Earlier this month, the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) instituted a new policy targeting ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Instead of being able to pull up to the curb at the terminal as is usually done, ride-share company drivers (not taxis… just Uber and Lyft) would have to meet their riders out at a distant parking lot, with shuttle buses taking people out to that location. They claimed that the measure was designed to reduce congestion at the terminal, but the reality is that California has been trying to find ways to crush the gig economy for years now.
Well, the new policy went into effect this week. And as the Guardian reports, the result was chaos, with passengers once again describing the situation as “Carmageddon.”
Los Angeles international airport (LAX) has apologized for “unacceptable” wait times after a new policy banning Uber and Lyft from picking up passengers at the curb led to major traffic jams and delays.
The new system at the country’s second-busiest airport requires travelers to take a shuttle to a separate area to meet their rideshare drivers, and a bumpy rollout on Tuesday resulted in gridlock and overcrowded shuttles, as well as some passengers waiting more than an hour for their rides.
LAX apologized late on Tuesday night for “unacceptable level of service”, admitting there were long waits for shuttles, congestion on the buses, and then long waits for Ubers and Lyfts at the lot.
Passengers were reporting that in some cases their wait to make it to the shuttle lot and catch their Uber was longer than the flight they’d just arrived on. The shuttles were overcrowded all through the day, with people having to queue up to find a spot to sit (or more likely stand) on one.
In other words, the rule change that was supposedly designed to reduce congestion at the terminal actually massively increased the congestion. It’s a result that should have been obvious. The same number of people were arriving as on any other day. Each of those people who didn’t have their own car out in one of the parking lots was going to be leaving in one of three ways. Either someone was going to come to pick them up, they would grab a taxi, or they would summon an Uber or Lyft. The same number of cars were going to be arriving any way you look at it.
What’s more, taxis actually do come and sit in lines in front of the terminal waiting for the next available fare. Uber drivers generally aren’t sitting in front of the terminal hoping for a rider. (Though they may cruise the immediate area because a lot of business comes out of the airport.) They wait until someone summons them on the app and then drive to the location. Arguably, the cabs add to congestion far more than the Uber drivers.
The drivers wound up sitting out in the designated lot for long stretches of time… time that they are not paid for. Passengers were unhappy. None of this worked to improve anything at the airport.
Of course, as I mentioned above, that was never the intention to begin with. California (particularly Los Angeles) has been at war with the gig economy for a long time now, particularly since the cab companies and their unions donate a lot of money to California politicians. There are all sorts of proposals floating around to drive these companies out of the state. Another recent one claimed to be trying to “help” the Uber and Lyft drivers by forcing the companies to pay them thirty dollars per hour.
Of course, all such proposals do is force the companies to allow fewer drivers to log in on the app at any given time, meaning fewer drivers get to make any money. Let’s see how long the passengers at LAX put up with this nonsense before the airport is forced to abandon this ridiculous plan.