Los Angeles, CA — “What do we want? Curbside! When do we want it? Now!” This is just one of the many signs held up by frustrated taxi drivers in LAX this morning.
Hundreds of taxi drivers held a one-day strike demanding that city officials reinstate curbside passenger pickups at the Los Angeles International Airport. According to them, they are fed up with a system that they say has “decimated” their industry.
The protest can be traced back to the airport’s decision last year to ban curbside pickups. This moved taxicabs, along with rideshare vehicles, to a separate lot. Now arriving travelers have to take a shuttle before waiting in a queue to get a ride to their final destination.
Consequently, instead of hailing a cab, some of those passengers are now paying more to take private town cars. This includes Uber Black because they are still allowed to pick up at the curb.
According to Martin Manukyan, president of Yellow Cab, this system “benefits Uber and not us.”
“This is not fair competition,” said Mekoya Kubssa, a United Independent Taxi driver for 26 years. Furthermore, he added that if passengers are forced to take a shuttle in order to get a taxi, they will choose the cheaper option: Uber.
Indeed, the airport’s decision dealt another blow to taxi drivers who are struggling to make ends meet in an industry dominated by rideshare. In fact, taxi ridership in Los Angeles fell 77% between 2013 and 2018. Drivers have long complained that Uber and Lyft had an unfair advantage because they were not required to comply with local laws.
Meanwhile, LAX officials argue that the airport “simply does not have the curb space” to accommodate taxis at the curbside. This is because of major construction, including work on the people-mover train, which will force major lane and curb closures.