The days of stepping into an Uber, Lyft or taxi curbside at Los Angeles International Airport are over.
Starting Tuesday at 3 a.m., travelers leaving LAX will be required to board a shuttle or walk to a waiting area east of Terminal 1 to hire a car.
The changes were announced this month as part of LAX’s effort to manage congestion in the terminal area of the nation’s second-busiest airport, which will grow worse as the airport continues a $14-billion modernization effort.
Without major changes, airport officials warned, traffic on an average summer day would soon resemble the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
The changes have sparked dismay from riders, and from Uber, which warned in a letter that the new system could cause bottlenecks, gridlock and long waits for travelers.
Here is what to expect.
How do I catch my Uber, Lyft or taxi?
Open the Uber or Lyft app once you’ve landed and stepped off the plane into the terminal. The app will provide travelers with directions on how to summon a ride, airport officials said.
Exit the terminal and board one of the bright green shuttles to the pickup area. It’s also a short walk from terminals 1, 2, 7 and 8.
If you are taking a taxi, board a shuttle or walk to the pickup area, where there will be a cab stand.
Are drop-offs changing?
No. Uber and Lyft vehicles can still drop you off at any terminal for a departing flight, as they have for the last several years.
How long will the shuttle ride take?
Shuttles will arrive every three to five minutes. The longest ride on the shuttles will be from Terminal 1, which will take about 15 minutes.
To speed up the travel times of the shuttles, the airport is converting the inside lanes on the arrivals level to bus-only lanes.
You should “reliably” be in your Uber, Lyft or taxi within half an hour of leaving the terminal, even when traffic is the most congested, said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director at Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX.
If the inside curb lanes are for buses, where do I pick up my friends and family?
You should pick up your friends and family at the median between the inner and outer lanes of the arrivals level, the area where people formerly waited for the FlyAway bus and other shuttles.
Drivers should pull up to the curb and stop, just as they did under the old system. The airport has extended the medians there to accommodate more people, said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.
What is the pickup area like?
The pickup area is a portion of a parking lot just east of LAX’s Terminal 1. It has been converted into a plaza with bathrooms, umbrellas and phone charging stations. The area will also have food trucks operating from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
LAX calls the pickup area “LAX-it” (pronounced “L.A. Exit”).
Can I walk to the pickup area?
Yes. The waiting lot is a three-minute walk from Terminal 1, and about a seven- or eight-minute walk from terminals 2, 7 and 8. The airport has widened some sidewalks and added signage to help you find your way.
Does the lot have enough space?
The lot has a capacity of up to 2,600 vehicles an hour, Montgomery said. The airport anticipates that peak demand will be about 1,500 vehicles an hour.
The pickup lot has a series of queues where up to 93 Uber and Lyft cars can load passengers simultaneously. An area nearby has space for 40 taxis.
Uber told the airport in a letter this month that it was concerned the lot did not have enough capacity. Drivers for Uber pick up an average of 500 riders an hour at LAX, and during the busiest parts of the week, that number more than doubles, the company said.
Airport officials said they have done “extensive traffic modeling” and are confident that the pickup area will have enough capacity.
Do the shuttles accommodate people with disabilities?
Customer service representatives will be at each shuttle stop to help people board, the airport says. The front end of the shuttles lower to curb height, allowing people in wheelchairs to roll directly on board, Montgomery said.
The shuttles are equipped with tie-downs for wheelchairs. The bathrooms and the boarding areas in the waiting lot are built on a flat floor, with no stairs, ramps or curbs.
“We want it to be ADA-friendly, not just meeting the bare level of the law,” Wilschetz said. “We want to make sure that everyone with a disability has not just an acceptable experience but a really good experience.”
Will someone help me with my luggage?
Employees will be on hand 18 hours a day to answer questions and help passengers lift and store their baggage, strollers and other bulky items at the terminal. Employees will be working 24/7 in the pickup area and can help with unloading, the airport said.
How long will these changes last?
The pickup system will remain in place until LAX finishes building an elevated airport train, which is scheduled to open in 2023.
The people-mover will arrive every two minutes and will whisk passengers between the terminals, a car rental facility, a ground transportation hub and a Metro station.