Just months after curbside pickups by ride-share services Uber and Lyft became legal, the Atlanta airport is moving the designated pickup areas to the economy parking lots.
The new pickup locations, which will require a walk across a terminal roadway and through parking garages to the economy lots, open on Wednesday.
The world’s busiest airport is moving the locations because construction of massive curbside canopies will take up space in curbside areas that Uber and Lyft drivers and other motorists now use to pick up passengers.
“With any shift, there’s always going to be a learning curve,” Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie said. He said passengers should follow signs in the terminal to the pickup locations, which he said are about a 5-minute walk from the terminal.
The airport advises users to wait until they get to the pickup spots to hail a ride, so that ride-share drivers can make the pickup and exit within the 15-minute grace period before a parking fee is assessed.
Non-commercial pickups will continue at the curbsides, although canopy construction also requires shifting lane closures that are causing congestion. The canopies, which along with other terminal improvements will cost $265 million, are part of the airport’s $6 billion expansion and modernization plan.
“We’ve got a lot of construction that’s started to occur,” McCranie said. “We need to free up some of the curbside space and relieve that congestion.”
The canopies are expected to take 18 months to complete, after which Uber and Lyft pickups would return to the curbside.
The airport had planned to move the Uber and Lyft pickup locations in July, but delayed the move as Uber officials expressed concerns about inconvenience and hassles for their customers of a single pickup area, at Terminal South.
Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George said in a written statement: “We all want to ensure the smoothest possible pickup experience for riders and driver-partners, and our team will continue to provide feedback to airport officials.”
The airport has since added a second location at Terminal North for its planned pickup areas for Uber and Lyft.
When asked whether some passengers may choose to take taxis instead of making the walk to the Uber and Lyft pickup areas, Hartsfield-Jackson ground transportation director Tracy Harrison said: “It’s a possibility. Ultimately it is the customer’s choice.”
Ride-share pickups were technically prohibited at the airport until this year, although some drivers made pickups anyway. The city of Atlanta, which owns and operates the airport, moved to allow the pickups under a permitting structure meant to create a level playing field with taxi and limo services.
Uber and Lyft pickups initially were limited to the lower level curbside spots, but then were allowed anywhere along the curbside on either upper or lower levels on both sides of the main terminal.
Taxis and limos use a designated area on the west end of the terminal and aren’t immediately affected.
How to take Uber from the Atlanta airport
1) Pick up any bags at baggage claim. Do not request a ride yet. Uber recommends you wait until you have arrived at the Rideshare Pickup zone to request a ride.*
2) Look for Rideshare signs near South baggage claim 5 or North baggage claim 4, which direct you down an escalator to the lower arrivals level.
3) Follow signs to cross the roadway and walk through parking garage to the Rideshare Pickup zone.
4) Request your ride.
5) Call or text your driver to coordinate what color-coded numbered section of the Rideshare Pickup zone you’re waiting in.
*If your driver exceeds the 15-minute grace period for parking, he/she will be charged $3 for parking. If a passenger is not at the pickup location, the driver is instructed to exit the parking lot and circle around, extending the wait time for the passenger.
Those without checked bags can exit the airport at the international terminal to get picked up curbside.
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