Uber, Lyft object to proposed new fees at international airports

  • A sign points toward an Uber pick-up point at LaGuardia Airport in New York. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is planning to impose a fee of $3 for pickups and dropoffs at the two state-owned international airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks to take effect Feb. 1. (Photo/Seth Wenig/AP)

The public can weigh in on a new fee proposal that will impact Uber and Lyft passengers by tagging a $3 fee on rides to and from the state-owned airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The passenger pick-up and drop-off fees of $3 each way would be instituted at both Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage and the Fairbanks International Airport.

Public comments will be taken up until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 31. The proposed rates become effective on Feb. 1, according to the proposal.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said the transportation network companies, or TNCs, have only recently begun operations at the two international airports after being authorized to operate in Alaska by the Legislature last year and the state does not have reliable data on activity to date.

TNCs are already restricted to the second level departure ramp at the Anchorage airport in an effort to ease congestion on the baggage claim level.

“We understand that TNC activity is growing rapidly, and as has been the case in other airports around the country, pose the possibility of having a transformative impact on airport ramp operations (i.e. congestion) and other airport revenue streams from airport concessions, such as rental car and vehicle parking,” Bailey wrote in an email.

Department Marc Luiken intends to implement fees for the newly operating to help pay for future infrastructure challenges they will require or to replace lost revenue.

Lyft and Uber were quick to respond to the proposal. Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley said the two TNCs wrote a joint letter expressing their disappointment. The fee will end up imposed on passengers and airport employees who use the ride service, he said.

“We hope the Fairbanks (FAI) and Anchorage (ANC) will consider adjusting this proposal to reflect a more balanced approach to fees that doesn’t lay the burden of paying high costs at the feet of customers and airport employees who use TNCs,” stated a joint letter from Bakari Brock, Lyft’s senior director of U.S. operations for vendors and airports, and Alejandro Chouza, general manager of Pacific operations for Uber.

Their letter sheds light into how other airports across the nation handled the TNCs.

“Many airports across the country with passenger volumes similar to FAI and ANC do not charge a fee for pick-ups or drop-offs whatsoever. Moreover, of those similarly-sized airports that do charge a fee, the majority charge a fee for pick-ups only,” they wrote. “For example, airports in Flint, Mich., Oklahoma City, Okla., and Santa Barbara, Calif., do not charge any per-trip fees; while airports in Orange County, Calif, Portland, Ore, Indianapolis, Ind., Fort Myers, Flo., Pittsburgh, Penn, charge less than $3 for pick-ups only.”

Lyft and Uber wrote that even the Houston airport, which serves the nation’s third largest city, charges one fee of less than $3 for TNC pick-ups.

There is no proposal to change the costs of $75 per year fee for taxis and $150 use fee per year for buses, Bailey said.

“Taxis and tour bus operations are viewed by the airport as distinct from each other. Tour buses provide group transportation conveyance that serve a different market and consume different airport resources (ramp and loading area) than do taxis. Therefore the airport doesn’t see a meaningful comparison between tour buses and TNC’s,” Bailey wrote.

The airports welcome the additional choice TNCs are anticipated to provide the traveling public but the fact that they are not regulated like taxis makes them an unknown, Bailey said.

“However, while taxi operations at the airport are regulated, constrained, and fairly well understood, TNC operations are not,” Bailey wrote.

Airports officials believe TNC operations “pose significant uncertainty to the airports with respect to impact on revenue streams from established parking and rental car concessions, as well as capital investment which may be required to meet additional demand and related congestion imposed on airport ground transportation ramps and infrastructure.”

The proposed transaction fees to be charged the TNC’s will serve to offset some, but likely not all the impacts TNC operations may potentially create. They anticipate the impact to show up in ground transportation study, design, and construction to meet the needs of the operations, “which are already constrained to operations at the departure level ramp at ANC,” Bailey wrote.

But if the fee is imposed, the Lyft and Uber officials say they hope the revenue goes directly to the improved operations at the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports.

“Nearly all airports that have imposed a pick-up fee have agreed to use a portion of the revenues from collection of that fee to improve the private for-hire customer experience with additional wayfinding signage, improved holding lots for drivers and improved pick-up/drop-off access,” their letter said.

Bailey said DOT is aware of similar fees at other airports, but this proposed fee is based on trying to address concerns specific to ANC and FAI airports.

“Those concerns relate to a mix of things, including but not limited to, the safety and security of the traveling public, providing a range of choice of ground transportation options, and ensuring quality facilities that adequately meet the demand and help fund the ability to provide the variety of ground transportation services operating at the airports,” Bailey wrote.

Comments should be addressed to Keith Day, Controller, Alaska International Airports Systems, P.O. Box 196960, Anchorage, AK 99519-6960 or emailed to [email protected].

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Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
01/24/2018 - 12:28pm

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