airports

Dude, where’s my ride? Airports move Uber/Lyft away from curbside

At many airports, curbside pick-up is moving away from the curb.

On October 29, Los Angeles International joins the growing list of airports where curbside traffic has gotten so bad that taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber to Lyft are no longer permitted to pick up at passengers at the curb.

“We have heard from our guests that the current system with ride pickups can be frustrating.” “said Keith Wilschetz, Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Emergency Management at Los Angeles World Airports, said in a statement

“Frustrating” is a polite way of describing how excruciating and time-consuming using a ride-app at LAX can be.

During peak times, app users now often spend upwards of 45 minutes to an hour between waiting for their ride to arrive curbside and sitting in traffic to get out of the Central Terminal Area.

“That’s if the drive doesn’t cancel on you,” said LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

At LAX, bad curbside traffic is about to get worse as the airport construction associated with terminal redevelopment and the new automated people mover begins.

“We will be losing more than 30% of our curb front, so doing nothing is not an option,” said Montgomery.

The solution at LAX is to move the pick-up area for both taxi and ride app users away from the terminal curbsides entirely to a new area, dubbed “LAX-it,” just east of Terminal 1.

Passengers will be able to walk to the new pick-up area from some of the terminals and a shuttle will pick-up passengers at all terminals in a dedicated lane on the lower/arrivals level lane.

LAX officials say getting from the airport to the pick-up lot should be no more than 15 minutes (from most terminals) and exiting the terminal should be faster because drivers no longer must battle backups in the Central Terminal Area.

Once it rolls out on October 29, the LAX-it system will no doubt need some tweaks.

For now, some passengers are worried the new system will be confusing and pick-up time will be no shorter than it is now. In a statement, Lyft said it looks forward to working with LAX on providing “the best possible pick-up and drop-off experience for all users,” but Uber outlined its long list of concerns with the plan in a letter to airport officials.

How do other airports tackle curbside congestion?  

Back in 2016, Seattle Tacoma International Airport worked with ride-app providers to move pick-ups inside the airport parking garage, adjacent to space set already aside for other commercial ground transportation operators.

“We have since made traffic flow process improvements,” said SEA spokeswoman Kate Hudson, “We’re lucky in Washington state that cars must have front and near license plates as it allows passengers to locate their vehicle from both angles.”

The Port of Seattle staffs the ride-app pick-up area and contracts for additional ambassadors during peak times. 

With a goal of diverting at least 45% of ride-hailing pick-up activity away from the terminal roadways, in summer 2018 San Francisco International Airport relocated pickups for Uber Pool, Express Pool and Lyft’s shared categories to the Domestic Parking Garage. And in March 2019, Uber X and Lyft offered their customers the option to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage at $3 less than the curbside rate.

“To date, these measures have only shifted about 21% of [ride-hailed] pickup activity off the terminal roadways, falling short of the 45% diversion rate,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, so as of June 5, 2019 SFO relocated all domestic terminal pickups for ride-apps, including Uber, Lyft, and Wingz, from the curbside to the 5th floor of the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

In mid-November 2018, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) moved the pick-up area for all taxis and ride-app companies to the ground level of the airport’s Rental Car Facility.

“In the new space, dedicated taxi lanes are to the immediate left, while three ride share pick-up lanes are on the right,” said AUS spokesman Bryce Dubee, “The three ride share lanes are color-coded in blue, red and yellow with corresponding numbers 1-4 so that both passengers and drivers have a specific spot to meet up.”

The overall walking distance is about 750 feet, so before the switch was made the airport purchase four ADA-compliant 12-passenger electric shuttles to provide transport between lower-level locations and also leased an electric autonomous vehicle to transport passengers on the upper level of the garage.

Looking ahead, at the end of this month, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) will move both pick-ups and drop-offs for app ride passengers to new dedicated curb areas.

The new areas – conveniently located in the Central Parking – will be protected from the weather, brightly lit, and connected to all terminals via moving walkways,” said BOS spokeswoman Samantha Decker. “The new areas will also provide all the services passengers expect, including luggage carts, wheelchair services, and bag check service.”

(My story about airports relocating pick-up spots for Uber, Lyft, Wingz and taxis first appeared on USA TODAY)

Baggage Nanny debuts at San Diego Int’l Airport

Here’s a great new airport service and a candidate – already – for Airport Amenity of the Week:

Baggage Nanny, an on-demand baggage pickup, storage and delivery service, is now operating at San Diego International Airport.

The company plans to expand its service to other airports soon.

