Where did Baker stand on Massport congestion plan?

Reports saying he backed original plan may have overstated his position

This story’s headline and some of the wording was changed to clarify the governor’s position.

NEWS OUTLETS reported on Wednesday that Gov. Charlie Baker supported Massport’s aggressive anti-congestion proposal at Logan International Airport, but on Thursday the Massport board that is filled with his appointees voted to modify the proposal to make it less onerous on Uber and Lyft.

What happened?

Some insiders wondered whether the changes were made at the last minute overnight. Others speculated that the governor either wasn’t in the loop about the changes or tried to have it both ways – applauding efforts to crack down on congestion at the airport knowing full well that the plan was being modified to ease some of the concerns of Uber and Lyft.

Baker’s spokesman pointed to the governor’s comments to reporters on Wednesday, in which he talked in fairly broad terms about the desire of Massport to cut down on the number of deadhead ride-hailing trips – trips either to or from the airport where the vehicle is not carrying any passengers. “Strategically, I think that’s probably a good idea,” he said.

News outlets, however, reported that the governor was in favor of the specific plan that had been unveiled by Massport last month.  The Boston Globe reported that Baker “endorsed the Massachusetts Port Authority’s controversial plan to ban Uber and Lyft from terminal curbs.” The Associated Press and New England Cable News said Baker was backing Massport’s plan.

What appears to have happened is that news outlets took Baker’s broad agreement with the basics of the plan as support for the plan itself. A spokeswoman for Baker Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack was asked about the situation and said: “Secretary Pollack believes the decisions made today by the Massport board on ride-sharing services were a good compromise to the public and stakeholder feedback received.”

A spokeswoman for Massport said the changes were made to accommodate public concerns. “Over the last month, we heard feedback from our passengers that the proposed fees were too high and that curb access is important to them, among other concerns,” the statement said. “We reevaluated the original plan and found we could make these changes while still meeting our goals of reducing traffic by millions of vehicles, reducing deadheads by 30 percent, and improving customer service.”

Two lawmakers representing communities surrounding Logan testified at the Massport board meeting on Thursday morning urging approval of the original plan. After they testified, they left to attend to other business and had no idea the plan was about to be changed.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Sen. Joseph Boncore of Winthrop, the House chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. “They dropped the ball.”

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.

The board voted to amend the original proposal by lowering the ride-hailing fee for pickups and drop-offs at the airport from $5 to $3.25, with the fee dropping to $1.50 if the passenger shares a vehicle with another user.

Massport also administratively changed its plan for ride-hailing pickups and drop-offs at the airport. The original plan called for all pickups and drop-offs to be in the center parking garage. The modified plan called for all pickups to be in the garage, but offered a compromise on drop-offs. Dropoffs from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. would be at the terminal curbs on the arrival level, while drop-offs from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. would be in the central parking garage. Massport officials said 40 percent of the airport’s flights takeoff from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m.

In his testimony before the board, Rep. Adrian Madoro of East Boston praised Massport for addressing the congestion pro-actively. Later, after the board amended the plan to lower the fee on ride-hailing apps and to allow Uber and Lyft to drop passengers off at the curb from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m., Madoro said he was “disappointed in the board’s decision to water-down the proposal.”