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It sounded simple enough. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) had become increasingly congested with rideshare pick up and drop off traffic, so the airport planned to change things up. A plan was devised to build a rideshare lot away from the terminals, where passengers could connect with their Uber and Lyft rides via an airport shuttle bus…

Just two days in to the new scheme, it appears to have backfired. Some might say, an epic fail.

According to the LA Times (worth a read), passengers were quoted stating that their wait for a shuttle bus was longer than their flight into LAX. It was supposed to run every 3-5 minutes, but overcrowding and other issues created wait times over an hour. That’s not a great start.

a sign on the groundTo make matters worse, there wasn’t enough capacity in the actual Uber/Lyft rideshare waiting lot, so even after passengers waited up to an hour for a shuttle amidst overcrowding, they had to wait again for their rideshare to arrive in heavy traffic.

Hot tip: pad plenty of time into your meeting schedule if you’re flying into LAX in the next few weeks.

In theory, a passenger should land, fire up their rideshare app and be told to head to “LAX-it” the incredibly clever name for the new rideshare lot away from the terminal. They would then follow signs to the busses which shuttle passengers away from the terminal to said lot, and off they would go in under a half an hour. So far that more theory than actuality though…

Perhaps the classic adage of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” applies here.

a green sign with white text

LAX was never a dream in terms of traffic, even before the emergence of Uber and other rideshare platforms, but it was a known level of chaos. This new system at least in its infancy, is an unknown level of chaos, with the spanner of uncertainty. Curbside rideshare pickups weren’t perfect, but they were better than this, and certainly didn’t take hours…

Maybe the right question is: how did they not see this coming? Surely an airport with the size, scale and importance of LAX would run models to simulate how traffic would flow on a quiet Tuesday at the airport, before actually unleashing its new plan. To the airport’s credit, it has since apologised for “unacceptable” wait times.

Critics say the worst has yet to come though, with Friday expected to be a key traffic day with up to double the volume. Hey, at least you’ve got a great story for the check in agent…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Are there any reports on how the change has affected the non-rideshare drivers (e.g., family members picking up relatives) that it was designed to help?

  2. But the traffic situation at LAX *WAS* horribly “broke”! It could easily take 30-45 minutes to drive from Terminal 1 to Terminal 6. Thousands upon thousands of people missed flights as a result of airport congestion. This new plan is obviously bad, but “no plan” isn’t an option.

    1. I hope they have something better worked out by next Spring. Would it just be easier to pick up a rental right from the airport and drive myself.

  3. Long time reader but first time commenting because this is literally up my alley. Was going to @ you on Twitter but this is definitely longer than 240 characters πŸ˜‚

    I’ve been to LAX no less than 6 times over the last 3 weeks (traveling and picking people up) and while my initial reaction to the change of moving rideshare and taxis to the satellite lot was WTF, after picking someone up post change, I totally understand why they did it.

    Before, rideshare pickups were clogging the departing level but it got way worse than you could imagine after the construction they started in early October. (Imagine NYC style gridlock.) The backup on Sepulveda and Century was taking an hour before even getting to the airport and a lot of people were missing flights because it was taking 40 minutes to just get to Terminal 1 during heavy congestion.

    It was by far, the worst traffic I had ever been in at LAX and if I didn’t leave the time I did, I would’ve missed my redeye. My driver ended up dropping me off at arrivals and I took the escalator up to the departure level, because traffic was so horrendous.

    I picked up someone after the October 29th change and it was the fastest in and out I’d ever experienced, especially now that non rideshare pickups are on the outer island. Cars are not permitted in the inside, only shuttle buses and they have blockaded the entrances so no cars can go through.

    I’ll be able to see how crazy Bradley pickups will be in a couple months when I fly in/out of there, as it looked to still be the busiest terminal when I decided to drive the entire horseshoe since there was barely any airport traffic during rush hour.

    Rideshare drop offs are still the same, but I would have a backup plan for transportation if I’m flying into LAX. Or, as you mentioned, allot plenty of time if anyone has a business meeting they need to get to.

    Love the site and thanks for all the tips through the years! I listen to your reviews instead of other sites who have writers that throw fits if they don’t get upgraded to business πŸ˜‰ keep up the great work!

  4. Working at the airport I can say the change has absolutely decreased traffic throughout the loop. However it has just concentrated the traffic on Vicksburg and the surrounding side streets. It is very apparent that the rideshare/taxi drivers are trying to find shortcuts as the ramp from departures to arrivals is periodically closed to prevent them from jumping the line right after dropping off a passenger.

    Something needed to be done. With the tram construction only beginning, the traffic would have only become much worse inside the loop if they didn’t. It’s not the best solution but it is a solution. A larger off-site lot probably would have been better but at least now you can walk to it from any terminal. It seems like they might have to rework the actual ride ordering and pickup process in the lot to fix the really long lines.

    Ultimately this might bring more people to have friends/family pick them up so we should just give it some time to smooth out and see what happens.

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