Strangled by LAX

Jim Luff
Posted on September 29, 2010

Government Bureaucracy: Making Change With No Regard

Trip permit fees at LAX increase Friday

As an operator in California, conducting business at LAX is an absolute requirement of the business. In fact, making the two and a half hour trip to LAX from central California is a staple of our business.

Complying with LAX permitting requirements certainly provides challenges in operations and stress levels. The interaction with the Los Angeles International Airport and limousine operators of California is so prevalent that the Great California Livery Association (GCLA) hosts meetings just outside the airport at a location overlooking the runways of the famed airport.

I suppose that also makes it easier to attract the attendance of LAX management officials that frequently need to meet with us to cram something else down our throat. My own perception is that they want to show up and appear as if they actually care about us and that we actually have some say in the operations of limousines at the airport.  I can tell you right now that we don’t. They don’t care about us at all in my opinion.

A few years ago, the fine folks at LAX sent invoices to limousine operators all over California saying that the electronic transponders mounted in our limousines by LAX as part of the permitting process had been activated but the airport “use tax” had not been paid. Some of the bills were staggering! Most of the bills were wrong! Operators enlisted the aid of the GCLA to intervene when company records didn’t match those of LAX. Eventually, LAX had so much opposition that they rescinded the invoices and attributed them to a “computer glitch.”

Additionally, years ago, then-director, Michael Biagi, accompanied by two LAX police officers attended a GCLA meeting to tell us that we were finally going to get “real” restrooms in the limo holding lot. No more “porta-potties” as we currently use. They were going to repave the parking lot and install kiosks to disburse a trip permit instead of having 50 limos lined up at a single toll-booth on a Friday night waiting to buy a permit. It sounded so beautiful. Then came the news that we would have to pay for it. A very loud voice yelled out, “Get out the Vaseline boys because here it comes.”  The plan was to increase our “use tax/permit fee” from $3 per trip to $5 per trip. We demanded to know what happened to the money we have been paying for years. Why had none of that been allocated to facilities improvement? The meeting became so contentious the LAX folks had to quickly gather their belongings and get the hell out of Dodge with their protective police officers surrounding them.

Guess what folks? The rate goes up this coming Friday. We have no restrooms, no flight arrival monitors, no food facility, no kiosks and no new promised parking lot. Once again, we were jacked! Let’s just say for a conservative estimate that 600 limos use LAX each day. That means LAX was raking in $657,000 per year for a “permitting program.” Now, they will collect approximately $1.1 million from us annually. What was it we were getting again? Oh, I remember: beginning this year, LAX will no longer mail my decals to me as they have for TWENTY years. I must send every single vehicle we own to LAX so one of their people can put the decal on my windshields. This is estimated to cost our company about $1,900 in fuel and wages and pollute the air that much more with needless driving. I have vehicles I don’t normally send to LAX but they are permitted just in case we ever needed all of them to go. 

To make matters worse, I asked Leslie Adams for an exception due to the expense of this. Adams is the “LAX Regulatory Compliance and Standards Ground Transportation Permits Unit Manager.” Quite the title! Adams response to me was, “Please understand that the staff is responsible for verifying that the decals are properly placed on each vehicle and staff must ensure that each transponder is functioning properly. We cannot have decals placed improperly or on wrong vehicles. There are no exceptions to this rule,” according to Adams written response.  So, after twenty years, I am no longer smart enough to figure out how to put a decal on my cars. I was referred to Kenya Wiley to make the necessary arrangements.  Apparently Wiley is the ONLY person at LAX that schedules this process and when I called, she was on vacation!

— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor

 

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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