The service addresses the problem of what to do with your luggage when you land at an airport but can’t yet check into your hotel and – on the other end – what to do with your luggage once you check out of your hotel and head back to the airport.

Through Baggage Nanny’s website, travelers arriving at an airport can make a reservation to drop off their bags at a kiosk in the terminal.

Baggage Nanny will hold onto that bag and then deliver it to the traveler’s hotel or another address in town at a specified time. Baggage Nanny will also pick up bags and store them at the requested terminal for the traveler ahead of their departure.

The cost: $20 for storage, no matter what size/weight and includes delivery within a 15 mile radius. Extra charges apply for destinations beyond the 15 mile radius.

Right now, Baggage Nanny has a kiosk in Terminal 1 at the San Diego airport. The plan is to expand to Terminal 2 as well and to additional airports, including Portland International Airport, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Good idea? We think so.

Travel Tidbits for trains, planes and cars

Oktoberfest at Pittsburgh International Airport

Oktoberfest kicks off at Pittsburgh International Airport this Friday with live oompah tunes, classic German brews and dishes, complimentary pretzel bites and more.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Friday Grammy-nominated accordionist Kevin Solecki will be playing oompah tunes in the Center Core.

And throughout the month, the classic German brews at the airport’s Penn Brewery will include Great American Beer Festival medalists, Penn Oktoberfest and Penn Gold. On the menu will be classic dishes like Bavarian Pretzels with German Obatzda dip, Wurst Baguette on a Pretzel Roll and the German Reuben Sandwich.

More Oktoberfest parties are planned at PIT during the weekends of Sept. 20-22 and 27-29.

Amtrak’s BOGO sale

Amtrak has extended its Buy One Get One (BOGO) Saturday companion fare sale for destinations in the Northeast.

The sale applies to tickets booked on Saturday trips on either the Acela service in business class or Northeast Regional service in coach. (Three day advance purchase required).

These trains have stops in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Rhode Island and Richmond, Virginia. Use the discount code “C222.”

Rather drive?

The premium rental car brand Silvercar by Audi has partnered up with activewear brand Outdoor Voices in Austin to offer renters a cool deal.

Now through October, all Silvercar by Audi rentals at the Austin location come with Outdoor Voices apparel, a “Doing Things” local guide and a discount good for $100 off a purchase of $250 or more at Outdoor Voices.

Game of thrones: Where is the best public restroom?

10 quirky public loos seek Best US Restroom title

If you travel for business or pleasure, you know the value of a clean public restroom.

Smart business owners know that too. And in this age of selfies and social media, some venues are gaining extra attention by giving guests unusual and creative spaces to do their business.

Now ten of those lovely loos are running for the title of America’s Best Restroom.

Here’s a rundown I put together for CNBC.

Finalists were chosen based on cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements and this year the list ranges from loos in a museum and a zoo to lavs in restaurants, cafes and airports.

Through September 13, the public is invited to cast votes for the coolest commode from amongst the ten finalists. The winning loo will take a throne in America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame and receive $2,500 in facility services from contest sponsor Cintas Corporation.

Take a seat and help choose a winner.

This loo is a zoo

There are animals – behind glass – in two restrooms at the Nashville Zoo in Nashville, Tennessee.

A lush exhibit that’s home to six cotton-top tamarins is visible through a floor-to-ceiling glass window in a women’s restroom, while a ball python snake exhibit can be viewed from a men’s restroom.

“It’s one of the may features that sets us apart from your standard zoo visit,” said Jim Bartoo, Nashville Zoo Marketing and Public Relations Director, “It creates conversation after the guest leaves. They share it with their friends and family. The put it on Facebook and Instagram. This organic, word-of-mouth advertising is extremely valuable to us.”

Gold faucets and candelabras

The lobby restrooms at the Jupiter NEXT hotel in Portland, Oregon have seven stalls with floor-to-ceiling, gray stone-paneled walls arranged in a semicircle around a trough-style shared sink. Special features include gold faucets and candelabra light fixtures.

“We pride ourselves on creating community wherever possible,” said Katie Watkins, Community Manager for the Jupiter, “Our low-lit separated sink area offers a space to connect and say hello to other guests – both local folks and hotel patrons – before heading out to make the most of your stay in Portland.”

Flush with French flair

In Charlotte, North Carolina, La Belle Helene is a brasserie-style restaurant designed by noted Parisian architect Richard Lafond.

“We invested in every part of the restaurant, from the pewter-poured bar and the gorgeous chandeliers and leather banquettes to the bathroom,” said Scott SteenrodManaging Director at Constellation Culinary Group.

