Last week I took Lyft home from LAX for the first time. (Previously I always walked or took a shuttle off airport property.) It was a convenient but somewhat hectic experience, and it ended up being more costly than it needed to be. But are some of the lessons I learned and the mistakes I made:

1. Make sure to go to the upper level.

Lyft is supposed to pick up on the upper level.* This has been widely reported, including by us, but I nevertheless saw people trying to get Lyfts on the lower left. This is kind of confusing but it makes sense because the upper level traffic is marginally less nightmarish. (It’s worth noting that you can theoretically get picked up on the lower level by calling your driver and telling them where you are, but this will be a slower and more costly option.)

2. Try to get picked up at terminals seven or eight.

LAX is notorious for its traffic, but where you choose to get picked up will have huge impact on how long you sit in gridlock — and how much you pay. My flight arrived into Terminal 1, so that’s where I picked up my Lyft. But that meant I had to sit in the Lyft while it made a long loop around the entire rest of the airport — costing me extra time and money.

Screenshot 2016-01-08 00.02.39

A better solution is to walk to terminals seven or eight and get picked up there (it’s short walk if you cut across the middle of the airport). In the map below, the pick-up locations are marked by the pink, lettered circles. So, I’d recommend walking to letters E or F.

lyft pick ups

3. Tell your driver to take the shortcuts, and explain if necessary.

If you do get picked near the entrance of the airport — letter A in the map above — make sure to tell your driver to cut through the middle of the airport to bypass the entire loop. They should know what this means, but basically there are small streets that allow drivers to shorten their trip through LAX, and they make a big difference.

I made the mistake of not doing this and either because my driver wanted to make more money or because she didn’t know about the shortcuts we ended up doing the full loop.


4. Call your driver while they are en route and describe yourself.

You will probably not be the only person getting a Lyft, and even if you are it’s a chaotic scene. Things will go much smoother if you and your driver know who to look for. I told my driver I was wearing a brown hat and carrying a blue gift bag, and we had no trouble, unlike several other people who seemed unable to find their Lyfts.

5. Be more assertive than usual about the route you want to take.

Usually when I take a Lyft or an Uber, my destination is a straight shot from where I’m getting picked up. But LAX has multiple exit options that lead to very different routes. In my case, I wasn’t paying close enough attention and ended up on a longer-than-necessary drive through south Los Angeles. Eventually I had to be more assertive than usual with the route I wanted to take, but I wish I had realized this earlier.

*Correction: This post originally mislabeled the upper level of LAX.

— Jim Dalrymple II



Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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