FAQ: What you need to know about LAX ridesharing

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have been cleared to operate at LAX, but when will they start picking up passengers?
Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have been cleared to operate at LAX, but when will they start picking up passengers?
Ariel Zambelich/NPR

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The Los Angeles City Council approved a plan this week to allow ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate at LAX. Here's how the service will work:

Q: Yay! Rideshare is allowed at LAX. Can I hail a ride today?

Nope. Uber, Lyft and other rideshare companies must still apply and be approved for a permit to operate at the airport. The City Council's action merely gave the seal of approval for a new "non-exclusive licensing agreement," which makes it possible for the first time for these companies to apply.

Q: So when will they begin picking up passengers?

The soonest would probably be in a month. None of the companies have actually submitted applications yet, and the airport estimates that it could take up to 30 days to approve an application after it's submitted.

Additionally, in order to have their applications approved, companies must demonstrate that they are able to track their cars using a digital geo-fence designed by the company that would monitor the vehicles as they enter and leave the airport. None of the rideshare companies have their geo-fence technology ready to go for LAX, though it is similar to systems set up for airports in Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco.

Q: What does the geo-fence do?

The geo-fence is intended to ensure that a limited number of rideshare cars are operating at the airport at any one time to avoid traffic problems. This is similar to restrictions placed on the city's 2,300 taxis; a cab can only operate at LAX once every five days, although they can serve passengers there for the entire day. 

To enter the geo-fenced area around LAX, rideshare cars must prove they are carrying a customer or that they accepted a request from a passenger waiting inside LAX.

Ride requests from inside the geo-fenced area of LAX will only go to cars parked in a designated holding zone that will cap the number of cars at 40 for any given time.

Q: Where will the car pick me up? 

Rideshare cars will be allowed to pick up passengers from the terminal, but they will be limited to the less-crowded, upper-level departures section. Arriving passengers leaving LAX must take their luggage to the upper level to wait for their driver. Passengers will need to note the vehicle color, make and model from the rideshare service's app alert to find the correct driver.

Departing passengers taking rideshare to LAX will be dropped off at departures as they currently are.

Q: How much will it cost me?

Rideshare companies that receive permits to operate at LAX will charge an additional $4 for every pickup and drop-off, which will be added to the price of your fare. That's different from taxis, which only charge extra for pick-ups.

Rideshare companies will be required to pay the airport a minimum of $25,000 a month or the sum of the fees collected, whichever is greater. The money will pay for airport operations and construction.

Q: What if I want to use a service like UberPool? How will the extra charge be divvied up?

Services that allow passengers to split the bill for a ride will not be permitted under the airport's licensing agreement, so you won't be able to hail a ride from the airport using UberPool.

Passengers who join an UberPool ride to LAX will have the extra fee divided with the remaining passengers.

Q: There's already so much traffic at LAX. Will more cars make it worse?

Currently, rideshare drivers are operating around LAX, though they are not permitted to pick up passengers at the terminal. Many drivers wait in adjacent neighborhoods to be hailed from sites just outside the airport, such as when passengers take shuttles to rental car facilities or parking lots.

The new system seeks to cut down on traffic around the airport by allowing a finite number of rideshare cars in the designated holding area.

Each rideshare company will designate the drivers allowed into the holding area; this will not be based on the location of the cars, thus discouraging drive-by traffic.

Traffic in the LAX arrivals section will be unaffected because rideshare cars will only be allowed in the less congested departures section.