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.
“It was carmageddon,” Nicole Moore, a Lyft driver in LA, said. Moore, who is also a volunteer organizer with Rideshare Drivers United, wasn’t at LAX herself but said she had heard from drivers who waited 40 or 50 minutes to pick up passengers: “We’re not paid for those minutes … This is not good for anyone right now.”
The changes in the airport were aimed at addressing congestion in the terminal area of LAX, which has been a growing problem and is expected to get worse due to upcoming construction projects. The airport said shuttles were supposed to arrive every three to five minutes to take travelers to a lot it has called LAXit, where they can then get their Uber or Lyft ride.
Authorities previously said that even during congested periods, travelers would be able to catch their ride within half an hour of exiting the terminal.
Day one of the new system, however, quickly became chaotic. Some travelers said the time it took to catch an Uber was longer than their flight to LAX, the LA Times reported.
The new policy did lead to an increase in business for traditional taxis, which continue to operate on a “first come, first served” basis, leading some riders who were waiting for Ubers and Lyfts to give up and take a cab, according to the LA Times. LAX also told the paper it was making changes to road stripping, signage and routes to speed up the system.
Uber previously criticized the policy, warning that the new lot did not have enough capacity and saying the system would lead to long waits and more traffic.
The airport began the new system on a Tuesday, which is typically a light day of travel. That means bigger problems could emerge this weekend.
“Imagine what it’s going to be like on a Friday. Imagine what it’s going to be like on the holidays,” said Moore, adding that she wished drivers had been more involved in the process of creating the new system: “There was no real input of the people who do the work … Drivers count on the airports. This is our bread and butter.”
A Lyft spokesperson said the company was trying to decrease wait times, adding: “We’ve been working closely with LAX airport leadership, and we have an experienced team on the ground making real-time adjustments to improve our operations for both riders and drivers.”
Uber and LAX spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.