LAX still a no-go zone for ride share pickups despite Garcetti promise

Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Listen to story

Download this story 1MB

In his April State of the City address, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared that by this summer, ride share companies like Uber and Lyft would be picking up passengers at LAX.

But despite a heat wave that has signaled to many in Southern California that summer has definitely arrived, ride share pickups are still conspicuously absent from LAX.

While anyone can drop a passenger off at the airport, the popular low cost ride services have been banned from picking up at arrivals - forcing those who wish to use Lyft or UberX to hail the cars from outside the airport.

Uber's more expensive services like Uber Black are allowed to pick up at the airport because those drivers use commercially registered vehicles, but they are usually even more expensive than a traditional taxi.

San Diego last week joined a growing list of cities that have accommodated ride share pickups at their airports, including San Francisco and Burbank.

"You would think LAX would be in the forefront on this, but they seem to be dragging their feet," said Kurt McCleave, an Uber driver in Los Angeles.

He complained the current system was forcing him to go out of his way to leave the airport once he dropped a passenger off at LAX, despite the fact that there is a high demand for the service.

"I think it's most important for the passengers," he said. "I’m picking up people who are taking a shuttle to get out of LAX and then requesting UberX, adding 30 minutes onto their trip."

Airport pickups are generally a lucrative source of income for drivers, which is why taxi companies have been fighting the plan to allow ride share at LAX.

Los Angeles World Airports, which manages LAX has been talking to taxi and ride share companies to craft a licensing agreement they hope to present to the Airport Commission by late summer.

If it passes, it could still hit more roadblocks.

"I think they’re bandit cabs with apps," said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz. "I think it's a bad idea to reward bad behavior."

He wants to see ride share companies subject their drivers to fingerprinting for background checks as taxi drivers are required to and to provide training to accommodate passengers with disabilities and special needs.

Koretz said he would try to block any decision in City Council if his concerns are not satisfied.