Massport OKs New Airport Fees, Restrictions on Uber, Lyft

All pickups and drop-offs would be directed to the airport's central garage beginning October 1

Drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will be required to pick up and drop off passengers at a central location at Logan International Airport, except for some early morning trips, under a plan adopted Thursday by the Massachusetts Port Authority.

The revised plan, which also imposes new fees, mostly prohibits Uber and Lyft from making curbside pickups and drop-offs at terminals, instead funneling rides to Logan's central garage.

Massport, which runs the airport, said the plan is meant to help ease traffic congestion at the airport and neighboring East Boston.

"This is the best plan for the long-term sustainability of Logan Airport, by reducing the traffic for all airport passengers, as well as the residents of our surrounding communities," Massport Board Chairman Lew Evangelidis said in a statement, adding the plan is subject to review.

The companies oppose the changes.

"Today Massport approved an untested concept that will cost the airport millions of dollars, likely lead to mass confusion and result in rideshare passengers paying more and getting less," Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for Uber, said in a statement.

Massport revised some aspects of its original proposal, including allowing drivers to drop off riders at the arrivals terminals between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. Allowing drop-offs at the arrivals level terminal curb works in the early morning hours since the bulk of airport activity are departing flights, according to the agency.

Fees on pickups would remain at $3.25, and a new $3.25 fee would be imposed on drop-offs. The earlier plan called for $5 fees on pickups and drop-offs. Uber said it was pleased the fees were moderated, but said they should apply to taxis.

Massport said the modifications to the original proposal were made after listening to all parties.

The plan takes effect in October. All ride-hailing drivers picking up or dropping off riders after 10 a.m. will be required to end or start those rides at designated areas in the central parking garage, requiring riders to walk to the terminal.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday offered support for the plan, saying a significant number of ride-hailing drivers come empty into the airport to pick up a passenger while other drivers come into the airport to drop off a rider, and leave empty.

"As a result, that's putting somewhere in the vicinity of literally 15-16,000 cars a day in and out of the airport, many of which are empty," Baker said, adding the goal is to reduce the number of empty trips.

"Strategically I think that's probably a good idea," he added.

Hartfield said Massport should instead allow drivers to drop off a passenger and pick up another passenger at another terminal without having to leave the airport or go to the designated area.

The company said that would reduce so-called "deadheading" trips that result in ride-hailing drivers operating in part without passengers.

"Time and time again we offered solutions that would have reduced congestion, at almost no cost to the airport, but time and time again the airport refused to consider alternatives," Hartfield said.

Massport said the proposal would be too cumbersome, given the way Logan is designed.

Through March 2019, Massport said it has already seen a 29% increase in ride-hailing ridership at Logan.

At that pace, the agency said, there will be as many as 15 million ride-hailing trips to and from the airport this year, including deadheads, up from 12 million in 2018.

Ride-hailing currently represents 30% of all trips to Logan, while taxis represent 5%.

Some Twitter users said they thought the plan was absurd.

"How can they justify giving preference to cab companies?," one person said. "Why are we propping up a service that is the overwhelmingly least popular selection?"

Another user called the plan a "BIG pain" and said it seems like a "punishment."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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