Glynn calls for conversation on ride-hailing congestion 

Massport CEO cites enormous growth at Logan Airport 

THE OUTGOING CEO of Massport, which operates Logan International Airport, says it’s time for the state’s transportation leaders to come together to decide how to respond to the growing congestion being caused by ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft.

“I do think there needs to be a conversation about congestion,” said Tom Glynn, who is expected to step down later this month. Glynn, who refers to the apps as transportation network companies, or TNCs, said: “The growth of the TNCs has contributed significantly to congestion in the city and at the airport.”

Glynn, who ran the MBTA from 1989 to 1991, is one of the first Massachusetts officials to suggest some sort of public response is needed to the rapid growth of ride-hailing apps. The Baker administration has taken a largely hands-off approach so far aside from implementing basic regulations, while the city of Boston’s chief concern has been helping the apps pick people up and drop them off in a way that doesn’t disrupt traffic.

Since ride-hailing apps gained full access to the airport in February 2017, their share of passenger pickups and drop-offs has grown dramatically, from 11 percent of the total initially to 21.4 percent one year later. The ride-hailing apps are now the leading way passengers get to and from the airport, and the growth shows no sign of abating.

Glynn said Massport research also turned up an interesting fact. On average, he said, 10 percent of the cars, and 20 percent of the drivers, waiting in Logan’s ride-hailing lot are from out of state.

Massport collects a $3.25 fee from each ride-hailing driver handling a pickup, but charges nothing for drop-offs. Massport research indicates the apps do more drop-offs than pickups at Logan, a roughly 60-40 split.

Glynn said most US airports charge for both drop-offs and pickups. Detroit, for example, charges $5 for drop-offs and pickups, while Los Angeles charges $4, and San Diego $3. Seattle only charges for pickups, but its fee is $6. Tampa charges $5, while Miami ($2) and Atlanta ($1.50) charge less than Logan.

Glynn said no decision has been made on whether to change the fee structure for ride-hailing apps at Logan.

The Baker administration released a report in May that indicated the ride-hailing apps provided 64.8 million trips in Massachusetts last year, two-thirds of them originating in Boston and Cambridge.

It’s fairly clear that the ride-hailing apps have had a big, negative impact on the taxi industry, but evidence is mixed on whether the apps have cut into ridership of the MBTA. A survey of 1,000 users of ride-hailing apps in late 2017 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council indicated 42 percent would have used public transit for their trip if the apps had not been available, while 12 percent would have walked and 5 percent would not have made the trip at all.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, however, says it’s not clear whether the T is actually losing riders permanently to the ride-hailing apps or whether riders are just taking fewer trips on the T because of the many options they have for getting around.

Under current state law, the state collects a 20-cent fee on each ride-hailing ride. Of the 20 cents, half goes to the municipality where the ride originated and the remaining 10 cents is split equally between the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, which is charged with helping the taxi industry, and a state fund that provides money for transportation projects. Some transportation analysts have called for higher fees on the ride-hailing apps, but elected officials have been reluctant because of their popularity.

As of this week, 181,619 drivers have been approved to work as ride-hailing drivers in Massachusetts. What’s not clear is how many of those who have been approved are actually driving. The state doesn’t track that information.