MASSPORT OFFICIALS said Uber and Lyft vehicle trips to and from Logan International Airport are up 29 percent so far this year, and indicated on Friday they are determined to deal with the congestion by moving ahead with a plan to hike ride-hailing fees at the airport and concentrate all pickups and drop-offs in the central parking garage.
The rapid growth of the ride-hailing apps at Logan is astounding. They first started serving the airport on February 1, 2017, and provided 4.8 million passenger trips during the remaining 11 months. The number of trips increased to 7 million last year, an increase of 46 percent. The numbers are continuing to grow this year – up 26 percent in January, 27 percent in February, and 33 percent in March for an average over the three-month-period of 29 percent.
The Massport numbers do not include so-called deadhead trips where an Uber or Lyft vehicle travels to or from the airport without carrying any passengers. There were an estimated 5 million deadhead trips in 2018, bringing the total number of trips to 12 million. Massport officials said they are on pace for a total of 15 million trips this year – an increase of 25 percent, assuming efforts to curtail Uber and Lyft trips are successful.
A press release issued by Massport on Friday said Uber and Lyft are the most popular way to get to and from Logan, accounting for what the agency called a 30 percent mode share. Taxis, by comparison, represent a 5 percent mode share. The press release called the ride-hailing apps “an inefficient transportation mode.”
“We need to move more people in less vehicles,” said John Pranckevicius, the acting CEO of Massport.
Massport wants to cut airport vehicle trips by 3 million. Under a plan first broached last month at a Massport board meeting, the agency wants to reach that goal by hiking the fees Uber and Lyft rides pay, concentrating their pickups and drop-offs in the central parking garage, and boosting ridership on Logan Express buses, particularly between downtown and the airport.
Uber and Lyft rides currently pay a $3.25 fee for airport pickups only. Under the current Massport proposal, the fee would be increased to $5 for both pickups and drop-offs. According to a chart released on Friday by Massport, the new fee structure would put Logan in the top tier of airports nationally for Uber and Lyft fees. Only the airport in Orlando would have a higher fee ($5.80 each way) and Logan would be on a par with the two Chicago airports as well as airports in Dallas, Detroit, and San Francisco.
Massport also wants to empty the first floor of the central parking garage, which is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the terminals, and use that space as a pickup and dropoff spot for all Uber and Lyft passengers. Massport hopes to reduce the number of vehicles at the airport and deadhead trips by having Uber and Lyft vehicles dropping off passengers at the airport simultaneously pick up departing passengers.
Logan officials say the pickup/dropoff area in the garage, which is expected to open in October, will offer passengers the ability to check their bags and get wheelchair assistance.
The other big initiative is focused on the Logan Express bus service, particularly from downtown. Starting May 1, riders can board at the Back Bay Station and pay $3 to go to the airport and pay nothing to go from the airport to Back Bay Station. Massport plans to launch a similar service from North Station with identical rates next year.
Massport also plans to increase parking capacity at its Logan Express locations in Braintree and Framingham and increase the frequency of service from two to three trips per hour in May.
Logan Express annual ridership has increased from 1.1 million to 1.8 million since 2009, and Massport said its goal is to increase it to 4 million. No timetable for reaching that goal was announced. No update was provided on whether Massport will be able to follow through on other proposals to benefit Logan Express riders, including the ability to move to the front of security check-in lines.
Massport, Uber, and Lyft have all been saying they are still working out the details of the new procedures for ride-hailing apps, but Friday’s press release, complete with artist renderings, made it seem like the time for talking was over. A Massport spokeswoman said the agency plans to seek approval from its board on April 25 for the overall plan, but she said the increase in ride-hailing fees is the only matter that requires board approval.
Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for Uber, said the company continues to believe its proposal for dealing with congestion at Logan would be simpler and far less expensive, and should be tried before Massport’s more severe plan is implemented.
“We laid out a proposal to the airport that can substantially reduce deadheading, raise new revenues and be implemented quickly with little upfront cost to the airport – all without forcing customers to be picked up and dropped off in a distant parking lot. Our hope is that we can work with Massport on a solution that works for all airport users,” Hartfield said.
Uber also recommended that taxis pay the same pickup and dropoff fees as ride-hailing apps, but Massport’s press release said most airports in the country assess higher fees on the apps than taxis. Many charge twice as much. Taxis currently pay $2.25 for pickups at Logan.