As projected fiscal revenue numbers continue to paint a grim picture for Long Beach Airport, members of the Airport Advisory Commission broached the topic last week of allowing rideshare companies to begin legally picking up passengers. The discussion arose as airports both locally and nationally have eased restrictions on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, eliminating the need for clandestine airport pickups.
While the current fee paid by recognized services like Long Beach Yellow Cab are negligible—a $120 annual licensing fee is paid per company, not per driver, Long Beacy Yellow Cab pays a $500 monthly fee— the idea that rideshare companies might soon be welcome to pick up at Long Beach falls in stride with neighboring airports. Long Beach Airport Finance and Administration Bureau Manager Claudia Lewis said Long Beach did away with driver-reported surcharges for airport pickups because the manpower required to tabulate them was too cumbersome. Taxis picking up from LAX currently pay a $4 fee to the airport.
“We used to have a procedure where ground transportation operators would self report each pick up and drop off and we did an analysis and determined that it was far more labor-intensive for the return we were getting, so we changed our procedure, and that’s when we went to the one-time annual charge for a permit,” Lewis said.
Cities like San Diego and Santa Ana have already approved certain companies to pick up arriving passengers from their airports and Los Angeles is currently weighing its decision to allow pick ups. Last year, San Francisco International Airport became the first to allow Uber and Lyft to pick up from its airport, a move that has started a domino effect that threatens cab companies' last monopoly over commuters in need of a ride. Long Beach regular passenger traffic hits nearly 200,000 people monthly, so a move to introduce competition for Long Beach Yellow Cab could have a large financial impact on its drivers.
Dropping off customers is currently unregulated but picking up passengers is currently reserved for cab companies that have a permit from the airport do to so. Drivers found in violation are subject to fines from the Long Beach Police Department, something that airport officials said has been strictly enforced.
The topic of relaxing the regulation was brought up by Airport Commissioner Christopher Coronado who said that because there are a lot of residents in the city that have turned to Uber and Lyft to supplement their incomes, that maybe the time had come to embrace ride share, instead of closing them out. Without dismissing the idea completely, Lewis said Coronado’s point wasn’t adoptable at this point.
“We’re not prepared to permit those companies at this time but it’s something that’s on our radar,” Lewis said. “At this moment we don't have an arrangement to permit them.”
A representative from Uber could not be reached on Monday, despite numerous efforts to contact a representative and inquire if had entered into negotiations to be permitted by the city to pick up passengers from the airport. However, Lewis did say it was something that had been, and continues to be discussed between the airport and lawmakers Downtown as the city looks to get a better handle on the ride share market and how it should be regulated.
Whether the city would support an initiative to allow Uber or Lyft-like companies to pick up at the airport is unclear, considering that earlier this month it voted to ease restrictions on taxi operators to provide them with a more level playing field when competing with its less restricted ride share competitors. Long Beach gained national recognition with its unanimous vote in favor of taxi companies, as it became the first city in the country to loosen regulations to help them compete with rideshare companies.
“We’re monitoring the situation and it’s something also that downtown is looking at closely,” Lewis said. “We’re watching what other airports are doing as well.”
Above left: file photo.
[ Editors Note: The story originally stated that Long Beach Yellow Cab paid a $120 annual operating fee, it pays $500 monthly for its permit to pick up from the airport.]