The vanity in the unisex restroom offers a shared space for guests and the hand-painted mural reflected in the mirror offers a great backdrop for selfies.

Modern Moroccan

The restrooms at Mourad, a Moroccan fine dining restaurant in San Francisco, California, blend old and new; tradition and innovation. Each fully enclosed stall is decorated in a different color of floor-to-ceiling Moroccan mosaic tile, features a handy marble shelf and mirror and opens to a communal marble-countertop sink.

Go stylish at the mall

At the Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts, the women’s restrooms include a waiting room with a chandelier, makeup stations and two private changing/nursing rooms with a lounge chair and outlets. Each stall also includes a marble shelf to hold your bag.

Italian adventures

Each of the four single-user washrooms at Jianna Restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina uses color, texture, tiles, lighting and accessories to reflect a different aspect of Italian culture.

“Our client challenged us to design the restrooms so that they added something special to the great food and the drinks and the overall atmosphere in the restaurant,” said project manager Missy Games, from McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture. “The restaurant has been open a few years and you still have people coming back to the table saying, ‘Oh wow, did you see the blue bathroom?’ It’s not your typical dinner conversation.”

Bathrooms for a community-oriented brewpub

Processed with VSCO with kp8 preset

The Butcher and the Brewer brewpub in Cleveland, Ohio has an in-house butcher and charcutier and a sense of community that extends to the bathrooms. There, a communal entryway leads to green subway-tiled accents walls and a communal sink. Private stalls for men are on the right; stalls for women are on the left.

Yes, cool loos at New York’s LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia Airport Terminal B, Location: Queens, New York, LaGuardia Gateway Partners

If the restrooms at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B are among the finalists for America’s Best Restroom, there may indeed be hope for the overall success of the airport’s current rebuild. 

With an eye to efficiency, aesthetics and innovation, these new restrooms have stalls large enough to accommodate luggage, trough-style sinks with a raised counter above; live orchids, custom mosaic tiles at the entryway and over the urinals and graphics depicting New York City on the stall doors.

Making good use of Seattle rain 

Swanky new restrooms are part of a massive renovation project for the North Satellite at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

These feature a flushing system that will harvest rainwater to the tune of more than 750,000 gallons a year. The modern loos also have separate sinks inside the ADA stalls, family restrooms with adult changing tables and built-in custodial support closets.         

“We realize no good work is done until the paperwork is done,” said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper, “And we appreciate that people think we have some of the best seats in the house. We like to think, that’s how we roll.”

Museum quality restrooms

The minimalist design of New York City’s New Museum of Contemporary Art is the work of Pritzker Prize-winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the architecture firm SANAA. When it came time to create the restrooms, the Tokyo-based architects settled on a super-graphic wall pattern featuring pixilated cherry blossoms against bright fields of turquoise or orange.

Two airport restrooms in the running for America’s Best Restroom

A clean public restroom? We vote yes!

Courtesy Mourad

The lid has been lifted on the finalists for this year’s America’s Best Restroom contest and this year restrooms in two airports on opposite sides of the country are on the list.

LaGuardia Airport’s loos in the running

LaGuardia Airport Terminal B, Location: Queens, New York, LaGuardia Gateway Partners

If the restrooms at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B are among the finalists for America’s Best Restroom, there may indeed be hope for the overall success of the airport’s current rebuild. 

With an eye to efficiency and innovation, these new restrooms have stalls large enough to accommodate luggage, trough-style sinks with a raised counter above; live orchids, custom mosaic tiles at the entryway and over the urinals and graphics depicting New York City on the stall doors.

Courtesy LaGuardia Gateway Partners

“Terminal B’s new restrooms combine cleanliness, innovative aesthetics and advanced technology together to create a top-class guest experience that travelers deserve,” said Stewart Steeves, CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners. 

On a roll at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Courtesy Port of Seattle

Lovely new restrooms are part of the major renovation project for the North Satellite at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

These new loos feature a flushing system that harvests rainwater to the tune of more than 750,000 gallons a year. The modern loos also have separate sinks inside the ADA stalls, family restrooms with adult changing tables and built-in custodial support closets.         

“We appreciate that people think we have some of the best seats in the house. said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper, “That’s how we roll.”

The eight other restrooms on the list of finalists this year include loos at the Nashville Zoo, at the Natick Mall in Massachusetts, at the Jupiter NEXT hotel in Portland and at restaurants, a brewpub and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

Courtesy New Museum

You can cast a vote for the coolest commode through September 13. The winning loo will take a throne in America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame and receive $2,500 in facility services from contest sponsor Cintas Corporation.