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LAX pickup: How to hack the new ride-hailing changes causing Uber, Lyft and taxi delays

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Denise Lyra and daughter Gabriela, who arrived from Brazil, check their phones as they await a ride at the new pickup lot at LAX.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

There’s an iconic scene in the last season of “Mad Men” that romanticizes the first minutes of a Los Angeles journey: Don Draper departs from a plane at LAX, hops onto a moving walkway in one of the airport’s mosaic-tiled hallways and gets into his wife’s waiting convertible outside a traffic-free terminal.

Travelers arriving at LAX should not expect this idyllic Hollywood mirage. It’s been long gone for years, even before the airport ended curbside pickup for taxis and ride-hailing services, designating those in search of a Lyft, Uber or taxi to a waiting area east of Terminal 1. The changes are meant to ease traffic around the terminal area, which airport officials said was a problem that would only grow worse without an update.

Since the new policy took effect at the nation’s second-busiest airport, widespread chaos over wait times and confusion over how to maneuver the new logistics have ensued. But there are ways to mitigate the problems. Here are a few tips for how to hack the system:

Prepare yourself
Knowing is half the battle, as they say (they being anyone who has sat through traffic at LAX).

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Passengers making the trek to the so-called LAX-it (pronounced “L.A. Exit”) waiting area for an Uber or a Lyft should order their ride while picking up their bags from baggage claim, then board a shuttle on the lower level of the airport. Passengers looking to hail a cab should proceed directly to the waiting area and get in the taxi queue line.

Customer service representatives will be at each shuttle stop to help people board, the airport said. The waiting area and shuttles are both accessible by wheelchair.

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(Los Angeles Times)

The waiting area also includes restrooms, umbrellas, phone-charging stations, and food trucks operating from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Those hungry after a long flight could also consider grabbing food at the airport before making the trek outside.

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For those hoping to avoid the eight- to 15-minute shuttle ride, a walk will take roughly three to 19 minutes, depending on the starting terminal. Travelers should look for signs outside of the terminals for directions.

Take the FlyAway bus, Metro or a shuttle
Those headed toward downtown Los Angeles’s Union Station, Hollywood, Van Nuys or Long Beach can ride the FlyAway bus for $8 to $9.75 and can purchase a ticket upon boarding or in advance online. Upon drop-off, travelers can hop a train or order a ride to their final destination.

Metro is also an option, accessible by foot or via the G shuttle that picks up at all terminals on the lower level and drops passengers off at the Aviation/LAX Metro stop.

A shared service like SuperShuttle is another alternative for those looking to avoid the LAX-it area. The service said it had picked up 100 to 200 more passengers a day since the airport’s new policy took effect.

You could also brave the gridlock and walk out of LAX and try to find a ride.

Park remotely
There are, of course, parking lots inside and around LAX. Most airport lots cost $40 for every 24-hour period, but an economy lot offers a rate of $12. Several parking structures, such as Wally Park and the Parking Spot, are found in the area adjacent to the airport.

The outside parking structures are accessible via shuttles that now pick up outside various terminals on the upper (departures) level near the red “Hotel & Private Parking Shuttles” signs.

For residents of Los Angeles willing to pay to park, a remote lot may prove to be a time-saver.

Ask a friend for help
The whole point of this new system is to manage traffic around the terminal, which means now is likely to be as good a time as any to ask friends or family for an assist. While changes have been made for those looking for taxi and ride-hailing options, drop-off and pickup policies have been left unchanged.

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For those in need of a bribing method, there’s an In-N-Out Burger less than two miles from the airport.

And for those travelers sincerely daunted by the prospect of flying into LAX, there are other options in Southern California: Burbank Airport, Long Beach Airport and Ontario Airport.

Times staff writer Laura J. Nelson contributed to this report.


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