Rideshare companies like See Jane Go could be allowed to pick-up at Long Beach Airport if a pilot program is approved by the city council. Photo courtesy of See Jane Go
The Long Beach Airport (LGB) is inviting residents to a community meeting February 1 where the future of transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft, and their ability to pick up at the airport, will be discussed.
The idea that these TNC operators could be brought to Long Beach Airport goes back to at least 2015 when the city’s airport advisory commission first skimmed the topic at a meeting in May. Since then, TNC companies have secured the right to legally drop off and pick up at a growing list of airports both locally and nationally, and Long Beach could be next.
Currently, companies like Uber, Lyft or even See Jane Go are legally allowed to drop off passengers at the airport but cannot pick them up without approval from the city. The airport currently allows for pickup by taxi or one of several hundred approved bus, van, limousine or luxury car companies listed on its website but not a single TNC provider.
“Like many other airports across the country, we have had to exercise due diligence to figure out how to regulate or accommodate TNCs at LGB,” said Airport Director Jess L. Romo, in a statement. “We pride ourselves on our reputation for convenience and affordability, so naturally, we want to develop smart policies that help us deliver on that promise to our customers.”
In December, the Long Beach City Council voted to move forward with the collection of public input before potentially starting a pilot program where TNCs would be allowed to drop off at Long Beach.
The program, if approved, would charge TNC drivers a $3 fee for every pick-up at LGB and would collect data on the number of trips, traffic flow as well as assessing the appropriateness of the fee.
In an agreement reached with Los Angeles International Airport, Uber and Lyft both pay a minimum monthly payment of $25,000 that is recouped through a $4 pickup fee.
Long Beach Yellow Cab, which has had an exclusive contract with the city since September 1998, pays a total monthly fee of $500 to the airport for all pickups made by its fleet.
Stephanie Montuya-Moriskey, a public affairs officer at LGB, said that staff is still looking into whether a similar minimum payment would be required of those companies if the program is approved at LGB and it could ultimately rely on a consultant’s recommendation.
She added that because the airport is still in the early stages of the 90-day window granted by the city council to explore the issue, a lot of the data is preliminary as the outreach to the public has just begun. But the airport has received calls about a desire to bring TNCs to Long Beach.
“At this point, the idea of ride-hailing options have been favorable and knowledgeable customers would like the TNC option,” Montuya-Morisky said.
The airport’s permitting system requires all ground transportation companies to have permits from the state’s California Public Utilities Commission which Lyft, Uber and See Jane Go all have. However, state airports maintain the right to regulate curbside pickup.
Even with the approval of agreements at other airports, TNCs haven’t been able to utilize the same spaces as taxis, forcing TNC users to walk to alternate pickup locations designated for TNC pickups. Montuya-Moriskey said that at this point that would not be the case with Long Beach and TNCs would be allowed to pick up in front of the terminal during the proposed pilot program.
Users of TNCs have so far been able to circumvent the ban on ride-share companies picking up at Long Beach so long as they were willing to walk their luggage off airport property and across Lakewood Boulevard where TNC pick-ups are not regulated by the city’s municipal code.
An Uber representative speaking on background said that the company has looked forward to having these conversations with the city as they’ve received numerous calls and emails from both its drivers and its riders requesting a presence at Long Beach. They added that each airport ground transportation situation is different and they’re excited to take part in the conversation to figure out what works best for the airport and Uber in trying to streamline the process of getting riders into their preferred modes of transportation.
A spokesperson for Lyft urged council approval of the pilot program which would add Long Beach to a growing list of airports allowing the TNC services to legally operate.
"Having more reliable, convenient ride options like Lyft at the airport can only be beneficial for travelers,” said Mary Caroline Pruitt, a communications representative for Lyft. “We encourage City Council to embrace new, innovative modes of transportation so that Long Beach Airport can join the nearly 100 other airports who have seen increased traveler satisfaction after welcoming Lyft to their terminals.”
The meeting is scheduled for February 1 6:00PM at the Long Beach Gas and Oil Department located at 2400 East Spring Street. Airport management and stakeholders will be on hand to discuss possible changes to its ground transportation program and the proposed TNC pilot.