Uber, Lyft changing traffic patterns at Logan

More passengers choosing to be chauffered

RIDE-SHARING SERVICES appear to be changing traffic patterns at Logan International Airport, boosting the number of people paying for chauffeured services while causing a slight drop in the use of private cars, rental cars, and public transportation.

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.”

Glynn said the increase in chauffeured rides has been fueled in part by a 7 percent increase in passengers using Logan in each of the last two years as well as some draining from other modes of transportation such as private cars, rental cars, and public transportation.

“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.

Part of what has saved cabs as well is the restrictions that only taxis can pick up at the curb, requiring passengers to queue up for Uber and Lyft further from the terminal. Glynn said while “it’s not our business” to favor one over the other, he said Massport officials have tried to make sure cab drivers have all the help they need. He said his agency gave input to the Department of Public Utilities in drafting the transportation network company regulations to ensure taxis wouldn’t be forced out.

“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.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

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.”

  • tysmith95

    I don’t understand the idea that Uber/Lyft and Taxi services require four trips in and out of the airport. Most Uber/Lyft or taxi drivers who get a ride to the airport then go into the Quene and then get a ride out of the airport. That does not hurt traffic versus people who use airport parking.