A Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday directed the operators of LAX to examine the possibility of running a trial period for a limited amount of taxis to resume curbside pickups in the airport’s Central Terminal Area.
Taxi drivers, along with ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, have been barred from curbside pickups in the CTA since the opening of the LAX-it pickup lot last October in an effort to reduce vehicle congestion, though passenger drop-offs are still allowed.
Cab drivers who urged the council’s Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee for the trial run said their industry is on its last legs, with business cut nearly in half since last fall. Cabbies are limited to a certain number of pickups per week at the airport, and companies have reportedly been losing drivers at a near-daily rate.
Ride-hailing companies that offer premium services and limousine drivers are still able to pick up passengers curbside in the CTA, which taxi drivers said gives those companies an unfair advantage.
LAX-it started off inauspiciously, as hour-long waits were common in the first days and during the holiday surges. The wait time has since been reduced to minutes, according to officials at Los Angeles World Airports.
Michelle Schwartz, LAWA’s chief external affairs officer, said the airport operator has been pleased with the reduction in vehicles coming through the CTA, and that its shuttle services have been moving travelers efficiently.
Jano Baghdanian, general manager of LA City Cab, and pollster Adam Probolsky, president of Probolsky Research, who conducted surveys for the company, said they disagreed with the LAWA assessments.
“We have major, major issues with the reduction of the number of trips,” Baghdanian said. “We lost 39% of our trips on a Sunday, which is the busiest day of the taxi operations. We lost 41% of our operations the day we moved to the new lot (LAX-it).”
The cab drivers told the committee that they want to explore a 90-day period to allow a limited number of taxis to resume picking up passengers in the terminal area, with the hopes that LAX will allow all taxis to return permanently, if it’s proven to be feasible.
Councilman Paul Krekorian said he thinks the only way to provide a fair market at the airport is to require ride-hailing drivers to pick people up at the special lot and allow cab drivers to resume curbside pickups in the CTA.
He said he doesn’t think taxis are the main problem that contributed to the CTA congestion, which at one point resulted in people waiting as long as 90 minutes to get out of the airport.
Committee members voted to have LAWA officials return in a couple weeks with a report on whether they could start letting a number of taxis back into the CTA.
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