Taxi drivers flooded the hallways to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s City Hall office and the council chamber Wednesday to demand the city allow cab drivers to resume curbside pickups of passengers at Los Angeles International Airport.
Since the implementation of the LAX-it lot in October, which lumped taxi drivers into the same pickup area as ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber and prohibited them from terminal curbside pickups, cabbies said it has been devastating to the city’s taxi industry. Taxis can still drop off passengers curbside at LAX terminals.
About 1,100 taxi drivers and constituents signed a newly filed petition to let them go back to picking up passengers at curbside. Dozens of taxi drivers came to the City Council meeting wearing bright-yellow shirts with “Mayor…Do the right thing, SAVE OUR JOBS!” emblazoned on the front.
Leon Slomovic of the Taxi Workers Association of Los Angeles said cabbies had already lost significant amounts of income once ride-hailing companies were permitted to operate at the airport, and moving everyone into the remote pickup area leaves them unable to compete.
“This industry is on the brink of collapse,” Slomovic said. “We have lost, according to L.A. (Department of Transportation) data, 70% of our work within the city, and now 70% of our work at LAX. This was never about traffic. We only comprise about 3% or 4% of the traffic.”
Slomovic said taxi companies have submitted “detailed plans to mitigate” traffic if they are allowed to resume curbside pickups.
Michelle Schwartz, Los Angeles World Airport’s chief external affairs officer, said at a City Council committee last week that the airport operator has been pleased with the reduction in vehicles coming through the Central Terminal Area, and that its shuttle services have been moving travelers efficiently.
According to the taxi association, the primary advantage cab drivers had at LAX was the ability to pick up passengers directly at curbside near terminal baggage-claim areas. Ride-hailing pickups at the airport were restricted to designated zones on the upper, arrivals level.
LA City Cab driver Said Rahman said without curbside pickups at the airport, taxi cab drivers cannot make ends meet.
“It is very shameful LAX is the fourth-largest airport in the world and they have no curbside taxi pickup,” Rahman told the City Council. “We cannot survive without LAX.”
One Yellow Cab driver said he’s been driving since 1995 and that taxi operators and employees have respected the city’s rules and the airport’s rules. He said if the city keeps pushing taxi drivers out, some of them could end up homeless. Another driver said a lot of the older cabbies have had to quit and find other work.
Although the matter of taxi pickups was not on the council’s agenda, Councilman Gilbert Cedillo called the testimony from taxi drivers a “logical conclusion” to what was mandated through the airport’s LAX-it lot.
“We can’t turn the clock back, but we can look forward,” Cedillo said. “Let me suggest that this council or an appropriate committee … evaluate how we can bring some equity with respect to a … workforce that has played by the rules. The rules have changed, and now we need to figure out how we don’t disadvantage a significant part of our population, so that there’s not an adverse affect on our economy.”
Council President Nury Martinez said she would consider allowing further discussion of the issue at an upcoming council meeting.
The Los Angeles City Council’s Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee last 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 CTA.
According to a copy of the petition obtained by City News Service, the taxi drivers contend that they have operated at LAX for decades without issue and notes the industry transitioned its fleets to cleaner-running vehicles and provided public service transportation.
Although typical traffic is barred from picking up passengers curbside, ride-hailing companies that offer premium services and limousine drivers are still able to pick up passengers curbside in the airport’s CTA, which taxi drivers said gives those companies an unfair advantage.
“We’re the only ones that provide (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant transportation, which the limousines … don’t provide,” Slomovic said.
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