Uber, Lyft changing traffic patterns at Logan
More passengers choosing to be chauffered
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Data compiled by the Massachusetts Port Authority indicate the number of people using ride-share services, taxis, and limos increased nearly 25 percent after transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft were allowed to pick up passengers at Logan in February. The average number of monthly chauffeured trips leaving the airport jumped by 64,526, or 23.3 percent, compared to the same period a year ago.
Dire predictions that the taxi business at Logan would collapse with the arrival of the ride-sharing companies have not materialized. The Massport data indicate the number of taxi trips from Logan declined 6 percent in the February-through-April period this year compared to last year, while the overall share of chauffeured trips held by taxis fell from 67 percent to 51 percent. The ride-sharing companies now handle a third of the chauffeured trips leaving the airport; limousines handle 15 percent.
Thomas Glynn, the general manager at Massport, said the numbers are far different from what was expected. “You can make predictions, but you really have to see how the market develops, how people behave,” he said. “So far, we haven’t seen that [decrease in cab rides] and we were surprised. It’s a big surprise.”
“We don’t see any other big factor; it’s been a little bit here, a little bit there,” Glynn said. “Nothing else that seems to jump out, just a little bit of a haircut from everywhere.”
Massport is trying to cut down on the number of individual passenger trips to and from the airport. The agency is seeking approval to add 5,000 parking spaces at the airport, arguing that more parking spaces will mean fewer people being chauffeured to and from Logan. Massport says a passenger driving to the airport makes two trips – there and back. The same passenger being chauffeured to the airport results in four trips.
Massport estimates it can cut emissions at the airport 23 percent by adding the 5,000 parking spaces, but the recent shift toward chauffeured trips could make it difficult to reach that target. Glynn, however, said he intends to push forward with plans to add more parking, saying the overall increase in traffic from the growing passenger count continues to tax the limited spaces available.
“We just haven’t seen a big impact on the parking,” he said of the increase in ride-for-hire traffic.
According to Massport, cab rides have gone down slightly, from an average of 185,638 per month between February and April on 2016, to 174,389 for the same period this year. Between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2015, the number of cab rides originating at Logan had steadily increased, from nearly 166,000 a month to 188,000, even as Uber had made inroads.
“From what we see at Logan, we haven’t seen any effect,” said Rahim Abbasi, a taxi driver who leases from Metro Cab and acts as a spokesman for cabbies since the United Steelworkers Union ceased representing them. “Our core base at Logan is the out-of-town customer – business, tourists – and I don’t think that has changed at all.”
Abbasi said cab drivers continue to get pummeled on the streets of Boston, where ride-sharing competition has devastated revenues, forcing many to spend more time at Logan than they had before. But even with the increase in cabs at the airport, Abbasi said his wait time between arrival and picking up a passenger is no more than 45 minutes to an hour, the same as it has been the last few years.
“On an average day, we have 100,000 to 120,000 passengers – arrivals – and roughly 6,000 or so have been using cabs,” he said. “So we need 6,000 cabs a day. If we only get 5,500, we have a problem… Out of fairness, we created a level playing field. It’s not our business to determine winners, passengers needed choices.”
Limousine rides have plummeted, according to the data, from 91,147 per month last year to 52,763 in 2017 but all sides agree those numbers are misleading. Uber, for instance, had been operating its UberBlack service to and from the airport as a livery and are now counted solely in the transportation network company category, whether operating for basic passenger service or acting as a limo service.
A spokeswoman for Uber said many drivers who previously had livery plates so they could pick up at Logan have dropped the expensive tags in favor of regular plates. Glynn said a number of independent operators, who were getting squeezed both by the ride-sharing drivers as well as the larger limo fleets, also shed the pricey tags that required a Massport fee as well as increased tolls and are now Uber or Lyft drivers.
Glynn and representatives of limo companies said not only have they not seen a negative hit from the ride-sharing cars, they say their business is actually up. Mike Fogarty, general manager of Tristar Worldwide based in Beverly, said his company’s Logan business has increased 16 percent over last year.
“The TNCs have broadened the for-hire transportation market, pulling from parking and rentals,” said Fogarty, whose company makes about 3,300 Logan trips a month. “Some of the [limo] market has shifted to the less expensive alternative but we get a lot of clients through referral.”Scott Solombrino, president and CEO of Dav El/Boston Coach, said ride-sharing cars may have forced some of the smaller operators out of the business but, combined with a robust economic recovery, have only helped his company, which is the largest privately owned chauffer-driven company in the world.
“The good news is TNCs have created a new level of users and a new level of drivers,” Solombrino said. “People are using chauffeured drivers like never before. They’ve been helpful to our businesses because people want to be driven. We believe this created a bigger market of users.”