I frequently find myself dropping off or picking up passengers at the International terminal at LAX. Picking people up can be kind of a crap shoot due to the serial immigration + baggage claim + customs lines. I typically park in the lot closest to the terminal so that I don’t have to play the game of avoiding LAX police and security while endlessly circling and hovering in the white zone, which they tell me is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. So here are a couple tips for making parking at this lot the most pleasant experience possible:
Take the Departures ramp into the airport.
It seems counter-intuitive since you’re there to pick someone up, but trust me, it’s better. Departures is full of people who are going to a terminal, pulling up to a curb, dropping off a passenger, and then getting the hell out of LAX. Arrivals is full of people who are going to a terminal, slowing down to 5 mph while scanning for their passenger, pulling over, getting moved on, circling the airport, re-entering the pickup area, making phone calls to see if the passenger is outside yet, etc. Not to mention the fact that three of the lanes on the arrivals level become left-turn only lanes where the cars almost invariably merge right because they have no intention of going left.
The departures level is also the superior way of entering the parking structure. Since the parking structure is used more often by people picking up arriving passengers, they tend to queue up on the arrivals level, usually causing a backup into the flow of traffic. The entrance on the departures level is also slightly closer, which means that you’re already on your way in while some schmo on the arrivals level is trying to merge right to avoid being forced into another circuit of LAX.
Note (July 2017): With Uber and Lyft dropping off and picking up passengers on the Departures level, the Departures level is now worse than Arrivals. There’s a fleet of pink moustaches endlessly circling up there. Just go in via Arrivals and duck into parking structure 3 as quickly as possible.
Park on Level 2.
Level 2 is always less crowded than Level 1 (arrivals) and 3 (departures) because you’ll have to go up or down one floor in order to cross to the terminal. It’s usually not too hard to find a good parking spot close to the elevators. Even if you were to find a parking space on Level 3 on your way to the down-ramp, you’re probably better off continuing on to Level 2. Keep in mind that when you’re reunited with your party, dozens of other reunions are happening at the same time. Most of the throng that joins you in crossing the street will likely get caught in the exit queue on Level 1 (which ingeniously merges with the Level 1 entrance queue for one aisle length), but sometimes traffic backs up from Level 3 on down. Fortunately, the down-ramp from Level 2 spills immediately into 3-4 exit booths, which minimizes the amount of time you need to spend idling in line. Don’t forget to have your $3 handy.
Bring something to amuse yourself.
No matter how good you may feel about having gotten into the parking structure quickly and parking in a great space, the euphoria wears off quickly and you’ll find yourself bored while waiting for the poor bastards that have had to deal with the Department of Homeland Security. Bring a magazine, a DS, or compose an email to yourself on your iPhone that will eventually become a new blog post about how to park at LAX and why your methodology is superior.