More than 61 million people traveled through Los Angeles International Airport last year, many of them spending the first part of their trip searching for a parking place.
Although LAX offers a host of ground transportation options, many of its travelers arrive and depart in private vehicles, according to airport statistics. They pay as much as $30 per day to park in nearby airport lots.
Of course, the best way to the airport depends on your priorities--cost, convenience or flexibility. Below are some alternatives to parking at the airport.
CITY BUSES TO LAX
Going to LAX on a city bus can be convenient and direct if you live near Metropolitan Transit Authority routes or can get a connection or lift to one. Information is available on the Web site www.mta.net or by calling (800) COMMUTE (266-6883).
The bus is usually the cheapest way to go: $1.35 is the standard fare (excluding transfers; seniors, children and others are lower), and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus charges 50 cents.
Several bus routes stop at the LAX City Bus Center on 96th Street east of Sepulveda Boulevard, by Parking Lot C. Walk 150 feet to the Lot C shuttle bus pickup spot. The C shuttle is free and leaves every few minutes.
MTA offers frequent service to LAX on many routes, including Redondo Beach and Union Station (lines 439 and 42), Long Beach (232), Rancho Palos Verdes (225), West Hollywood (220), Downey (117) and Sylmar (561).
Three other city bus agencies run lines to the center by Lot C: Santa Monica Big Blue Bus No. 3 (originates at UCLA), (310) 451-5444, www.bigbluebus.com; Culver City Bus No. 6 (also originates at UCLA), (310) 253-6500; and Torrance Transit Route No. 8, (310) 618-6266.
SCHEDULED LAX BUS SERVICES
Several airport bus lines serve specific areas of the Southland. Among them:
Van Nuys FlyAway Bus: The bus offers 24-hour service from the Van Nuys Airport Bus Terminal, 7610 Woodley Ave.; (818) 994-5554. Rates are $3.50 one way for adults, $1.75 for children 2 to 12. Parking is $4 per day with a 15-day limit.
Airport Bus: This line serves Orange County, with buses departing Anaheim and Buena Park hotels from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; (800) 772-5299, www.airportbus.com. Rates are $16 one way for adults, $9 for children 3 to 11.
Airport Bus of Bakersfield: Buses depart downtown Bakersfield from 3:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; (800) 858-5000, www.coach usa.com. Rates are $27 one way for adults, $13.50 for kids 6 to 12.
Ventura County Airporter: Buses leave the Ventura Sheraton Hotel eight times daily; (805) 650-6600, www.venturashuttle.com. Rates are $26 (with reservations and advance payment) one way for adults, $10 for children under 12.
Dozens of van, car and limousine companies serve area airports, and comparing prices is usually worthwhile.
At LAX, only two shuttle companies--SuperShuttle and Prime Time--are allowed to pick up "walk-up" passengers, although it is possible to schedule a pickup by another carrier.
Shuttle fares usually are 30% to 70% cheaper than a taxi for travelers who are alone, but couples or groups will find taxis competitively priced and usually faster. Some shuttle companies offer reduced fares for couples or groups.
Prime Time Shuttle: (800) RED-VANS (733-8267) or (310) 342-7200, www.primetimeshuttle.com.
SuperShuttle: (310) 782-6600, (323) 775-6600, (213) 688-0444 or (714) 517-6600, www.supershuttle.com.
Cabs may be more economical for people traveling shorter distances or riding with others.
Travelers should be aware of accidents and other safety problems with "bandit" (unlicensed) taxis. Use only licensed cab companies, which often offer flat rates to LAX. Avoid bandit taxis at LAX by going to official taxi stands at each terminal, monitored and controlled by airport employees. Cabs at those LAX stands must display the official seal of the L.A. Department of Transportation and can't refuse to take you only short distances.
A $2.50 surcharge is added to all taxi fares leaving LAX. There is a flat rate of $30 ($32.50 with surcharge) between LAX and downtown L.A., and as many as eight passengers can share the cab or van for that charge.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, local airports established policies about which kinds of vehicles--cars, taxis, shuttles and limousines--were allowed to drop off or pick up passengers curbside at terminals. Many of those new policies have ended, and airports have reverted to their old rules.
Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport: Private cars are allowed to drop off passengers curbside at the terminals. All taxis, shuttles and limos can do the same. Private cars are allowed to pick up at the curb as well. Information: (818) 840-8840, www.burbankairport.com.
Ontario International Airport: Private cars are allowed to drop off and pick up passengers at the curb. All taxis, shuttles and limos can drop off curbside. Information: (909) 937-2700, www.lawa.org.