Just over a week ago Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) rolled out its big idea for reducing traffic during the three year construction of a new “people mover”. The new program— ironically named— LAXit— relocated all ride share (Left, Uber, etc.) and taxi pickups to an unused parking lot near Terminal 1. To get to any of these options you’ll need to catch a shuttle— or walk.
Malinda and I had a chance to be among the first to experience this new scheme. We’d taken a redeye flight that landed in Los Angeles at 6:00am on the very morning LAXit began. The light, early-morning pedestrian and automotive traffic seemed to promise an easy time of it. And the many uniformed agents offering unsolicited— and uncertain— advice for how to manage this new system was appreciated if not altogether helpful.
Unfortunately, the cracks in the system were showing even under light use. What was billed as a breezy 15-minute trip from curb to the LAXit lot, turned out to be a cramped, aggravating twenty-minute slog with one large suitcase and two smaller carry-ons. (Again, there were very few people in the airport at the time). It was frustrating enough to make us explore alternatives for the next time we’d arrive at LAX. It turns out there are a few.
Call in a favor
Paid rides are banned from curbside pick ups at the terminals but Family and Friends aren’t. This option is nearly the same as it ever was— with a bit more congestion and confusion thrown in for good measure. Your ride will now pick you up from the center median rather than curbside. They’ll have to navigate the various rental car, ride share and hotel shuttles to get to you, but at least you can be picked up “curbside.” Patrolling traffic enforcers are much more aggressive about idling, so do yourself and your ride a favor and arrange for them to be nearby. Call or text them when you’re headed to the “curb.” Otherwise, they may be forced to circle the airport. Reminder: The new traffic patterns and congestion make circling the airport more of a headache than ever.
Throw money at the problem
If you’re able, and willing, to pay to evade the lines there are a few options. Hired black car services such as GroundLink can pick you up from the median as well, but depending on your destination, and budget, they can be prohibitively expensive. The luxury alternatives of Uber and Lyft (Black, Lux, etc.) are also allowed curbside pickups. They’re usually less expensive than hired black car service, but often twice that of a typical ride-share fare for the same distance. If you can spare the cash, the dividend in time and convenience is more than worth leaving LAXit in the dust.
Get off the airport grounds
This last option is a gambit for the truly inspired or those days when the LAXit crawl is more lacking than usual, but you don’t want to pay a premium. At the median you’ll notice quite a few shuttle buses sharing the median with passenger pickups. They service rental car lots, nearby hotels and off-airport parking areas. Even if none of these places are your final destination, they’ll get you outside the airport grounds onto the surrounding streets of Los Angeles where you can call Uber, Lyft or even hail a taxi. It’s not perfect and you’ll still have to board a bus to get there, but you’ll be spared the spectacle of misery, confusion and standing in line that LAXit is full of.
Pro Tip: If you do decide to make your way to the LAXit lot on foot, try the underground tunnels that connect the Terminals instead of the sidewalk. The ground is smoother and sometimes they’re pretty empty like the photo.