What SFO can teach LAX about moving ride-hail pickups

What SFO can teach LAX about moving ride-hail pickups

SFGate

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When officials at San Francisco International Airport moved Uber and Lyft pickups from the curbside to the top of a nearby parking garage, the new process went relatively smoothly — until recently.

Amid a crush of end-of-weekend flights, Uber and Lyft cars overwhelmed the pickup area. Drivers stuck in traffic began canceling their ride requests out of frustration. Wait times tripled.

Within a month, the chaos had largely died down. But SFO’s rocky start offers a cautionary tale to Los Angeles International Airport, which will ban Uber, Lyft and taxi pickups from the curb at the end of the month.

“This thing has to work well from day one, and we know that,” said Keith Wilschetz, a deputy executive director at Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX. “We’re trying very hard for there not to be a break-in period.”

Starting Oct. 29, travelers looking for an Uber, Lyft or taxi at LAX will be required to walk or take a shuttle to a waiting area just east of Terminal 1. Drop-off policies will not change.

Travelers will be out of the airport within 25 to 30 minutes of leaving the terminal, officials said. Right now, summoning a car, meeting the driver at the curb and getting out of traffic jams in the horseshoe can take an hour.

When SFO removed Uber and Lyft pickups from the curb in early June, the city and both ride companies stationed workers around the airport to help guide travelers to the top of a nearby parking garage.

The changes took effect on a Tuesday, and drivers who worked during the week had adjusted by the first weekend. But many casual and part-time drivers did not encounter the changes until Sunday evening, the busiest time of the week, said Doug Yakel, an SFO spokesman.

It’s not uncommon to see more than 1,200 Uber and Lyft...

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