The wave of cabs flooding streets around Los Angeles International Airport has receded, to the delight of nearby business owners who had noticed taxis hogging street parking in the area.

Now, they want to make sure their newly cleared streets remain that way.

As the Business Journal reported a few weeks ago, taxis for months had been clogging streets around the airport as passenger traffic there continues to rise and as restrictions on ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft, which cannot pick up passengers at the airport, have made LAX one of the few places in Los Angeles where cabs can still count on steady business.

But over the past two weeks, measures were taken to stem the taxi tide. The airport is now allowing cabs to queue on streets within airport property rather than in front of businesses.

But as the city prepares to allow ridesharing companies to pick up fares at LAX – and with no sign that tourism in the region is abating anytime soon – some want to make it clear that the work is not yet done.

Laurie Hughes, executive director of the Gateway to L.A. Business Improvement District, which represents property owners along Century Boulevard leading into LAX, said she appreciated the airport’s quick response but fears the current fix will only prove temporary.

“Almost immediately (after the article), we did see improvement,” she said. “But this is a short-term solution. We’re looking forward to a long-term solution.”

Backlogged

The city’s fleet of 2,360 taxis is divided into five groups, assigned letters A through E, with only one letter group allowed to enter the airport each day. Those cabs are permitted to park in a holding lot near the airport, where they wait to be dispatched to pick up passengers at the terminals.

In theory, that should stop an overflow of taxis from spilling out onto city streets. But a rebounding economy has pushed passenger traffic at the airport to record levels, resulting in many days when there are more passengers than available cabs.

To ease that backlog, the airport’s taxi dispatcher can summon additional taxis, ones that don’t carry that day’s assigned letter, for a brief time.

Data from Authorized Taxicab Supervision Inc., which handles dispatch services at LAX, shows that over the past year, the airport averaged more than 10 such call-ups a day. That has incentivized drivers to linger near the airport in the hopes of getting called in. As they wait, they often take up street parking spots in the area, to the frustration of business owners who complain their customers and vendors have nowhere to park.

But about two weeks ago, LAX operator Los Angeles World Airports came up with a temporary plan to allow more than 100 of these queuing taxis to instead idle on streets that are part of airport property.

“This is only an interim solution to last until around October 2015, but which will allow the Los Angeles Department of Transportation – which is responsible for city-permitted taxis – to work out a more permanent solution,” Nancy Suey Castles, LAWA’s public relations director, said in an email to the Business Journal.

It’s a temporary solution that’s more a game of hide the ball than anything – after all, taxis are still queuing, just now on streets that don’t interfere with local residents and business people. But the change has been effective so far.

Don Duckworth, executive director of the Westchester Towne Center Business Improvement District, which represents business owners in neighborhood just north of LAX, is pleased with the noticeable difference in such a short amount of time.

“The lines of taxis staging in every parking lot and every available curb has stopped,” he said. “That’s great and we’re happy about it.”

But Duckworth also said these temporary measures are not enough. As ridesharing services gain the right to pick up passengers at the airport, he expects more Uber and Lyft drivers to hang around Westchester. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his April State of the City speech that he expects ridesharing to be operating out of LAX by this summer.

Duckworth said he’s heard that the ridesharing services and limousines are due to get their own staging lot and believes that will help avoid the same type of situation the neighborhood had been experiencing with taxis.

But he wants the airport to provide as much space as it can for all vehicles picking up passengers without waiting for problems to happen first.

“They need to provide a permanent parking facility that manages the impact of traffic at this airport,” he said. “And that’s LAWA’s responsibility.”

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