Los Angeles has moved toward becoming the biggest city in the U.S. to allow ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at the airport.
“The only place that we can come and make money is at the airport,” said Paul Ero, a taxi driver in Los Angeles for the last 19 years. “Now they want to take that away from us, so they can bring Uber in without any kind of regulations.”
Ero joined a group of taxi drivers outside the airport administration building before the commissioners' meeting. They held signs with slogans like “sharing economy is a disaster for workers” and wore yellow t-shirts that read "Uber driver or convicted felon? BOTH."
Dozens of taxi drivers testified before the Board of Airport Commissioners that allowing the ride-sharing services to pick up passengers at the airport would put taxi drivers out of business.
UCLA Labor Center Research Director Saba Waheed analyzed taxi meter data from the L.A. Department of Transportation and found that, between 2013 and 2014, taxi ridership in Los Angeles dropped by 18 percent. But taxi trips to and from LAX increased during the same period.
“It shows that the new services are actually cutting into the taxi industry in all places, except at the airport,” Waheed told KPCC. “It means that the airport is really the last lifeline for taxis in Los Angeles.”
But airport commissioners said they’d heard from a lot of consumers who wanted the choice of calling an Uber or a Lyft driver and voted unanimously to let the services operate under certain regulations.
Lyft driver Lauren Szendrei said she uses her driving income to pay off student loans and that arriving passengers at the airport were going out of their way to call on services like hers.
“They will take a shuttle off the airport grounds, go to local hotels, just in order to request us,” Szendrei said.
Pickups could begin as early as August, according to the Associated Press, but the plan is still subject to final approval from the airport and the city attorney.
The proposal includes a digital "fence" that would tell the airport when a driver from one of the services enters or leaves the terminal area, KPCC confirms.
Currently, the drivers are allowed to drop off passengers but not pick them up, according to the AP. Under the proposed changes, they'd have to pay a $4 fee to do either.
This story has been updated.