If you take this bus to Logan Airport, Massport will let you cut the security line
Last week, Logan International Airport officials brought out the stick in their quest to fight traffic congestion, banning Uber and Lyft riders from outside the terminals during most of the day and hitting riders with higher fees.
On Wednesday, they presented a carrot to persuade travelers to ditch the car ride: Take a bus instead, and win a trip to the front of the airport security line.
In a program that started Wednesday, riders who take the Logan Express bus from the Back Bay will get an orange ticket that gives them access to a new TSA priority line, one created just for them.
It’s the latest policy from an airport that’s intent on reducing the traffic clogging Logan’s roadways and spilling over onto East Boston’s streets.
“By making Logan Express more attractive, we want more passengers to choose these options and help us reduce the traffic congestion we’re experiencing in and around the airport,” said Ed Freni, aviation director at the Massachusetts Port Authority. “Adding the priority line at the checkpoint is a great opportunity for people to move quickly.”
Announced in March, the expedited security check is one of several ways Massport is trying to improve the Logan Express service. The authority has moved the bus stop from Copley Square to the MBTA’s Back Bay Station, allowing easier connection with the Orange Line and commuter rail.
And the fare, once $7.50 each way, is now $3 to go to the airport and free from the airport to the Back Bay. Officials also added more buses from a Braintree terminal to Logan, with departures every 20 minutes.
Massport wants to increase overall Logan Express ridership from 1.8 million people a year currently to 4 million within five years. That will depend, in part, on attracting new riders to the five existing bus lines and adding new routes. Massport has already said that it plans to launch a new route from North Station next year, for example, and is considering more suburban outposts.
But for now, the express security line is for riders from the Back Bay only. Officials said they want to see how it works before deciding whether to include the other Logan Express routes, from terminals in Framingham, Woburn, and Peabody.
Massport’s acting chief executive, John Pranckevicius, said the Back Bay was the best place to start with the priority line because Massport believes it can vastly increase ridership on that route.
“The way to do that is to offer our customers an incentive, so we looked both at reducing the price and adding this incentive to the program to be able to raise ridership,” he said.
Airport officials took another drastic step to reduce traffic last week by approving higher fees for Uber and Lyft drop-offs and requiring most drop-offs and all pickups to be made at Logan’s central parking garage — despite sharp objections from the ride-hail companies and their users.
Traffic problems aren’t exclusive to Logan; San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday adopted a similar though less severe measure. All pickups — though not drop-offs — must now occur in its garage, not in front of terminals.
Pranckevicius acknowledged the goal in Boston is to coax some of those ride-hail users out of cars and onto buses.
“If there’s a way that we can offer enough services and make it attractive for them to use it, such as reducing the fare and adding priority to the head of the line, then that’s a great service, and we’d like to see more people use it,” he said.
Massport may already have won a fan. Danielle Cart, a Boston University graduate student from Allston, said she usually takes either the bus or a ride-hail service to the airport. She was at Logan Wednesday to meet a friend but was scheduled to fly later; she said the low price and opportunity to clear security quicker will probably swing her toward the bus.
“Going to my flight tomorrow, I’ll probably do it,” she said. “If you can skip security, I think that’s really nice.”
The policy appears to be the first of its kind, said Ray Mundy, executive director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association, which represents shuttle providers and airports.
“Huh, I’ve never heard of that before,” Mundy answered when told of Logan’s new policy. “I’d say that’s a major inducement. At our meetings each year, we do have a number of sessions that deal with how can we incentivize the user to take more high-occupancy vehicles. But getting them to the front of the checkpoint line, that’s rather innovative.”
The Transportation Security Administration said it was not deeply involved in establishing the priority line, and noted that passengers must still go through normal security checks once they reach the checkpoint.