Many riders don’t mind waiting … yet …


Many riders don’t mind waiting … yet …

Smart City” definition from Business “A developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government. Excelling in these key areas can be done so through strong human capital, social capital, and/or an ICT [Information and Communication Technology] infrastructure.”

Every city wants to become “smart.” One way to get into this smart category is by improving mobility, transit, transportation and parking. In Los Angeles, for one, these days there is little mobility without Uber or Lyft. Our public transportation, albeit improving, has a long way to go to measure up with transit in cities such as New York, Chicago and Washington, DC.

(Even with the current campaign #deleteuber, the ride-hailing service is still ubiquitous on LA streets, although Lyft is increasing its visibility.)

But do we need to wait for technology to begin to become a “smarter” city? Let’s consider, for example, how we get to and from the airport.

In the past, when people went to the airport, be it LAX or Hollywood-Burbank, they would either drive and park at a long-term facility or take a Super Shuttle or a taxi. These days, trips to and from the airport are most always in Uber.

For one, it’s cheaper than a taxi, and, two, the ride costs about the same as a shuttle would without the myriad stops. Taking Uber to LAX to catch a flight is easy and convenient. Yet, getting an Uber ride going home from LAX after a flight can be a challenge, especially during a busy travel season.

On New Year’s Day, for example, the airport was jammed with travelers. At LAX, Uber can pick up passengers only in specific ride sharing spots in Departures. The pickup area on Jan. 1 had hundreds of people converging at one spot, blocking the sidewalks. Everyone seemed mesmerized by their phone screens.

However, a few feet away at the taxi stand, there were no people, no queue. Perhaps one or two lonely souls were easily getting into a cab, while the rest were Uber-stepping on one another’s toes waiting for their rides.

(In one case, an Uber driver was on his way for a pickup within 22 minutes. Then that got extended to 30 minutes. The ride finally arrived 35 minutes later.)

The waiting crowd was frustrated at seeing Uber and Lyft cars drop off passengers and leaving empty. How “smart city” is it for these cars to waste gas, time and money, and create more pollution by just leaving?

It seems that ride-hailing vehicles and taxis must observe certain rules while picking up passengers at the airport. They must get special permits and placards. And all have specific areas outside LAX where they must wait.

For ride-hailing drivers, only 40 can wait in their queue to pick up, with their app on. So they gather in the staging lot about a mile outside the airport and wait. The problem is that during the busy travel season, getting into the loop approaching terminals at LAX is a challenge.

In one case, the Uber ride to the airport took only 30 minutes, but getting to the Delta terminal within LAX took an hour. Having a driver pick you up can be a long wait — a wait that costs time and money.

That ride from the airport via UberX, based on demand pricing, can range from $25 to $35. The same distance going by taxi would cost $55 to $60. So, yes, there are savings, yet, on the day when passengers waited for Uber for 35 minutes, taxis were there ready to leave immediately.

Since time is money, how “smartly” did an Uber
rider save?

And what about the smart city premise of creating more and better jobs for everyone involved? This particular Uber driver has a job, yet on a $35 ride, how much goes to him? Probably no more than $20. That’s $20 pay for an hour and half. Or, rather, a $20 wage for two hours, because he waited at the staging area for 20 minutes before it was his turn to pick up a passenger.

Why couldn’t Wally Park or The Parking Spot make a deal with Uber and Lyft so passengers could ride their shuttle to their facility, where they can be easily picked up?

Ride-hailing drivers must pay $4 for each airport pickup ride. Why couldn’t Wally Park or The Parking Spot, for example, make a deal with Uber and Lyft and charge their riders that $4, so passengers could ride their shuttle to their facility, where they can be easily picked up? For one, it would mean less congestion at LAX. Also, less time wasted for the drivers and the passengers. And more money for the drivers and a parking facility, where fewer and fewer people are parking these days.

That would be very “smart” for all of us, these wannabe “smart city” dwellers. Little if any technology would be involved. After all, the smart city concept, albeit not clear, is an open-minded concept based on adjustments to benefit all.

Astrid Ambroziak is Editor of Contact her at

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Astrid Ambroziak
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