The day is nearly at hand when passengers arriving at LAX will be able to hail a ride with their smartphones.
The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted 9-6 to allow app-based rideshare services including Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport.
But Tuesday’s vote, which upheld a decision last month by the city’s airport commission, also included measures asking city officials to study requiring more extensive background checks for ridesharing drivers, specifically fingerprinting. Taxicab companies opposed to allowing ridesharing companies at LAX had raised safety and security concerns about drivers for these services.
Nonetheless, the vote is a victory for the ridesharing services and for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who promised in his State of the City speech in April to have the rideshare companies picking up passengers at LAX by this summer. Upon Garcetti’s signature – expected in the next few days – LAX will be the largest airport in the country so far to greenlight rideshare services.
Currently, ridesharing companies can drop off passengers at the airport but are banned from picking them up, a system that Councilman Mike Bonin, a supporter of allowing the ridesharing firms to operate at the airport, said consumers find baffling. Many rideshare drivers have skirted the rules by arranging to have arriving passengers walk with their luggage to nearby hotels or other offsite pick-up points.
Responding to the vote, Lyft issued a short statement: “Consumers won today, and we applaud the City Council for welcoming ridesharing to the airport.”
The airport commission’s plan would, among other things, require rideshare drivers to pay a $4 fee for picking up or dropping off passengers at LAX, force them to use the airport’s upper departures concourse and limit the number of rideshare vehicles that can wait on airport grounds for fares.
But it deferred to the state’s Public Utilities Commission on the controversial issue of background checks for rideshare drivers. Taxicab companies seized on the issue, saying the PUC’s background check requirements fall short of what’s needed and pointing to revelations that several Uber drivers had criminal records.
Taxicab companies, while not pleased with the overall vote, did praise the Council for the amendments calling for more extensive background checks of rideshare app drivers.
“Today’s vote is a step in the right direction to improve the safety of passengers who choose to use rideshare apps such as Uber,” said William Rouse, general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab and a spokesman for the local cab industry. “The city has the authority to ensure better background checks and today signals a good first step toward protecting the consumer when calling for a rideshare.”
Besides the call to explore more extensive background checks of rideshare drivers, amendments introduced by Councilman Paul Krekorian also ask the airport commission to develop a transportation complaint line for customers using any transportation service, including ridesharing, taxis, buses and shuttles.