffic in the Central Terminal Area. According to Skift, roughly 26,000 ride-hailing vehicles used the airports roadways each day in August, accounting for about 27% of all commercial traffic at the airport.