News and notes from Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson proposes Uber, Lyft regulations

Hartsfield-Jackson International plans to require Uber and Lyft drivers get fingerprint-based background checks before they can pick up passengers at the airport, a measure that is likely to generate vigorous debate over regulation.

Under the new system, travelers would meet their Uber and Lyft drivers at a designated set of spaces to pick up passengers at the curbside of the world’s busiest airport, according to the airport’s proposal. Plans are for nine spaces at the domestic Terminal South and three spaces at the international terminal.

The airport’s goal is to allow legal pickups by Uber and Lyft at Hartsfield-Jackson by July 1. But first, it plans to seek Atlanta City Council approval for a proposed ordinance with a new set of regulations.

Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Miguel Southwell said his goals are to “give the customers what they want” – service from companies like Uber and Lyft — while promoting safety and customer service.

Southwell said he also aims for a “level playing field” between Uber and Lyft, cab drivers, limo drivers and other transportation providers, a notion Southwell acknowledged “means different things to different people.”

Plans are to use a geofence around airport grounds to prevent drivers from clogging up airport roads and lots when waiting to pick up passengers. Instead, the drivers can wait in surrounding areas such as College Park for a passenger to request a ride, then drive into the airport to pick up the customer.

Today, many Uber and Lyft drivers wait in the airport’s cell phone lot for passengers. Even though pickups are not legally permitted, many Uber customers and drivers continue to drop off and pick up at the airport. Enforcement is spotty, and hampered by the fact that ride-share cars and drivers often look like regular friends or relatives picking up a passenger.

Under the new system, Uber and Lyft drivers would be required to display an airport decal. And, the airport plans to charge $1.50 for each pickup – the same fee charged for taxi pickups.

Airport officials say taxi and limousine drivers are already required to get fingerprint-based background checks.

Uber and Lyft conduct their own background checks, in compliance with Georgia state law. They have vehemently opposed fingerprint-based background checks in other places, including in Broward County, Fla., where officials eventually removed the requirement, and in Austin and some smaller cities in Texas.

However, Southwell points to Houston as one city where Uber complies with requirements for fingerprint-based background checks to pick up passengers.

One provision proposed by Hartsfield-Jackson is likely to generate opposition from taxi drivers: Ride-share vehicles and taxis would be required to be no more than seven years old to pick up at Hartsfield-Jackson — which the airport expects would disqualify about 60 percent of the taxis operating in Atlanta.

The airport plans to present its proposed ordinance at an Atlanta City Council transportation committee meeting March 30.

For more detail on Hartsfield-Jackson's plans for Uber and Lyft operations, read the full story on myajc.com.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.