Los Angeles International Airport

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)

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Free paletas at LAX

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is celebrating Latino Heritage Month with a wide variety of cultural performances, art and guest experiences, including complimentary tastings.

Today, Friday, Sept 20 there will be a cart with free paletas (Mexican popsicles) in Terminal 1 near the L.A. Original store from noon to 3 p.m.

Next Friday, Sept. 27, the cart will be in Terminal 2, next to Barney’s Beanery, from noon to 3 p.m. And on Friday, Oct. 4, free paletas will be offered in the Terminal 6 W Kitchen Food Court from noon to 3 p.m.

TPA has a special drink

This may be a first: Tampa International Airport (TPA) has a airport-wide, signature cocktail.

On September 13, TPA rolled out The Spirit of Flight, a signature cocktail that is now available at all restaurants and bars airport-wide.

The one-of-a-kind cocktail is a blend of guava, white rum and orange and is meant to give travelers a taste of Tampa Bay.

To come up with the perfect drink, TPA called in mixologists from Ulele, Mise en Place and Cigar City Brewing – three of Tampa Bay’s well-known concepts.

“We wanted to create a drink that would represent the area,” said Ulele Manager Phil Cacciatore, who helped craft the drink. “We wanted guests to think ‘Wow this is unique.’”

Guests who order the drink will receive a Spirit of Flight coaster with the ingredients listed on the back, so whenever they see it, they’re reminded of their trip to Tampa.

The drink is also available in non-alcoholic version.

Here are the ingredients and mixing instructions in case you’d like to try this at home.

2 oz Guava Nectar

1 tbsp Guava Marmalade

1 oz Florida Orange Juice

1.50 oz White Rum

0.50 oz Orange Liqueur

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake all ingredients and strain over ice into a Collins glass.

Garnish with a slice of orange and mint leaf.

Fresh art at LAX

There are four new art exhibitions at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Terminal 1. Three are the work of solo artists; one is a one group exhibition. 

Here’s a preview:

“Floragalora” by Pat Warner, and “Rhizomatic Variations”, by Marianne Sadowski, are in Terminal 1 near Gate 9.

“Floragalora” by Pat Warner.

Warner’s inspiration for this installation is the spectacular wildflower superbloom Los Angeles experienced this spring.

Rhizomatic Variations” by Marianne Sadowski. “Variation 4, 5, 7, 8” 2019.

“Rhizomatic Variations” by Marianne Sadowski features a series of 21 polymer plate variations and is “an homage to the simultaneous harmony and disorder which exists in the current landscape of Los Angeles.”


Hanaguruma” by Michiko Yao (top photo) and  “Passing Rose” by Michiko Yao (bottom photo). 

Michiko Yao’s Hanaguruma”and “Passing Rose explore Asian and American stereotypes using symbolic materials. Both pieces make use of digitally manipulated imagery of artificial flowers and are on view to the public in Baggage Claim on the Arrivals Level.

Latitude 33° 56′” exhibit, curated by Bia Gayotto. Left to right: Fran Siegel, “Overland 17” 2014; Flora Kao “City of Angels” 2010; Peter Bo Rappmund “Topophilia” 2015; Stephen Berens “Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863, Catoosa County and Walker County, Georgia and Love In, March 26, 1967, Elysian Fields, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California” 2018.

And Latitude 33° 56′”, by Gate 10, is a curated project with eight artists exploring mapping to translate an experience of a place.

The title refers to LAX’s latitude in degrees, minutes and seconds, and plays with notions of location and territorial representation.

The new exhibitions are presented in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

(All photos by Panic Studio LA, courtesy of Los Angeles World Airports and City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.)

Fresh art at Los Angeles International Airport

Heading to or through the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) or Terminal 6 at LAX?

Here’s some info about two now site-specific art installations to look for at Los Angeles International Airport, courtesy of the airport’s partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA),

“Forest, For the Trees” curated by Julie Kornblum

“Forest, For the Trees” is an installation featuring knitted, crocheted, woven and other fiber-based artworks made by more than 40 artists.

“This installation hopes to address the wonders and perils of the forest by creating an environment that is at once unique and fantastic,” said Los Angeles-based artist and project curator Julie Kornblum.

The installation is the newest iteration of Kornblum’s ongoing partnership with the Arroyo Arts Collective and Yarn Bombing Los Angeles. Artists independently created works in their own individual styles and techniques, from realistic woodland creatures made of felt, to stylized tree trunks and branches sprouting from used sweaters. 

Look for “Forest, For the Trees” at LAX in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, Customs Hallway, on the Arrivals Level through January 2020.  

The Unemployed” by Jody Zellen

“The Unemployed” is a site-specific installation by Jody Zellen that features a large-scale, interactive digital projection and four video monitors.

Using data culled from online sources that list unemployment rates for over 200 countries, Zellen depicts this numerical information as animated figures, creating an alternative way to visualize these statistics. 

Zellen created a software program that randomly cycles through the unemployment data of the different countries and, for each country, depicts an array of figures made of simple lines moving within a grid on the wall.

The piece is interactive: as passersby move through the space, their silhouettes are projected onto the wall and transformed into a presence consisting of the ambling figures.  

The installation is open to the public in Terminal 6 on the Departures Level through September 2019 and is also available via a free app.

All photos in this post by Panic Studio LA, courtesy of Los Angeles World Airports and City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Listen up at Los Angeles International Airport

Local entertainers, sports figures, musicians, actors, chefs and other celebrity voices from Los Angeles are lending their voices to the recorded welcome messages at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The first group of voices include:

  • Jimmy Kimmel, host and executive producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live!
  • Justin Turner, third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Gustavo Dudamel, internationally renowned conductor, Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Susan Feniger, L.A.-based chef, author, radio and TV personality, and owner of BBQ Mexicana, Socalo and Border Grill restaurants, which has a location inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal. 

The messages will rotate throughout the day and be replaced on a regular basis with new voices. Travelers will hear the messages on the overhead announcement system at the curb and inside each terminal.

Give a listen to the new celebrity welcome messages at LAX here.

Why is LAX doing this?

“Los Angeles is globally recognized as the entertainment capital of the world, offering the best in movies, television, sports, music, food and culture,” said Deborah Flint, CEO, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). “We continue to put the L.A. in LAX by offering our guests immersive experiences – from fashion shows to performances by local musicians and artists – so we are excited to begin welcoming tens of millions of people with voices of iconic, local personalities.”

While LAX may have a more famous group of celebrities to choose from, LAX isn’t the first airport to do this.

McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Denver International Airport and many others invite local dignitaries, entertainers, sports players and others to record welcome messages and public service information advisories for travelers.

So listen up. And let us know your favorites.