Skift Take

This is a bad development for frequent flyers. Many Uber and Lyft riders value their time, and they don't want to have to hop on a shuttle bus to get to a rideshare pickup area. Here's a better idea: Let people arrange for rideshare pickups at the terminals — but only if they pay extra money for the privilege.

With roadway traffic mounting, Los Angeles International Airport soon will bar rideshare and taxi drivers from picking up passengers outside its terminals, forcing travelers to ride shuttle buses to a nearby parking lot where they will be matched with a car.

Los Angeles International, which handles more origin and destination passengers than any other U.S airport, is planning to make the change at 3 a.m. on Oct. 29, according to documents shared with Skift. Drop-offs at terminals will still be permitted, documents show.

It’s an admission that the airport, which has seen its airline passenger traffic rise from 59 million in 2010 to 87.5 million last year, can no longer handle the Uber and Lyft cars gumming up its roads. Almost 26,000 rideshare cars in August used the airport’s roadways each day, airport statistics show. Rideshare cars account for roughly 27 percent of all commericial traffic at the airport, figures show.

In recent months, the traffic has gotten worse. The airport is in the midst of a massive $14 billion project to modernize ahead of the 2028 Summer Olympics, and construction needs often require it to close lanes. On the worst days, drivers report it can take 45 minutes to travel from the main entrance through the horseshoe-style central terminal area. United Airlines this summer sent text messages to customers reminding them to arrive at least two hours early, warning they might otherwise miss their flights.

Several sources said the airport plans to launch a public relations campaign later this month to explain to passengers why the change is needed. An airport spokesman, however, declined Thursday to share more details on the rideshare program.

“We are continuously assessing our operations as we modernize our airport and confront significant construction impacts,” the spokesman said. “In the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing some of the new ways that we are working to improve the guest experience and improve traffic conditions at and around LAX, with a focus on an easy, efficient, and amenities-rich experience.”

Similar Moves Elsewhere

While the construction is unique, Los Angeles is not the only U.S. airport reacting to increased rideshare traffic by trying to push drivers off roadways. San Francisco in June moved rideshare pickups to a central parking garage, where customers can meet their drivers, and Boston Logan Airport has been seeking similar changes.

The new rideshare pickup area at LAX.

In Boston and San Francisco, the moves make sense, as passengers can walk to the parking lots within a few minutes. But in Los Angeles, most customers will need to board shuttle buses to reach the lot, which will be a reasonable walking distance only from Southwest Airlines’ Terminal 1.

This bus may take some time. Today a shuttle ride from the airport’s international terminal to the new rideshare and taxi lot could take 15 minutes or more, though that may decrease with fewer Lyft and Uber cars on the road.

Still, Curtis Blessing, a spokesman for American Airlines, said he expected the new policy will be positive for American’s customers, even though the airline’s Terminal 4 and 5 complex is among the farthest from the new central pickup location.

“American Airlines welcomes improvements to the overall customer experience at LAX, and we believe the new rideshare/taxi pickup program will do just that by reducing roadway congestion and providing a more efficient process for customers leaving the airport,” he said.

Short-Term Fix

The shuttle buses likely will only be a short-term solution.

By 2023 Los Angeles expects to complete an automated people mover, or driverless train, to shuttle passengers among terminals and to ground transportation. The airport estimates about 30 million travelers will use the people mover each year.

Los Angeles is betting the new system will change how people access its terminals. Now most travelers reach the airport by car. The nearest train station is almost three miles away, making it inconvenient for most travelers, and while the airport operates buses to popular destinations, including Hollywood and Downtown, they’re not popular among locals.

The new automated people mover finally will provide passengers with an easy connection to the region’s light rail system. It’ll also shuttle passengers to a new consolidated rental car facility and other transportation options.

Here’s some information the airport has been sharing about the new program:

Download (PDF, 351KB)

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Tags: lax, lyft, uber

Photo credit: A rendering of the new automated people mover at Los Angeles International Airport. Los Angeles World Airports

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