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In path toward legalizing Uber pickups at Atlanta airport, a speedbump

While Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport had planned to legalize Uber pickups at the terminal curbside effective July 1, an Atlanta city council committee is delaying action on the measure to allow time to discuss controversial issues such as fingerprinting of drivers.

The ordinance to legalize Uber operations was set to be taken up by the council transportation committee on April 27, but committee chair Yolanda Adrean plans to hold the measure to allow time for a work session on the issue. As a result, the Uber ordinance will not be up for discussion at the April 27 meeting as previously expected. The work session has not yet been scheduled.

At issue is the airport's plan to require Uber drivers, including drivers for the low-cost Uber X ride-sharing service, to submit to fingerprint-based background checks.

Uber, however, says it already completes private background checks of its drivers that do not require fingerprints.

"Council wants to understand the fingerprinting thing more," Adrean said. "So far, mostly we’ve heard from paid consultants. We just want to make sure that we understand the Uber process, the state process, etc."

The committee has already heard comments from drivers for Uber, Lyft and taxis, as well as representatives from the companies, but has not yet held its own deliberations on the measure or voted on it.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's administration has refrained from weighing in on its position to the council about the airport's plan to legalize Uber operations.

Also on the committee's plate next week is a new 20-year lease agreement between Hartsfield-Jackson and Delta Air Lines, which airport officials seek to wrap up as Delta CEO Richard Anderson prepares to retire May 2.

The airport now prohibits ride-share pickups by non-permitted drivers, but Uber X drivers still regularly pick up customers at the airport. The airport's prohibition is loosely enforced and confusing to many travelers.

Adrean said she expects the council to reach agreement by July 1.

Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie said the airport's plan to officially allow ride-share pickups by July 1 "was put into place with certain legislative dates occurring."

"If those dates shift, then it’s possible that the implementation date would shift with it," McCranie said.

After city council passage, the airport would need to make preparations for the new rules, such as distributing decals to drivers and setting up geofencing and tracking systems for fee payments. Drivers would need time to meet new requirements such as the fingerprint-based background checks proposed by the airport.


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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.