As you may have heard, LAX officials made a few recent changes for airport passengers who want to take Uber, Lyft, and taxis when they land. The new process is called LAX-it, and according to some people, it is the surest sign of the coming apocalypse.
This is not a guide to LAX-it. There are other guides to how the new system works (and, yes, you can still ride Uber, Lyft, and taxis directly to the airport terminals for departures). This is a guide for getting efficiently into and out of LAX without having to know anything about LAX-it at all, by choosing options that are often faster, more sustainable, and much more affordable.
FlyAway is the least hassle for the lowest price
The FlyAway, an express bus service that serves four LA-area destinations, has long been serviceable but could sometimes be sluggish. Now, thanks to LAX’s new bus-only lanes, if timed right, the journey is nothing short of magical.
There are four FlyAway routes:
The most untouchable feature of the FlyAway remains the price: Only $8 to $9.75 each way, depending on the route. Two kids 5 and under can travel for free with each adult. Buy a ticket online, use a TAP card, or pay with a credit card once on board.
To find the shuttle on the arrivals deck, look for the FlyAway signs (in the blue boarding zone), then keep your eyes peeled for one of four buses. You’re looking for either a large, coach-style bus or smaller shuttle, which should be clearly marked. The driver will load your luggage while you board (and if you have a few bags, it’s no big deal). All FlyAway buses are wheelchair accessible. There’s even free Wi-Fi onboard.
Be sure to check the schedules carefully, and be sure to note the winter holiday transit guide, which is posted separately (here’s a nifty timetable showing all departures to LAX and from LAX, and versions you can save to your phone). From December 19, 2019 through January 6, 2020, Union Station and Van Nuys routes are running 24 hours a day, with Hollywood and Long Beach operating 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Some buses, like those to Union Station, arrive at the curb every 30 minutes, where other buses are less frequent. There’s real-time arrival information online, although, be warned, it’s not always accurate.
Think of the FlyAway as a way to dramatically discount what may otherwise be a very expensive ride home. Dropoffs are located at central locations close to buses and trains but you also can easily summon a Uber, Lyft, or taxi to your final destination for a fraction of what it costs to take one from LAX. Even better: Have a friend pick you up at Union Station instead of LAX and spend all the money you saved at Imperial Western Beer Company.
Ride a train from LAX today
Everyone seems to be pinning their ground transportation hopes on the coming-soon people mover that will connect to the coming-soon Crenshaw Line to the airport, but right this very moment, the airport operates a free shuttle to a Metro rail station that’s already in operation a little over 2 miles away.
Grab the “Metro Green Line” shuttle in the pink boarding zone and ride it to the Green Line’s Aviation Station, where you can buy a TAP card and board a light-rail train. The Green Line (which will soon be renamed the C Line) runs mostly east-west through Southern LA County. You can ride it to the beach cities just to the south of the airport, including El Segundo or Redondo Beach, or you can ride it east to access cities like Hawthorne, Lakewood, and Norwalk, or to connect with the rest of the Metro rail system using the A Line (formerly the Blue Line) or Silver Line. There’s also a park and ride lot here if you need someone to pick you up.
City buses are cheap and plentiful
One of LAX’s best-kept secrets—but well-known to airport employees—is a public transit hub located just off airport property. Especially if you’re going somewhere on the Westside or in the South Bay, this might be your ticket to very cheap, somewhat painless airport connections using a dozen buses operated by Metro (6, 40, 102, 111, 117, 232), Culver City Bus (6R), Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (3, R3—these go right to downtown Santa Monica), Torrance Transit (8), and Beach Cities Transit (10).
From LAX, take the “City Bus Center/Lot South” shuttle (pink zone) for a quick ride to the bus center. This temporary terminal doesn’t have shade structures, accessible bathrooms, or other amenities that the LAX-it lot does, but there’s a few benches and—finally—a TAP card machine. If you load up a TAP card using the added value feature, you can use it to ride any of the options. Fares range from $1 to $1.75 per ride.
Walk right out of the airport
As part of LAX-it, the airport has undergone significant changes to make it more walkable, like installing new signs and sidewalks connecting the terminals. Depending on what terminal you start at, it takes about 20 minutes at most to walk out of the airport, which, if you enjoy panoramas of jets taking off behind remnants of midcentury architecture, is really quite a pleasant stroll. (You’ll know you’re on the right track if you’re walking with a bunch of pilots.)
Immediately outside the airport is a bus stop—take a moment to gawk at the giant L-A-X and illuminated pillars up close—served by Metro’s 40, 117, and 232 buses; LADOT’s 574 Commuter Express (which goes direct to Encino, northbound only); and the Torrance Transit 8 bus. As you continue heading east you’ll have your pick of airport hotels, restaurants, and bars to patronize as you plan your next move.
Shared vans will still pick you up curbside
Premium ride-hailing services such as Uber Black and Lyft Black, as well as limos and town cars are all exempt from LAX-it, so they’re still welcome on the arrival deck. Your vehicle will pick you up curbside—head to the orange zone.
Some shared ride vans are allowed on the arrival deck as well. The best bang for your buck is the good old-fashioned SuperShuttle, however, in December the company announced it was shutting down operations. Although the site is no longer taking reservations, the company will still accept walk-up reservations through December 31. PrimeTime Shuttle offers similarly priced shared van rides but they must be boarded through the LAX-it area (unless you’ve booked a private van through the company, which will pick up curbside like a limo).
But if you really want to be above it all...
Say you need to get Downtown or to Burbank right away, and you’ve got a few hundred dollars you’d planned to set fire to anyway. You’ll probably want to check out Blade, a new startup that provides shared helicopter service from LAX to the Arts District or LAX to Burbank Airport.
With only three flights per day (weekdays only), you might have to wait around at the airport for a bit, but once you get to the chopper it’s a five-minute, traffic-free flight. If you fly the Downtown route, you'll be deposited at a helipad at The Row.
Of course there’s a downside: At $195 each way, your helicopter taxi might cost more than your flight. (Here’s a code for $50 off.) It’s also certainly not the most sustainable mode of travel. Be sure to buy a few extra carbon offsets.
I don’t know anyone rich enough to have taken this yet, so please report back.