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Uber, Lyft Rally Customers To Oppose Logan Plan

A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a passenger in downtown Los Angeles in 2016. (Richard Vogel/AP/File)
A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a passenger in downtown Los Angeles in 2016. (Richard Vogel/AP/File)

Uber and Lyft are gathering customer opposition to a Massachusetts Port Authority plan, arguing the agency's push to increase fees on transportation network company trips to and from Logan International Airport and funnel all rides on the apps through a central location is misguided.

Uber launched an online email campaign Monday morning, similar to one Lyft posted on Friday, asking users to write to Massport urging reconsideration of its plans. The message warns that Massport's proposed changes would "add unnecessary hassle to the airport traveler experience."

"We laid out a proposal to the airport that can 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," Uber spokesman Harry Hartfield said in a statement. "While we want to work with Massport on a reasonable solution, we can't sit idly by while the airport pushes an unfair plan that will force rideshare customers to pay more and get less."

Massport's board of directors is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to increase the single-rider transportation network company fee from the current $3.25, which applies only to trips leaving the airport, to $5 each way for both arrivals and departures. The plan would also impose a $2.50 fee for shared rides.

In a Monday statement, Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan said discussions continue with Uber and Lyft.

"Massport continues to have productive conversations with Uber and Lyft about how best to accomplish the goals of reducing congestion, while improving the customer experience," she said. "We believe our plan does this."

Another proposal announced in March would funnel all TNC rides through a central garage lot, eliminating the use of curbside drop-offs at terminals. Officials said the change — which, unlike the fees and other rule changes, does not require a board vote before implementation, according to Mehigan — would allow drivers from ride-hailing companies to pick up new customers in the same location as drop-offs and would cut down on growing congestion in and around the airport.

Uber and Lyft alone accounted for 12 million vehicle trips to Logan in 2018, but only 7 million of those transported passengers, according to state data. The central lot could reduce those empty trips, referred to as "deadheads," by as much as 30 percent, Mehigan said.

The companies opposed the suggestion, though. Uber produced its own plan to cut down on traffic, Hartfield said, including suggestions such as allowing drivers to "rematch" and pick up new customers without circling back around through a staging lot.

Campbell Matthews, a Lyft spokeswoman, described Massport's plan as "ineffective."

"We've repeatedly voiced our concerns with Massport's proposal for Logan Airport and attempted to find a compromise that will avoid the negative and unprecedented consequences of what Massport is suggesting," Matthews said. "In fact, we've made numerous counter proposals that Massport has dismissed."

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