Pitt Magazine

This Swanson School grad solved a California transportation conundrum

A plane flies low overhead a black van in an LAX parking lot


Two winters after graduating from Pitt, David Shafer walks out of his Pittsburgh apartment to find his car tires frozen to the street. As he splashes buckets of hot water onto icy pavement, he decides he’s done with East Coast winters.

Within months, he relocates to San Diego, where he works as a project manager for a defense contractor and earns his MBA from San Diego State University. But he soon realizes even sunny skies and cool breezes come with transportation problems — namely, getting to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Not so long ago, a trip from San Diego to LAX required travelers to endure one of three ordeals: drop $300 — each way — on a private car service, drive themselves and spend nearly $50 per day on parking or endure a six-hour train-to-bus journey.

It was not ideal.

So last year, Shafer, a third-generation entrepreneur who began to hone his innovative eye at Pitt, decided to solve the problem. He launched reLAXsan, a San Diego to LAX airport shuttle service. For $68 per person, Shafer (ENGR ’12) picks up clients at designated locations around the city in his 15-passenger van (stocked with water, snacks and phone charging ports) and delivers them to their terminal in under three hours.

“In seven months, I had over 100 reviews — all five stars,” Shafer says.

He runs shuttles twice a day every day of the week, employs three drivers and is already looking to buy a second Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. The success feels particularly sweet because he grew it from inkling to reality himself.

“I was tired of suggesting process improvements at my previous job and them not being implemented,” he says. “I felt like there was so much more I could do and contribute, and now I am.”