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Pittsburgh International Airport often not worth the wait for Uber drivers

Discussion in 'Pittsburgh' started by Dreamer, Jul 3, 2015.

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  1. Dreamer

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    Staff Member

    Jan 19, 2015
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    Tim Tran has been driving for Uber since last year, and he picked up passengers at Pittsburgh International Airport before the ride-sharing company was “official” there. But since new rules went into place last month, he says, the airport run has become a much less lucrative opportunity.

    “It was better for the drivers before,” Mr. Tran said as he waited for a fare Tuesday afternoon. “Sometimes this queue is three hours long. It’s not worth it to sit here and wait.”

    As part of the agreement worked out last month between San Francisco-based Uber and the Allegheny County Airport Authority, ride-sharing drivers who want to pick up passengers at the airport are required to wait in the cell phone lot at the extended parking area.

    If a driver has signed on to Uber’s app, he’s placed into an electronic queue once the app’s GPS finds him at the airport. Lyft’s drivers would be in a separate queue.

    Before the agreement, ride-sharing drivers faced citations and fines if they were caught picking up passengers at the airport. At one point, the Uber app was blocked at the airport.

    But even though a trip from the airport to Downtown can net a fare of $35 or $40, some drivers say the new system forces them to wait too long.

    “I’m not sure how else they can do it,” said one airport Uber driver named Joe, who asked his last name not be used. “But if I come out here and I see a long line, I don’t wait. It’s not worth it.”

    Indeed, a recent email bulletin from Uber suggests that if a driver has waited more than 30 minutes for a ride, he or she may want to head back to Downtown “for more consistent demand.”

    Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said the company has seen a rise in the number of trips to and from the Pittsburgh airport since announcing the agreement, which was modeled on similar arrangements at other airports. Pittsburgh International is only the seventh airport to formalize terms with ride-sharing companies.

    Mary Caroline Pruitt, a spokeswoman with Lyft, said the company had received positive feedback both from drivers and passengers about the airport service, “especially during this busy summer travel season.” Lyft signed a deal to allow its drivers to pick up at the airport in June, about a week after Uber did.

    Both companies paid a $2.90 fee per pickup, a $12,000 annual permit fee and a $14,000 security deposit to the airport authority.

    Uber and Lyft are operating under two-year experimental licenses from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

    “The concern from Uber was that they wanted a place where their drivers could sit and be there right away for customers,” said Bob Kerlik, vice president of media relations for the airport authority.

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