The City Council Wednesday put the brakes on a plan to allow ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to legally pick up passengers from LAX, with some members saying the proposal needs more scrutiny to address passenger safety, disability access and other issues.
The council voted almost unanimously to review the plan before allowing the companies to make pickups at the airport. Only two councilmembers voted against the decision.
The Airport Commission last month approved a non-exclusive agreement -- backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti -- to allow ride-hailing companies to apply for permits to make pickups alongside taxis, shuttle vans and other transportation services at Los Angeles International Airport, which would become the largest airport in the country to permit such operations.
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But the motion authored by Councilman Paul Krekorian and backed by five council colleagues says "significant questions remain" as to "the propriety of mandating background checks, clean fleet requirements, non-discrimination and equality of access," among other issues.
The agreement will undergo a review by the newly formed Transportation, Commerce and Technology Committee chaired by Councilman Bob Blumenfield, and eventually the full 15-member council.
"One thing both sides agreed on, is that this is a big deal, this is transformational, having rideshares at the airport," Blumenfield said Wednesday. "This is a big poicy decision, whether you like it or you don't like it, you can't deny the reality of it."
The City Council will review the decision at their next meeting on Aug. 18.
Garcetti said he welcomes a council review of the issue. He also reiterated his support for the need to bring ride-hailing companies into LAX, saying that the ride services are "an important part of my plan to improve the passenger experience and build the world-class airport that Los Angeles deserves."
Krekorian and City Councilman Paul Koretz, who seconded the motion, sent a joint letter to the Airport Commission prior to its vote saying they would not support an agreement that lacked certain safety regulations.
"Given the security and safety concerns unique to the airport and the surrounding area, it is our view that TNCs (transportation network companies) currently lack the necessary regulatory framework to do business at LAX," the councilmen wrote in a May 13 letter to the board.
"We would therefore oppose any potential agreement between LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports) and TNCs that does not incorporate a regulatory framework substantially similar" to one imposed on taxi companies, which includes provisions addressing disability access, insurance, environmental requirements for the ride-hailing vehicles and other issues, they wrote.
Koretz has expressed concerns that the agreement does not do enough to ensure the safety of passengers, questioning whether drivers' backgrounds will be checked properly or if there will be enough insurance coverage.
Tim Masker, head of the LA Taxi Cooperative wants ride-sharing service drivers to undergo the same fingerprint checks as taxi drivers.
"State law and local law does give the city family the authority to do more extensive background checks, ones that look backwards, and ones that look forward," Masker said.
"I think it's a good idea to wait," said Arty Aleksanyan, who has been driving for Uber for two years. "Even to go through the background check, most of us are completely fine, we're all good drivers."
Ride-hailing companies, which are also referred to as transportation network companies, are currently allowed to drop people off at LAX, but only transportation companies with permits can legally make pickups.
"Consumers, airport staff, and Mayor Garcetti have all made it clear that it's time for ridesharing to come to LAX," said a spokesperson for Lyft Wednesday. "We urge the Council to move quickly and make options like Lyft available for Los Angeles travelers."
To obtain a permit under the Airport Commission-approved agreement, ride- hailing companies would need to have an active permit from the California Public Utilities Commission, sufficient insurance coverage, pay a $4-per-trip fee and a monthly licensing fee, and follow other requirements.
Garcetti announced in his State of the City speech in April that he intended to allow ride-hailing companies to pick up passengers at LAX, the same privilege granted to taxi, limousine and door-to-door shuttle-van companies.