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How to hail a ride at ever-changing LAX during the holidays (or any other time)

LAX-it
LAX’s new pickup area for ride-hailing companies and taxis, called LAX-it, struggled to cope with crowds, so officials made it bigger.
(Adam Simpson/For The Times)

First, on Oct. 29, Los Angeles International Airport banned taxis, Uber and Lyft from curbside pickup and ordered them (and their traveling customers) to use LAX-it, a new pickup lot east of Terminal 1 at World Way and Sky Way. Next came long lines and delays during peak travel times, howls from frustrated travelers and an apology from airport leadership.

Now, as the holidays approach and with them, crowds, comes “Son of LAX-it.”

On Nov. 6, LAX responded to complaints by adding three lanes to the pickup lot, expanding its size by about 50% in hopes of getting more travelers on the road faster.

These changes in the way cabs and rideshares are handled are vital, LAX officials say, because of the congestion that ride-hailing services brought to the traffic horseshoe serving the terminals, compounded by lane closures that are part of construction projects that will continue for years.

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The construction will continue until the airport’s automated people mover opens in 2023. Which means that for the next few years, LAX-it will be a reality for anyone leaving LAX in a taxi or standard ride-hailing vehicle.

Yes, you can carry a turkey in your suitcase, assuming it fits in the overhead compartment (the bag, not the turkey) and isn’t accompanied by more than 3.4 ounces of gravy and cranberry sauce.

Here’s how to manage it:

• If you’re flying out of LAX, nothing changes in terms of getting to the airport. Drop-offs remain at the same places on the upper level.

• If you’re picking up friends or family on the lower level of LAX, you can drive around the horseshoe to the terminals, but you’ll need to head for the outer median rather than the curb nearest the terminal doors. (LAX officials call this the “curb-flip.”)

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FlyAway buses (which serve Hollywood, Long Beach, Van Nuys and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles) continue to pick up passengers leaving LAX on the lower/arrivals level. Shared-ride vans such as SuperShuttle also continue to pick up passengers leaving LAX on the lower/arrivals level, under orange signs.

• As a just-arrived air passenger planning on using Lyft or Uber, whether you’re walking or taking a shuttle to the LAX-it area, LAX officials say, you can call your ride-hailing company while you’re still at the terminal. If you prefer, you can wait until you’re on the bus or arriving at the LAX-it lot.
• If you’re flying into Terminals 1, 2, 7 or 8 with only carry-on bags and you’re comfortable walking a few hundred yards, don’t bother with those green LAX-it shuttle buses. Instead, follow the abundant sidewalk signage to the LAX-it lot, which has restrooms, phone-charging stations, a limited amount of shade and usually a food truck and coffee truck. It will probably take you less than 10 minutes.

How to ensure you get a wheelchair at LAX and how to navigate the new LAX-it ride-hailing system

• If you’re flying into Terminals 3, 4, 5 or the Bradley International Terminal, your walk will be closer to 20 minutes (and you may have more luggage), so the shuttle bus may be a better option. If you use a walker or wheelchair, the LAX-it buses will accommodate you.

• If you still want curbside pickup, you can get it (at the outer island median, arrivals level) by paying more. Many limousine and transport services, including Blacklane, 24-7 Ride, Uber Black, Uber Black SUV and Lyft Lux, hold Transportation Charter Party permits allowing pickups.

• The LAX-it bus fleet was designed to pick up travelers curbside on the lower level of the terminal loop, with buses appearing every three to five minutes and making no more than two stops, delivering travelers to LAX-it within 15 minutes. When the system struggled at first, LAX officials increased the size of the fleet.

• At the LAX-it area, you’ll see seven lanes for cars making pickups, with a long sidewalk for travelers on foot in the middle. You’ll find Lanes 1-4 on the left, 5-7 on the right. Lanes 2-4, color-coded green, are reserved for Uber and UberPool. Lane 1, color-coded yellow, has taxis and ride-hail company Opoli. Lanes 5-7, to the right and color-coded pink, are reserved for Lyft. For help, look for one of LAX’s lane managers in green vests. Lyft representatives wear pink vests; the Uber representatives, black.

• When travelers use their ride-hailing apps to summon a driver during busy hours, instead of identifying drivers by their names and license plate numbers, Uber and Lyft will send PINs to LAX-it travelers. The travelers then line up to be matched with drivers, much as taxi customers are lined up to be matched with cabs. This is where the delays set in during the system’s first week, but LAX officials hope that with additional lanes and more familiarity among Uber and Lyft drivers, pickups will happen faster.

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• Under current plans, a coffee truck will be present 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a second shift will run from 3 to 11 p.m. A food truck is scheduled from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., then 4 p.m. to midnight.


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