When Will Uber, Lyft Leave Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport?

By Christina Estes
Published: Thursday, December 19, 2019 - 2:21pm
Updated: Friday, December 20, 2019 - 9:01am

This could be the last holiday season to use Uber and Lyft at Sky Harbor Airport. Both ridesharing companies say they’ll end airport service next month.

The threat comes after the Phoenix City Council approved higher fees for ridesharing companies to provide curbside service at the airport. Right now, Uber and Lyft pay $2.66 per pick-up at Sky Harbor and nothing for drop-offs. The new fees, to take effect Feb. 1, will be $4 per trip, so that means $4 for a pick-up and $4 for a drop-off. The per trip fee will increase to $5 by 2024.

State Rep. Nancy Barto told KJZZ’s “The Show,” the fees violate a voter-approved proposition that bans cities from enacting new taxes on services after Dec. 31, 2017.

“The plain fact is that raising fees on them is a violation of the state constitution,” she said.

In a Dec. 19, 2019, news release, Barto said she filed a complaint with the Arizona attorney general in response to the council's vote which "prompts the Attorney General to investigate alleged violations of the Arizona Constitution or state law."

But Phoenix’s city attorney said the constitution does not bar cities from charging fees to access and use city property.

“Many companies from ground transportation to concessions pay fees to conduct commercial business that provide services to customers at the airport,” Cris Meyer said.”None of these fees for use of airport property is a tax and all of these fees are constitutional.”

Sky Harbor says the fees are offset ground transportation infrastructure, improvements and maintenance, including the operation and maintenance of PHX Sky Train. The train, which is free to the public, runs from the light rail station 44th and Washington Streets, the East Economy Parking lot and airport terminals. Future service will extend to the rental car center.

In the past, Uber and Lyft have criticized the new fees as an unfair burden on ridesharing companies paying for a train. PHX Sky Train operations currently eliminate buses that move people between terminals and take people to the economy parking lot. In the future, the train will eliminate more buses when it is able to take people to a new rental car facility. Airport officials have said reducing and removing buses alleviates congestion for curbside transportation companies.

Sky Harbor says there are as many as 900 rideshare pickups per hour at the airport. Neither Uber or Lyft provided KJZZ with specific dates they plan to end service at Sky Harbor but in past statements they have mentioned January. Other cities have implemented and/or increased per trip fees for ridesharing companies.

According to Uber’s website, as of Sept. 14, 2019, its service was no longer available at Ontario International Airport in California. It appears to be the only airport where Uber has ceased operations. Lyft did not respond to KJZZ’s specific request about airports where it has stopped service. Instead, a spokesperson emailed, “We have ceased service when we believe rules, regulations or fees create unavoidable threat to the health of our business.”

In a Dec. 19, 2019, email to KJZZ, Julie Rodriguez, deputy aviation director, said:

“We have not been formally notified that either Uber or Lyft will cease operations at Phoenix Sky Harbor on a specific date. If one or both rideshare providers decides to stop dropping off or picking up passengers at Sky Harbor, there are approximately 700 permitted ground transportation providers that regularly serve the Airport. Three taxi companies are under contract to pick up passengers at airport curbs, and their prices are regulated and set by City code.”

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