How To Get Into And Out Of LAX Without Losing Your Mind (Or Your Ride)

A jet comes in for landing at Los Angeles International Airport. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Though it's technically only the fourth busiest airport by flights, more travelers start or finish their travel at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) than any other airport in the world.

That means more people than any other airport in the world trying to shove their way, like you, through the airport's infamously gridlocked horseshoe.

At the time this guide is being published, it's even worse than usual because the airport is undertaking a major construction project that involves temporarily(?) kicking taxis and ride-hailing services out of the airport to an external lot. You now have to take a shuttle to get there, and some travelers have reported horrendous wait times. Not to mention major hassles if you happen to arrive with crying children and lots of bags, or if you are elderly or disabled.

But there are alternatives. The following information should make it all (at least a tiny bit) smoother.

WHAT IS THE HORSESHOE?

The "horseshoe" is the section of road that connects the nine terminals of LAX. It's where passengers are dropped off and picked up. It could possibly be the most aggravating one-mile stretch of pavement in all of Southern California. During peak times, it can take more than an hour to loop the airport.

The construction project currently underway is designed to detangle the congestion. That construction will require temporarily removing car lanes from inside the airport's horseshoe.

HOW CAN I GRAB A CAB, LYFT, UBER OR OPOLI?

Ride-hailing cars and taxis are still allowed to drop off passengers, so your departure experience will remain the same for the time being. If you've arrived at LAX and are looking to exit the airport by cab or app, board one of the green LAX-it buses to the pickup lot. They are well marked and pick up passengers at the inside curb at each terminal on the arrival level.

WHAT ARE THEY BUILDING? AND WILL IT MAKE MY AIRPORT EXPERIENCE LESS HELLISH?

Unlike most other large airports, LAX does not have an in-airport transportation system. That's supposed to change by 2023, when airport officials plan to open a rail system called the "Automated People Mover" (APM). The APM will connect the terminals directly to the Metro Rail system, as well as an offsite dropoff/pickup location and transit hub, and a consolidated rental car facility.

SO WHAT CAN I DO BETWEEN NOW AND 2023 TO GET OUT OF LAX?

While it might not seem like it based on the volume of public consternation and confusion in recent days, you actually have a lot of options for getting to or from LAX that aren't a cab or ride-hail. We've broken them down.

Take the FlyAway bus.

The FlyAway bus runs regular service to and from LAX from Van Nuys, Downtown Los Angeles (Union Station), Hollywood, and Long Beach. Taking the bus should be faster thanks to the airport reorganization, because they get to use the bus-only lanes in the pickup area.

You don't need a reservation, and bus fares range from $8.00 to $9.75 one-way depending on where you're coming from or where you're going. You can purchase tickets online at FlyAway's website. Card payment is also accepted at the FlyAway pickup locations around the city, and you can use a TAP card with loaded balance too.

Check the schedules online beforehand. While some locations get service every 15 minutes, others run once an hour.

The one hitch about using the FlyAway is that when a bus picking up arrivals gets full, it leaves the airport, often skipping waiting passengers, particularly at terminals beyond the Tom Bradley International Terminal (terminals 4-8).

If you're able and willing to walk (it takes just a few minutes) your best bet for insuring a swift pickup is just to cross over to a lower-numbered terminal.

Take the bus or Metro.

There are several other public transit options that can get you to and from the airport relatively pain free.

Metro's Green Line runs close enough to the airport that LAX runs a shuttle service. Look for the Green Line Shuttle, which you can board for free from inside the airport. The Green Line offers quick connection to the Metro Silver Line, which will take you straight to Downtown Los Angeles. Just be sure to have a loaded TAP card, because the Silver Line has a slightly higher fare ($2.50) than most other Metro buses.

Just outside the airport (not far from the LAX-it lot) is the LAX City Bus Center, which offers connection to several bus lines operated by Metro, Culver City Bus, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, Torrance Transit, and Beach Cities Transit. Take the "City Bus Center/Lot South" or one of the LAX-it buses and walk.

Take an airport shuttle.

Airport shuttles, like SuperShuttle or Prime Time, are still allowed to enter LAX. They're relatively low cost (typically under $30 each way), and will pick you up or drop you off right where you request. Give yourself a good time cushion though, because they can make several stops before actually heading for the airport.

Splurge for a livery car.

Limos and other livery cars, including all TCP-licensed vehicles and luxury ride-hailing cars like Lyft's Lux Black, can pick you up inside the airport on the outer curb of your arrival terminal. Convenient but pricey.

Get a friend or family member to take you.

As Julia Wick, LAist's intrepid former editor-in-chief, put it: "Ultimately, every airport pickup comes down to a complicated calculus determined by three distinct but overlapping spheres: geography, finances, and relationship." She breaks down this calculus in her detailed column: Ask A Native Angeleno: When Do I Have To Pick Someone Up At LAX?

Actually, since Wick wrote that column in 2016, picking up a friend of family member at LAX has gotten slightly better. Instead of having to merge (fight) your way to the inside curb to pick someone up, regular passenger pickup now happens at the outer curb.

Finally, if you really just can't handle LAX, there's always Burbank.

UPDATES:

Dec. 17, 2019, 6:30 p.m.: This article was updated to remove SuperShuttle as an airport transportation option.

10:00 a.m.: This article was updated with information about livery cars.

This article was originally published at 8 a.m. on Nov. 8.