Logan International Airport will soon be open for Lyft, and Uber may not be far behind, as one of the last major US airports to limit usage of the popular ride-hailing services made plans to lift its restrictions.
Lyft will be allowed to pick up passengers at the airport beginning Feb. 1 under the terms of an agreement announced Thursday with the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs the airport.
“We applaud Massport’s decision today to give the green light for Lyft to operate at Logan. Starting on February 1, travelers will be able to access safe, affordable Lyft rides directly from the airport,” Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin said in a statement.
Massport is negotiating a similar arrangement with Uber, Lyft’s larger rival, the authority said. In a statement, Uber expressed confidence it would also soon be able to offer rides at Logan through its low-cost UberX platform.
“Today’s Massport vote is great news for the thousands of Uber driver partners and riders across the Commonwealth who will soon have access to improved transportation options, as well as a more convenient and efficient pick up and drop off system at Boston’s Logan Airport,” Uber said. “We will continue to work with Massport in the coming weeks to bring UberX to Logan on February 1st.”
The Lyft deal was revealed following a Massport board meeting.
Under the agreement, Lyft will pay a $3.25 fee for each passenger pickup, the same amount livery services such as limousines pay at Logan. Typically, those costs are passed on to passengers.
Lyft drivers will wait in a “holding pool,” similar to the parking lots that limo companies currently wait in, until they are matched with riders, Massport said. Passengers will have to go to a designated lot near their terminal for pickup, not to the terminal’s curb, as is the case for taxis.
Uber and Lyft drivers are already allowed to drop riders off at Logan. Uber has been able to offer its more limited livery service to passengers, as well, but its UberX service is more commonly used outside the airport.
Logan had been one of the few major US airports that had not fully allowed the companies to pick up and drop off passengers. But last summer, the Legislature passed a law establishing oversight of these transportation network companies that included a provision allowing them to operate at Logan — once Massport adopted rules.
Massport initiated negotiations with Lyft and Uber, and the discussions picked up momentum after Governor Charlie Baker’s administration established a state-run background check for the services’ drivers. At the time, Massport said setting up background checks was a “necessary first step.”
“As we continue to implement legislation that includes the nation’s strongest background check system, the agreement announced today with Massport will expand the safe and diverse transportation options available to those travelers using Boston Logan International Airport,” Baker said in a statement Thursday.
Opening the airport to these drivers will further clarify the ride-hailing industry’s once-murky legal status. The decision is sure to upset the taxi and limo industries, which have long dominated transportation services at Logan.
They have sued to limit the competitors’ operations in Massachusetts.
Jenifer Pinkham, an attorney who represents Boston taxi companies suing the state to overturn the law allowing Uber and Lyft to operate, has argued it is unconstitutional to have different regulations for Uber and Lyft than for taxicabs. For example, cab drivers in Boston undergo background checks that include fingerprinting; the new state background checks for Lyft and Uber drivers do not include fingerprinting.
“We think that if they should have to go into Logan Airport to pick up, they should have to abide by the same rules we have to abide by,” such as inspection requirements and fares set by public agencies. “We think it’s an uneven playing field that they can go into Logan and pick up but they don’t have to have commercial insurance” at the same level as cabbies.
Pinkham was in court Thursday for a hearing on the taxi industry’s lawsuit against the state and Massport, at which an attorney for the authority told the judge the airport would soon accept Lyft and Uber. Pinkham said those comments “blindsided” her clients, and she asked the judge overseeing the case to stop Massport from allowing Lyft or Uber to pick up at Logan.
“We hope that the judge realizes that time is of the essence and that he rules one way or another before Feb. 1,” Pinkham said
Scott Solombrino, president of Dav El Chauffeured Transportation and a spokesman for an advocacy group, Ride Safe Massachusetts, said taxis and limo operators are again lobbying the Legislature to require fingerprinting of Uber and Lyft drivers. “Clearly, from our perspective, we were really hoping this is where the fingerprinting would come in for homeland security,” he said.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.
Correction: An initial version of this story reported that both Uber and Lyft would be able to pick up passengers at Logan as of Feb. 1. An agreement has only been reached with Lyft.