Six Council Members Question Plan to Let Uber, Lyft Pick Up at LAX

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Citing "significant questions" over equity and public safety, six members of the Los Angeles City Council said Wednesday that they want to reexamine the new rules that would allow Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport.

Earlier this month, the Board of Airport Commissioners gave the green light to a policy creating a permitting process for app-based ride-hailing  companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate at LAX. Advocates, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, hailed the decision as a game changer for the thousands of Southern Californians and tourists who fly into the nation's third-busiest airport.

In a motion introduced Wednesday, Councilman Paul Krekorian asked his colleagues to override the airport commission's decision. If the motion passes next week -- at least 10 of the 15 council members would have to vote in favor of it -- the council would have the power to veto the permit policy and send it back to airport officials for revision.

Among other topics, the council could discuss requirements for more wheelchair-accessible Uber vehicles, a quota for hybrid vehicles, or driver criminal background checks that would be connected to the FBI's fingerprint database. 

The other council members who signed the motion are Bob Blumenfield, Paul Koretz, Mitch O'Farrell, Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo.

Krekorian and Koretz have been vocal about their concerns with the airport's policy. In May, they sent a letter to the Board of Airport Commissioners requesting that drivers for app-based transportation companies be required to have insurance policies that are "the equivalent to what taxi companies must carry" and be in "strict compliance" with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"We still have not gotten a response," Krekorian said. "This is really just a vehicle for the council to have a dialogue about some of those issues." 

Should the motion pass next week, it isn't a guarantee that the council will override the airport's decision, Blumenfield said.

"I don’t think you should take it for granted that the folks who signed on to that are going to be for or against," Blumenfield said. "I'm generally partial to disruptive technology. But I do feel like this is an important decision that we need to vet."

Garcetti said in his State of the City speech this year that travelers would be able to hail a ride at LAX "by the summer." In a prepared statement Wednesday, he said he would "welcome council's discussion on this issue."

"I understand that it's a priority for the mayor," Krekorian said. "I look forward to working closely with him to ensure we have a way to meet his transportation goals and still ensure the safety of the public." 

Councilman Mike Bonin, whose Westside district includes the airport, said he would vote against the motion to override the airport commissioners' policy because "I respect the work they did and I want to support it."

“I’m happy with the provisions they’ve come up with," Bonin said. "I think it's the right thing for passengers and the right thing for our city."

He added that the permitting agreements give the city the leeway to cancel permits or modify the regulations if there are any problems. 

LAX's system would require Uber and Lyft to pay $4 for each drop-off and $4 for each pickup. In both cases, the fee would probably be passed on to the passenger. The companies would be required to pay the airport at least $25,000 a month for the right to operate there.

Unlike taxis, Uber and Lyft drivers would drop off and pick up passengers only on the upper departure level, a requirement that the companies opposed. They would be required to wait in a holding area until receiving a request for a ride, and no more than 40 ride-hail drivers would be allowed in the holding area at one time.

If the permit process goes smoothly, airport officials say, the services could be picking up passengers by September.

For more Los Angeles transportation news, follow @laura_nelson on Twitter.

 

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