Massport plan mitigates airport congestion by tweaking TNC operation

Posted on May 14, 2019

By reducing congestion at Boston Logan International Airport, Massport is looking to improve the experience for all passengers and getting them to or from the airport quicker.
METRO Magazine/J.Starcic
By reducing congestion at Boston Logan International Airport, Massport is looking to improve the experience for all passengers and getting them to or from the airport quicker.METRO Magazine/J.Starcic

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) approved a new ground transportation plan to help mitigate traffic congestion in and around Boston Logan International Airport by changing how Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) Uber and Lyft operate at Logan.

By reducing congestion, Massport is looking to improve the experience for all passengers and getting them to or from the airport quicker. In March, the board voted to reduce certain fees and add incentives to Logan Express with the goal of doubling ridership.

Updated plan:

  • Keep the pickup fee at $3.25, and add a $3.25 drop off fee effective Oct.1
  • Incentivize shared-ride customers with a discounted fee of $1.50
  • Allow drop offs at the terminal curb Arrivals level from 4-10 a.m.
  • All pickups at the new, dedicated central location
  • Subject to review in six months

The plan is still expected to reduce as much as 30% of the TNC deadhead vehicles, those coming to or leaving Logan without a passenger. TNC deadheads represented 5 million vehicles last year.

“The increasing congestion is negatively impacting the airport roadway, the tunnels and Rte. 1A,” said Massport Board Chairman and Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis. “This is the best plan for the long-term sustainability of Logan Airport, by reducing the traffic for all airport passengers, as well as the residents of our surrounding communities. This will be subject to review as we move forward.”

At Logan, Uber and Lyft currently pay $3.25 for pickups only, which is among the lowest fees at major U.S. airports. By adding this drop-off fee, Logan will be ranked in the middle. Any revenue from these fees will go toward improving HOV modes.

Allowing drop-offs at the Arrivals level terminal curb works in the early morning hours since the bulk of airport activity are departing flights. TNCs are a popular mode during this period since the MBTA is not available until 5:30 a.m. Rematch and shared rides will work as the TNC driver can drop off a passenger at the Arrivals level curb and then head directly to the garage without recirculating the airport.

Through March 2019, Massport has already seen a 29% increase in TNC ridership at Logan. At this pace, there will be as many as 15 million TNC trips to and from the airport this year, including deadheads, up from 12 million in 2018. TNCs currently represent 30% mode share at Logan, while taxis represent 5%.

The new, dedicated area in the Central Garage is safer, more efficient, and with less congestion, the overall trip time for all passengers is expected to be shorter. The current Uber and Lyft pickup lots were originally small employee parking lots, exposed to the elements and not designed to handle thousands of daily trips. Moving TNC operations to a new, dedicated central space that allows for Rematch and Shared Rides is estimated to reduce TNC vehicles with no passengers by as much as a third. Massport is giving up 1,000 revenue-generating parking spaces to make this happen.

The new, dedicated TNC areas in Central Garage will have:

  • Baggage check and Sky Caps
  • Improved Wi-Fi
  • Better lighting
  • Wheelchair assistance
  • Increased enforcement of TNC drivers and vehicles
  • Can be implemented as early as this fall
  • Will be weather-protected and climate-controlled

Moving TNC operations to the Central Garage will allow for Rematch and shared-ride options to be put into place effectively. This will make it easier for a TNC driver dropping off a passenger to match with a waiting pickup passenger. Passengers will have a shorter wait time to be picked up, in a weather-protected area (unlike the current set up), and will have the option to take a 50% discounted shared-ride, such as uberPOOL and Lyft Shared. TNC drivers will also wait less time between customers, and experience less congestion on our roadways and the tunnels.

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