Amid the apoplectic fury around the decision to move curbside ride-hailing and taxi pickups at Los Angeles International Airport to a lot minutes away, a crucial piece of knowledge has fallen by the wayside: There are alternative and relatively efficient ways to travel round-trip to the nation’s second-busiest airport other than dialing up an app-enabled, curb-ready private car.
The rollout of the new “pickup plaza,” dubbed LAX-it, has been rocky, with riders waiting up to an hour or more. In that window of time, most of those car-coddled travelers could have been on a bus, light rail or shuttle, well on their way home, perhaps even getting lost in a good book or catching up with social media during the last leg of their trip.
But in Los Angeles, we’ve grown accustomed to summoning private cars exactly where and when we want them. No doubt, companies like Uber and Lyft have prevented many a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel. But the proliferation of ride-hailing services has made Angelenos ever more car-militant.
Witness the LAX-it debut, deemed an “abomination! a nightmare!” and a profanity-laced “debacle!” in tweets. One Twitterer called the bright plaza decked in lime green graphics (it matches shuttles and the uniforms of cheery guides) a “refugee camp,” presumably because it lacks coffee carts. There are, however, food trucks, restrooms, shade structures and phone chargers. Those forced to endure such grim conditions should expect some well-deserved side-eye from those of us who take airport shuttles and buses.
One inconvenienced rider tweeted that LAX-it was “another tent city.” Really.
Southern Californians are buying cars in record numbers , fueled by cheap gas while transit ridership plummets (yes, $4 a gallon is both cheap and largely affordable compared to what much of the world pays). “L.A. is hemorrhaging bus riders,” The Times reported over the summer. Despite the city sinking $9 billion into new subway and light rail lines, ridership numbers keep tanking.
For Uber-addicted Angelenos, taking public transport appears to be reserved solely for those without wheels and possibly wealth, a unique perspective for a major city. And they’re right: The vast majority of riders on buses, light rail and subways have no access to a car.
When I told a friend of my own tri-transport method of getting to the airport (by foot, subway and LAX FlyAway bus), he sniffed, “Oh. That’s so down-market.”
What’s now become “down-market” is waiting in that LAX-it “refugee camp” huddled in a tent for a ride that never seems to come. Yes, the lot’s grown by half since it opened a little more than a week ago and wait times should go down. But until then and even after, there are other dependable LAX transport solutions.
Book a shared-ride van — most companies have reliable pickup and drop-off times. Upon arriving at LAX, look for the orange “shared rides” sign on the outer commercial island; you can also catch buses there. (Prime Time Shuttle pickups, however, are staged in the LAX-it lot.)
The LAX FlyAway Bus provides nonstop round-trip transport to Union Station, Hollywood, Van Nuys and Long Beach every hour or half-hour — a service that has been poorly promoted. Just look for the green FlyAway bus sign. A ride costs from $8 to $9.75 each way.
Consider using Metro to reach FlyAway from your home or business. Don’t live near a Metro stop? Take an Uber or Lyft to that point. You could walk to the Metro with your wheeled carry-on suitcase (who checks a bag anymore?) and your “personal item” backpack slung over your shoulders.
I’ve done this scores of times, walking 20 minutes to a Red Line station where I’m whisked to the Union Station FlyAway. Upon returning home, the walk makes for great cardio after a 14-hour flight.
In Los Angeles, taking advantage of public transportation can be regarded as a revolutionary act. But go ahead, rebel a little.
The Metro Green Line “connects” to LAX at the line’s Aviation/LAX station. Yes, the stop is located — maddeningly — just a few miles from the airport. Why it doesn’t link to LAX is a complex story –– along with the “close but no cigar” Crenshaw/LAX light rail line coming in 2020. No matter, take the no-cost G shuttle bus (also poorly promoted) to and from the station — there is paid 72 hour on-site parking as well as bike lockers and racks.
Once you’re on the Green Line, you’ve entered the Metro system, and via transfers, you can travel widely. More LAX transport routes, including city bus lines, are available via the downloadable “Go Metro” trip planner.
Adventure does await. Pop in some earbuds and soundtrack your journey, and remember to wear sensible shoes. But try to avoid hitting up friends or family for a lift. In this sprawling traffic-choked town, no one really wants to give anyone a ride to or from LAX.
R. Daniel Foster is a regular contributor to The Times.