In the latest news about Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing operators, the ongoing controversy about passenger pick-ups at Newark Airport is apparently not close to resolution; an entrepreneur in Boston plans to launch a whole new kind of ride-sharing for skittish customers; passenger pick-ups officially begin at two major airports; and L.A. taxi drivers are feeling the pain.
All eyes of ride-sharing drivers in northern New Jersey will be on the Newark City Council next week as it plans to vote on new fees for those operators – and the proposed fees have caused some outrage. The city’s plan is to assess a $500 annual fee on drivers to operate in Newark, plus an additional $1,000 fee for the right to pick up passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport and at Newark Penn Station. An Uber executive told NJ.com that if the fee ordinance is approved, Uber will simply stop operating in Newark. Earlier, Newark officials had threatened to tow the cars of ride-sharing drivers if they caught them at Newark Airport.
A former Uber driver in Boston, taking note of occasional news reports about crime and violence committed by or upon the service’s vehicle operators, plans to start a new ride-sharing service specifically for customers who might feel vulnerable or threatened. The new operation, called Chariot for Women, will use only female drivers and will restrict its customer base to women and children under 13. The only thing that might stand in its way, according to the Washington Post, is the question of whether it is legal to restrict service by age and/or gender.
It’s official: UberX and Lyft have started picking up passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport under a one-year pilot program approved by the Port of Seattle. UberPool, Uber’s car-pooling service, has also started operating at Sea-Tac. A writer for GeekWire tried out the new option, and found only one problem: Difficulty locating the passenger pick-up area on the third floor of the parking garage. “I knew the pick-up area was staged on the third floor of the parking garage. But for anyone else arriving at the airport trying to find their Uber or Lyft driver, this is difficult to locate because there are no signs pointing people to the pickup area until you exit the terminal and enter the third floor of the parking garage,” the writer noted.
UberX last week started picking up arriving passengers at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a Tweet that “more ride-sharing companies will follow.” Uber said the minimum cost of a ride between the airport and downtown is $33, subject to surge pricing increases, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Drivers will wait for their customers in a designated app-based ride services area on the upper level of the airport’s Ground Transportation Center.
Taxi drivers have long complained that ride-sharing apps are costing them business, and a report in the Los Angeles Times suggests they are right. It cites statistics from the city’s Department of Transportation showing that in 2012 – just before Uber and Lyft started operating in the city – taxis operated a total of 8.4 million trips. In 2015, that number dropped to 6 million. The story cited a cab company manager who said taxi drivers take-home pay has dropped from $800 per week a few years ago to $400-$500 now. And the number of licensed taxi drivers in the city has declined by 586 over the past three years, with some of them defecting to ride-sharing services.
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