Students coming back to Claremont via Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after Thanksgiving break will have to jump through additional hoops before they can get on the road back to campus.
LAX-it, the airport’s new program, will redirect people being picked up by Lyft, Uber or a taxi to an area “adjacent to Terminal 1,” according to the Oct. 4 news release.
Travelers using rideshare apps or a taxi at LAX can either walk three to eight minutes away from their terminal to a pick-up location or take a 15-minute shuttle to a pick-up location, according to the release, and the shuttles will run every three to five minutes during busy hours.
This change does not apply to drop-offs. Rideshare and taxi drivers will continue to drop off passengers at the departure location, the news release said.
LAX officials declined to comment on the change beyond the information on the website.
The LAX-it program isn’t permanent, though; it’s a stand-in until the airport’s electric train system connecting LAX terminals to stops around the city is completed in 2023, according to the release.
Called the Automated People Mover, the project broke ground in March 2019, and construction on the elevated track is set to begin this fall, according to the APM page of the LAX website.
APM construction, combined with terminal redevelopment projects, is expected to reduce inner-lane curb space by 30 percent, according to the LAX-it press release. The airport believes that moving rideshare app and taxi pick-ups to a different location will reduce congestion in the central terminal by 15 percent.
Some students, including Belle Buroker PZ ’21, who’s from Rhode Island, were shocked when they heard about the change. Buroker, who frequently flies in and out of LAX, said the program would be “inconvenient” for her travel plans.
“It already takes a long time to get back, even in an Uber,” she said.
Buroker and Eleanor Mackey PO ’22 have both experienced traffic leaving LAX. However, Mackey does not believe LAX-it to be the appropriate response.
“The whole point of taxis, Uber and Lyft is to make it easy to get to and from the airport, but if they’re adding an extra step where you have to take a shuttle, it leaves more room for things to go wrong with travel,” she said.
Uber raised additional concerns about the trial program in a letter to the authority that runs LAX, according to a copy of the letter posted by the LA Times.
The rideshare company is concerned that LAX isn’t running a trial of the LAX-it program before it’s enacted. According to the LA Times, the San Francisco International Airport enacted a similar policy this summer, kicking off “weeks of chaos.”
Uber also said the LAX-it lot might not be big enough for the high demand it will face.
“Without a significant expansion of the lot, we expect the level of service to be poor,” the letter said.
The company also anticipated traffic at the two-lane LAX-it lot exit, which it said could cause “a bottleneck, risking gridlock during peak periods.”
Buroker, who often uses Uber to get back to campus from LAX, said she might start using public transportation, like the FlyAway bus to LA’s Union Station Metrolink stop instead.
Mackey’s biggest concern is that LAX-it will make traveling to LA “more stressful and less enjoyable” for parents visiting Claremont, she said.
The announcement of LAX-it comes on the heels of Uber’s decision to stop servicing Ontario International Airport on Sept. 13. However, this decision was prompted by the airport increasing fares for ride-hailing companies, not concerns about traffic, and Lyft and taxis can still do curbside pick-ups and drop-offs.