Airport’s ride-share plan back on runway

New version would legalize pickups, drop driver fingerprints.


Ride-share plan

Highlights of the city’s latest plan to allow and regulate ride share pickups:

— Ride-share pickups become legal, ending threat of ticketing at curbside

— $1.50 per ride fee, same as with taxis

— Drivers will wait for customers in designated area

— Ride-share vehicles must display a decal

— Drivers can be screened by private background checks

The city of Atlanta plans to legalize pickups by Uber X and Lyft at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and set up a ride-share assembly area — while nixing an earlier airport proposal to require fingerprint-based background checks for drivers.

The proposal this week from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration would allow ride-share services to use private background checks as an alternative to fingerprint checks. The same would apply to taxi drivers.

If approved, the plan would end more than a year of confusion about ride-share pickups at the world’s busiest airport. The city contends pickups are now illegal but many fliers are unaware and some Uber and Lyft drivers make pickups anyway amid spotty enforcement by airport police.

The earlier plan to legalize and regulate pickups stalled after Uber and Lyft objected to fingerprinting requirements.

The Atlanta city council transportation committee will take up the revised plan Wednesday. Yolanda Adrean, who chairs the panel, called the proposal an “attempt at leveling the playing field and providing customers with a variety of choices.”

In addition to allowing private background checks, the city would charge a per-ride fee of $1.50, which it already does with taxis. It’s unclear how much the fee would raise but an Uber executive has said the company “does thousands and thousands of trips a day there, as does Lyft.”

The city would also limit the age of both ride-share vehicles and cabs that pick up at the airport, and it plans to collect a permit fee from each ride-share company of $50 per vehicle, up to $100,000 annually.

Also in the city’s proposal are plans for a ride-share assembly area — drivers would not be allowed to wait in the airport cell phone lot and would be required to display an airport decal.

The proposal comes after the city of Atlanta spent more than a year weighing how to legalize and regulate Uber and Lyft pickups at the airport.

In March 2016, Hartsfield-Jackson’s then-general manager, Miguel Southwell, introduced a proposal that included requiring fingerprint-based background checks of all ride-share drivers.

That measure generated strong opposition from Uber and Lyft, which contend such a rule is cumbersome and would hurt their ability to recruit drivers. They also contend their own private background checks are adequate.

Both ride-share companies threatened to not serve the airport if fingerprint requirements went into place.

Southwell was later fired by Reed, whose administration began to rework the ride-share rules.

Hundreds of cab drivers and Uber and Lyft drivers have shown up at previous city council meetings and work sessions on the issue.

Uber is “taking business from us left and right,” said Sharmarke Yonis, a taxi driver who represents cabbies. “We need to have an equal opportunity.”

If the transportation committee approves the measure, it would then go to the full council for a vote. It could be a few months before the rules would take effect.

Despite the current prohibition and occasional ticketing of ride-share drivers by police, Adrean noted that Uber X and Lyft have been picking up passengers from the airport “at will.”

“The public wants this service,” Adrean said.

Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George said the company looks forward to the meeting Wednesday, and Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin said his company is “pleased with the progress” on the issue.

Factoring into the fingerprinting issue has been a legal question of how much the city is limited by a new state law passed last year that governs ride-share operations.

Katrina Taylor Parks, Reed’s deputy chief of staff, has said that the state law “specifies that we have to accept” either fingerprint checks or private background checks.

Others, including senior assistant city attorney Amber Robinson at a work session in June, have argued that the airport has the authority to “set forth stricter regulations regarding the background checks and to mandate one over the other.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Like your workplace, tell us about it

You say you work for a great company with an encouraging and inclusive atmosphere. You say you have good benefits. You say your bosses are fair, sympathetic, understanding. Then why not share the good news? And, there’s still time to do it because the nomination deadline has been extended to Nov. 17. In March, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution...
Coke rejects charges of deceit in Diet Coke’s name
Coke rejects charges of deceit in Diet Coke’s name

A lawsuit has been filed against Coca-Cola charging the company with falsely advertising Diet Coke — allegations that the company vehemently rejects. The plaintiffs say that, instead of aiding in weight loss, the drink actually promotes weight gain and – worse – triggers other health problems, according to a report in Top Class Actions...
Wes Moss: Why bitcoin is a big deal, and why you should be careful
Wes Moss: Why bitcoin is a big deal, and why you should be careful

Bitcoin. It’s everywhere. Thanks to its skyrocketing value, it’s been a regular topic on the front page of every financial website. One bitcoin is currently worth $5,500, up from $1,000 in December. I hear what you’re thinking. Wow. So, what’s bitcoin? And am I missing out on something? Bitcoin, simply put, is a currency, similar...
Athenahealth cutting jobs, but outlook in Atlanta unclear
Athenahealth cutting jobs, but outlook in Atlanta unclear

Athenahealth, the Massachusetts-based electronic medical records company with a substantial operation in metro Atlanta, said Thursday it plans to cut its workforce by 9 percent as part of a cost cutting plan. It’s unclear how many jobs in Atlanta might be affected, but before Thursday, Athenahealth had been in growth mode in the Atlanta area...
Video: Georgia brings its bid for Amazon HQ2 to Seattle
Video: Georgia brings its bid for Amazon HQ2 to Seattle

A top Georgia recruiter on Thursday walked into Amazon’s Day One tower in downtown Seattle to hand-deliver the state’s pitch for the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters. And she had a camera crew in tow. Brittany Holtzclaw, director of logistics, energy, agribusiness and food processing for the state’s economic development...
More Stories