One of the biggest sticking points in this month’s ride-hailing negotiations at the State House is a simple one: Should UberX and Lyft drivers be banned from picking people up at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and at Logan Airport?
The folks at the convention center hate the five-year moratorium that’s being pushed by House leadership. But Massport’s leaders take a different position: They won’t oppose the House-backed proposal.
The main reason? Massport chief executive Tom Glynn says he doesn’t want to undermine the taxis that are critical to ensuring travelers can get to and from the airport.
An average of 6,000 cab departures take place at the airport every day, Glynn says, but there only about 1,825 cab medallions in Boston.
“If, all of a sudden, the financial base for the taxi industry dries up, we’re going to suffer,” Glynn says. “We want a strong taxi industry, a strong limo industry, and a strong technology company industry. But we’re creating a huge amount of demand, and we struggle on a daily basis now to meet that demand.”
Glynn points to a secondary concern: Uber doesn’t want all its drivers to undergo the same screening process required for others, or to pay the $2.25 per car fee required in Logan’s taxi pool. (Uber’s drivers with livery plates can pick up passengers at Logan, but not the lower-priced UberX drivers without those plates.) He also notes UberX drivers usually don’t pay the commercial rate at the tunnel tolls.
“We want to run a fair system,” Glynn says. “We’re not pro or anti anything. We just want to treat everybody the same.”
Meanwhile, the agency that runs the convention center in South Boston, led by executive director David Gibbons and transportation director Jim Folk, has been working hard to kill this part of the House bill.
The convention center authority recently started a pilot program, setting aside up to three locations around the massive convention center where UberX and Lyft drivers can pull up without interfering with the main taxi stand. “What works best for us is to have all options on the table,” spokesman Nate Little says. “To personally exclude transportation innovation seems to be going in the wrong direction.”Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.