Uber, Lyft OK’d to pick up at airport
Several Hawaii taxicab companies are objecting to an agreement between the state Department of Transportation and ride-hailing services to allow pickups at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.
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Several Hawaii taxicab companies are objecting to an agreement between the state Department of Transportation and ride-hailing services to allow pickups
at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.
Uber and Lyft have been granted a temporary permit and have agreed to pay the Airports Division 7 percent of prearranged trip fares during a three-month pilot period, which starts today. Uber, the largest of Hawaii’s ride-hailing operators, said it has more than 2,000 drivers in Honolulu, all of whom will now be able to make
Honolulu airport pickups.
Uber participated in two years of “constructive dialog” with the state DOT and airport operations staff before the pilot agreement was reached, said Uber
public affairs spokesman Jon Isaacs. The company
already had reached similar agreements at 30 of the
nation’s top airports.
“We have received frequent questions from riders asking why Uber has not been available,” Isaacs said. “We have consistently seen growth in demand for Uber’s convenient service at major airports across the country. We expect Honolulu to see the same trend. We hope that Hawaii’s other airports will follow the positive
steps taken by HLN and
allow pickup ride-share
Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay said he expects the pilot program will
benefit Honolulu airport
and its passengers.
“The program provides an additional transportation option for airport passengers,” Butay said in a news release. “We anticipate the service will cut the overall wait times for customers
regardless of their preferred transportation choice, especially during peak hours, and the pilot program will help us determine if that is the case. We want this to be successful for all stakeholders, including our passengers and residents.”
But several taxicab companies already have raised objections that the agreement was forged outside of the public purview.
“This is exactly like Airbnb — something as controversial as this shouldn’t be behind closed doors,” said Howard Higa, owner of TheCab, which employs some 500 drivers.
Higa said he and other taxicab companies were blindsided by the state’s
pilot project in much the same way that stakeholders were surprised when the
reported in early November that Gov. David Ige’s
administration was pursuing a tax agreement with Airbnb Inc. to allow the vacation rental company to collect taxes from its hosts and send the money to the state.
“This is a loud signal to the residents of Hawaii that the lawmakers that we put into office feel that they are above the law,” Higa said. “The taxi industry is not against Uber and Lyft, but we are definitely against uneven rules and regulations, especially when the decisions are made behind closed doors.”
Higa said lack of parity in city and state rules governing taxicabs and ride-hailing has disadvantaged Hawaii’s taxicab industry.
“I’ve lost about 40 percent of my drivers since ride-hailing came to Hawaii — that’s about $2 million a year in lost revenue,” he said. “I’m fortunate that I haven’t gone bankrupt like so many taxi companies across the nation.”
Dale Evans, president and CEO of Charley’s Taxi, already has sent a letter to DOT questioning the agency’s authority and rationale in implementing the new program.
“It is disappointing to learn that an agreement was reached with the state without public input and without transparency. Taxis and other transportation companies must adhere to strict rules and must pay fees to operate at the airport. It is important that the airports division disclose the terms of their agreement and the details to ensure we’re operating on a level playing field,” Evans said.
David Jung, owner of EcoCab, said he suspects the state will not require Uber and Lyft to comply with the minimum requirements set for local companies that provide ground transportation at the Honolulu airport. Taxis are required to carry commercial insurance, install electronic transponders and affix state-issued authorization stickers to their vehicles, and accept airline vouchers, Jung said. Drivers also participate in customer service training and vehicle inspections and honor dress codes. A transponder is a device used to track taxis as they come and go from the airport.
“Why is a mainland company like Uber and its independent contractor drivers … exempt from the rules and regulations that apply to every other similarly situated local company,” Jung said. “The local transportation companies are not asking for home-field advantage; we just ask not to be treated as a second-class citizen.”
Higa also objects that taxicab companies must operate within city-established meter rates, but ride-hailing companies can set their own pricing. While Uber uses surge pricing to set rates based on demand, the company said rates from the airport to Waikiki will typically start at $24. Taxi fares to Waikiki range from about $38 to $48.
DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said Uber and Lyft drivers would have commercial insurance. However, he acknowledged that permit stickers and electronic transponders would not be used during the pilot.
“We will evaluate the program during the trial period and adjust if necessary,” Sakahara said.
DOT did not respond Thursday to the Star-Advertiser’s request for a copy of the agreement, but its news release said Uber and Lyft would be allowed to pick up passengers from two designated airport locations on the second level median curb, including the Interisland Terminal across from Lobby 2 and at the Overseas Terminal across from Lobby 8. DOT said pickup areas will be designated with a black curb and “Uber/Lyft” painted on the side.
DOT said ride-hailing drivers would not be allowed to solicit customers or wait on airport property without an assigned and prescheduled customer. Drivers picking up passengers outside the designated areas will be subject to citation, the agency said.