LOS ANGELES — Chauffeurs picking up clients at Los Angeles International Airport in the early morning hours are facing a frustrating and unfair situation: All chauffeurs must get a $4 trip ticket from a booth in a holding lot about a quarter mile east of the main terminal loop in order to go into the terminals and pick up clients. The booth does not open until 6:30 a.m. International red-eye flights commonly land before 6:30 a.m. To be on time for their client greetings, chauffeurs must drive into the parking areas without a trip ticket, which must be displayed on the dashboard beneath the windshield. Many of those chauffeurs and/or their companies are getting ticketed and fined by LAX traffic enforcement for not having a trip ticket.
This scenario has hit critical mass during the last two months as many Los Angeles area chauffeured transportation companies have been hit with multiple citations, including most of the big name providers such as Music Express and ITS. Potentially, all chauffeured service providers of all sizes accessing LAX could be affected if they have clients arriving during early mornings.
“Right now they are pulling over anyone, sometimes with clients inside, holding cars for 15-20 minutes,” said Alex Darbahani, a board director of the Greater California Livery Association and owner of KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services in Los Angeles. “How do you buy tickets when the booth opens at 6:30 a.m.? Sometimes the attendant is late.”
The citations are coming from both foot patrol officers at curbside and motorcycle officers pulling over vehicles. LAX enforces a point system to its citations, with each type of violation being assigned a specific number of penalty points. Fines kick in when a chauffeured transportation company or chauffeur reaches a certain level of points. If penalty points get high enough, an entire limousine company can be suspended from LAX access for a few days or longer. So far, no companies have been suspended due to the trip ticket-related citations.
In addition to the trip ticket booth not opening early enough, there are times when the booth is unmanned, as when the attendant goes to lunch or the restroom, Darbahani said, leading to delays for chauffeurs. Although there are two booths, only one is open most of the time. “During the Grammys, the [chauffeured vehicle] line was a half-mile long,” he said.
Darbahani estimates LAX gets about $2.5 million annually in revenue from the $4 trip tickets levied on limousine companies, in addition to an estimated $3 million in annual parking revenues from chauffeurs who pay an average $7 per trip to park and go inside the terminal to wait for the client and then retrieve baggage.
GCLA leaders are planning to meet with airport traffic enforcement and Landside Operations officials to discuss possible solutions to the citations, said Jack Nissim, GCLA Treasurer and operations manager at ITS in Beverly Hills. Nissim and Darbahani already had a meeting with one traffic enforcement supervisor and asked him to educate enforcement officers about the problem. They are also waiting to schedule a meeting with Landside Operations to find a resolution.
“We’re looking to find a solution, but so far they haven’t come up with one,” Nissim said. “We’ve suggested a few things.”
Possible solutions include:
- Earlier and added staffing at the trip ticket booth(s).
- Instead of being issued a citation, a chauffeur on an early morning run without a trip ticket could simply be handed a $4 trip ticket to be paid on the spot or later.
- Pre-pay trip ticket cash/credit machine(s) installed at the holding lot, similar to the automated parking machines now widely used at public parking decks.
- An exemption/exception for chauffeurs making pre-6:30 a.m. pick-ups.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor