Uber Wins Big at LAX

The latest victory for Uber and other ride-share services is a big one, not just for its own sake but also for the precedent it sets.

Most of the higher-profile news reports about ride-sharing service Uber have a decidedly negative tinge to them. A woman in China robbed and molested by a Uber driver. The increase in urban traffic congestion tied to Uber vehicles. Safety concerns due to Uber’s lax screening of drivers. Complaints from Uber drivers, who argue that they should be compensated as full-time employees. And the list goes on. And on.

Nobody said disrupting the entrenched taxi business, and public transportation, would be simple or easy.

But the Uber machine powers forward, fighting regulatory and P.R. battles on multiple fronts, in many countries. Its latest victory is a big one, not just for its own sake but also for the precedent it sets.

This week, the Los Angeles City Council approved requests by Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport. Previously, those companies were limited to dropping customers off at LAX. Los Angeles thus becomes the largest U.S. city to allow two-way ride-share services at its main airport.

A taxi ride from LAX to the city’s downtown area typically runs around $50. Uber or Lyft rides are closer to $30 for the same service, although surge pricing during high-demand periods could drive those prices up.

Challenges remain for Uber and Lyft. Even as it signed off on airport pick-ups, the Council stressed the importance of more stringent background checks for drivers, and vowed to implement such standards itself if none were forthcoming from state regulators.

And ride-share services must operate according to somewhat different rules than taxis, dropping off and picking up passengers only on the airport’s upper departure level. Uber and Lyft drivers will be sequestered in an off-airport holding area until they receive a ride request, and the holding area will be limited to 40 cars.

According to Uber, 54 cities and states now officially allow ride-sharing. For more and more travelers, ride-sharing is the new normal.

Reader Reality Check

Is Uber your new normal when it comes to getting around town or back and forth to the airport?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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