That’s the amount of time it took me to walk from the new Uber and Lyft drop-off and pickup point at Logan central parking to Terminal C. I wheeled a suitcase; I walked at what I deemed to be a respectable, leisurely pace. I used a stopwatch to record the time down to the second.
Three minutes (technically 2:59.19). If you prefer to count steps, it was 180 steps from central parking to a check-in kiosk in Terminal C. I cheated and used moving walkways, which drastically reduced the number of steps I needed to take.
I walked to all four Logan terminals from central parking, where app ride vehicles — that’s the fancy way of saying Uber and Lyft — will be required to drop off and pick up travelers starting later this month when Logan begins banning curbside drop-offs.
The plan at Logan — in case you’ve missed it — is to move all Transportation Network Company pickups and drop-offs to dedicated areas in the central parking garage. The plan, which is intended to alleviate curbside congestion and reduce airport traffic, was met with a collective scowl when it was announced last year. It was as if the Massachusetts Port Authority, the organization that oversees Logan, was suddenly asking travelers to walk from Cape Cod to the airport — in a blizzard.
I wanted to try this walk because it seemed as if Greater Boston was melting down over a whole lot of nothing.
I was right.
The longest walk I encountered from a rideshare drop-off/pickup point was 6½ minutes, and that was from central parking to Terminal B. From Terminal A it was a 3½-minute walk. It was the same story from Terminal E.
Go ahead and lodge your worst profanities at me. I understand that the luxury of no longer being dropped off at the curb by an Uber or Lyft is not ideal. I know you’ll have nitpicky points to make about the changes, and I’ll address those soon. So please breathe, pop your blood pressure medication, and read on.
We’ve become spoiled. But the change of plan at Logan is not the worst thing that will happen to you in November. That will be talk of the election at the Thanksgiving table. Massport isn’t making this change because they want to make your life more difficult, it’s because since Uber and Lyft began servicing Logan in 2017, Massport has noticed an increase in congestion and traffic. As the airport continues to grow, so too will the traffic.
In 2018, Uber and Lyft vehicles made 12 million trips to and from Logan. Five million of those trips were without passengers. The term for those empty rides is “deadheading.” The empty vehicles are wasting a whole lot of valuable curb space and backing up traffic.
According to Daniel Gallagher, director of aviation business and finance at Logan, rideshare vehicles now make up 40 percent of Logan’s traffic. Putting both drop-offs and pickups in the same location will allow for rematching, which means rideshare drivers will be notified of pickup requests as they are dropping off passengers, resulting in potentially more business for drivers, quicker service for passengers, and less curbside congestion.
I feel like there’s been a lot of misinformation about what the final product will look like, so here’s a fuller picture. It’s not just drop-offs that will be moved to central parking, it’s also pickups. Currently, if you want an Uber or Lyft to pick you up at Logan, you have to get yourself from the terminal to a designated outside lot (a walk longer than three minutes), and stand in the elements while hunting down your driver. Now, you’ll be able to wait inside, without ever facing the elements, in a section of the garage that is climate-controlled.
Contrary to what you may have heard, the dedicated drop-off/pickup areas in central parking are not located in dimly lit, remote corners where you’d find Deep Throat ringing up Woodward and Bernstein. They are bright, redesigned, easy-to-find areas.
At the time of this story, these areas were still under construction, so I have yet to see them with my own eyes, but according to Massport the dedicated ride app areas will have (please read carefully so I don’t need to repeat this): baggage check and skycaps for domestic flights; improved Wi-Fi; better lighting, and wheelchair assistance for those unable to make the walk. There will be signage guiding you to this area so you can breeze yourself to and from the terminals.
Further clarification: The curbside drop-off and pickup rule is only for ride app drivers. If you want to drive your Aunt Lillian to the airport and drop her off at the curb, drive away. If you want to pick her up at arrivals, you can do the same.
Also, after the Greater Boston area had its collective meltdown over these changes, Massport amended the rule so that Uber and Lyft curbside drop-offs will be allowed between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m., which is the busiest time of day for departures. Ride app pickups are still restricted to central parking locations.
I’m assuming this is the part of the story when you’ll say, “But wait, why are taxis and limos exempt from this new system?” The simple answer is that the percentage of those vehicles is much smaller than Ubers and Lyfts.
Contrary to what had been previously reported, Boston is not the only airport where curbside bans are going into effect. In Los Angeles, where congestion is far worse than at Logan, Uber, Lyft, and taxi pickups are being banned at the curb at LAX. Passengers can walk or take a shuttle bus to transportation at Terminal 1. I know that I would much rather walk than take a shuttle anywhere after getting off a flight.
Back at Logan, let’s say I walked slower or had children to bring from the new drop-off area into the terminal. Would it take longer? Indeed. Maybe it would take six minutes instead of three. Maybe it would take 10 minutes. This is the concession we make for having an airport located in the city.
As someone who goes to a lot of airports, I can tell you that we are fortunate (traffic aside) to have an airport in the city. When I land at London Heathrow I have a solid 40 minutes (at least) until I’m in London center. Even longer using public transport. I was once stuck in traffic for over an hour trying to get from downtown Toronto to Pearson Airport. I nearly missed a flight out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle because of the deadly combination of traffic and distance.
Dollars to donuts, I can guarantee that other urban airports will soon be following the lead of Logan and LAX. There will be more fees placed on Uber and Lyft rides from airports, there will be new dedicated areas to unclog curbside congestion, and, as with most changes, people won’t be happy about them.
I can also guarantee that there will be hiccups at Logan when the central parking Uber and Lyft changes begin. When a similar change was made in San Francisco there was a night of bedlam. Adjustments were made, and the San Francisco airport bedlam passed.
So be prepared and patient at Logan. The change will add a few minutes to your trip into the terminals. But before you leap to angry conclusions — or simply get angry — you need to give the new system a chance.