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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

LOS ANGELES (CNS)—In the face of complaints from some passengers bemoaning long waits for rides, Los Angeles International Airport officials Monday announced a 50% size expansion of its new remote pickup lot for taxi and ride-hailing services.

The LAX-it lot opened last Tuesday to mixed reviews. Airport officials said they needed to move taxi, Uber and Lyft pickups out of the airport's Central Terminal Area to relieve ever-growing congestion that has been compounded by long-range construction projects.

Airport officials have been working to tweak the system since it opened, responding to complaints from some passengers about issues catching shuttles and then waiting in long lines at the LAX-it lot to pick up a taxi or ride-hail vehicle. Taxi drivers have complained about being forced away from terminal curbsides, and some have argued that they have been forced to wait in extensive lines of vehicles waiting to get into the pickup lot.

On Monday, Los Angeles World Airports announced it will expand the size of the LAX-it lot by 50%, beginning at 3 a.m. Wednesday, increasing room for vehicles and passengers.

"The swift implementation of this expansion is the result of extensive collaboration with Lyft, taxis and Uber," according to a statement from LAWA. "Beginning Wednesday morning, Lyft's operations will move entirely to this new LAX-it expansion lot while Uber will add the former Lyft space to its current operating space. ... Taxis will also receive additional space for passenger and car queuing."

Airport officials said more signs will be added to "help guests find their ride," and staff will continue to be stationed at the lot to help passengers find their way.

LAWA officials insisted that passengers are on average waiting three to five minutes at terminals to be picked up by a shuttle bus, with the trip to the lot taking 10 minutes or less. Airport officials also said passengers are seeing reduced wait times for their taxi/ride-hail rides, generally taking less than 10 minutes during non-peak hours.

But there have been complaints about the system during peak hours. Some riders have told reporters they had to wait sometimes more than an hour to get their ride, citing long lines of waiting passengers and vehicles trying to enter the lot.

The announcement about the LAX-it expansion came one day before LAWA officials are expected to testify before the Los Angeles City Council's Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee about the lot's operation and efforts to improve wait times.

Last week, City Councilman Paul Koretz—a staunch supporter of the taxi industry—introduced a motion calling for a resumption of terminal-curbside pickups for taxis.

The Taxi Workers Association of Los Angeles staged a rally near the airport when the LAX-it system went online. The group has decried the shift away from curbside pickups as a devastating blow to the taxi industry.

LAX officials said last week they were working to improve the system, in part by tweaking traffic patterns in the terminal area, adding traffic- control officers and posting more employees in the terminal area to help passengers adjust to the system. The airport also added more shuttle buses, increasing the fleet from 29 to 35.

With the additional shuttles, wait times are expected to decrease ever further, LAWA officials said. The LAX-it system will also reroute shuttles to different terminals at different times to account for traffic volumes.

Airport officials noted last week that since the LAX-it system has succeeded in its primary mission, reporting that traffic congestion in the terminal area had improved dramatically since the shuttle system.