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Lyft and Uber drivers face new parking rules at Bob Hope Airport

A driver displays Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield as he drops off a fare in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Bob Hope Airport officials recently created a three-year access agreement for services using the airport’s roadways for commercial purposes.

A driver displays Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield as he drops off a fare in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Bob Hope Airport officials recently created a three-year access agreement for services using the airport’s roadways for commercial purposes.

(Richard Vogel / AP)

Returning from a trip to Las Vegas, where he attended a conference with friends, played a little poker and nearly broke even, Woodland Hills resident Elia Sheiner decided to use Uber at Bob Hope Airport for the first time. He said he normally pays $27 for a shuttle, but he estimated he would save about $6 using the car service.

After waiting several minutes in the short-term garage, where the airport requires the drivers to pick up their riders and pay a $3 parking fee, Sheiner got a call from his driver asking him to meet curbside in front of Terminal B.

Minutes later, Sheiner returned to the short-term garage. He said a traffic-control employee had scolded his driver for attempting a curbside pick-up.

“He’s trying to save $3,” Sheiner said of the driver, but in the process was delaying pick-up and the start of the paid ride. “It doesn’t seem like it’s very wise.”

Call them ridesharing services, on-demand transportation services, Uber or Lyft — the names of two popular smartphone apps that facilitate the services — whatever they’re called, officials at Bob Hope Airport said they’re a “fact of life” that’s affecting the airfield’s parking revenues as travelers use them with increasing frequency.

The officials call them “transportation network companies,” or TNCs, and recently created a three-year access agreement for services using the airport’s roadways for commercial purposes. It’s intended to put some teeth into the airport’s policies, such as banning curbside rideshare pickups and requiring paid drivers to use the parking structure.

The agreement states drivers must display signs indicating which service they work for and imposes penalties for TNC companies if their drivers repeatedly scoff the airport’s rules. As an accommodation, the airport created a new lane in the short-term garage marked “TNC Pick-Up Only.”

As of Tuesday, none of the rideshare services had signed the agreement, but Lucy Burghdorf, an airport spokeswoman, said, “I hear we’re close.” She said an update on the new policy is expected next Tuesday at a meeting of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.

The new TNC-only lane is akin to a curbside pickup that’s a short walk from the terminal. However, on a rainy day last week, it seemed to have confused some non-rideshare drivers who parked in the lane and went into the terminal building to pick up luggage or meet passengers.

“I think it’s going to take some time for people to figure it out,” Burghdorf said, adding that the airport plans to add more signs indicating that the lane is for rideshare users only.

At least two of the popular services already direct users to the parking garage for pickups and their drivers were using the new lane this week. A special screen on the Uber app tells users their driver will meet them at the curbside “to escort you to their vehicle.” At the top of the Lyft app’s map screen, it instructs ride-hailers to “Go to the main parking garage for pickup.”

Both Uber and Lyft charge customers the $3 parking fee to reimburse their drivers, but airport officials said in November they believe many drivers are attempting unauthorized curbside pickups. They said the added enforcement measures are expected to improve compliance and add an additional $2,700 in parking fees collected each month.

Mary Caroline Pruitt, a Lyft spokeswoman, said the service’s drivers are “absolutely expected to comply with regulations” and pay the parking fee, which is charged to the passenger through the app. A help page on Lyft’s website includes a video that tells drivers to meet passengers in the paid structure.

On Monday afternoon, passengers such as Sheiner waited near the TNC-only lane, though some seemed confused, checking phone apps for updates and calling their drivers for clarification on where to meet. Sheiner’s driver tried to meet him outside the parking garage to avoid the fee three times, but was redirected by airport staff or parking attendants each time.

“They’re strict about it, which is good,” Sheiner said, still waiting after the third attempt. “He’s got to follow the rules.”

Sheiner said he was frustrated with his first-time experience, which he said didn’t seem much more convenient than the shuttle.

Later, when his driver, Kamal Vahadati, finally pulled into the TNC-only lane, he said it was the first time he’d been instructed to use the short-term garage, despite the fact that he picks up passengers at the airport two to three times a week.

“Every time, I pick up my customers from the other side [outside the short-term garage],” Vahadati said.

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Chad Garland, chad.garland@latimes.com

Twitter: @chadgarland


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