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Uber and Lyft could leave Sky Harbor in 2020 if Phoenix approves trip fee hike

Ride Hailing Bill
Posted at 9:30 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 15:21:45-05

PHOENIX  — Which do you prefer? Paying more for an Uber or Lyft or losing both options altogether?

The City of Phoenix is tasked with the deciding vote. If the council approves a proposed trip fee hike, the rideshare giants may stop operating at Sky Harbor.

Phoenix Sky Harbor officials are asking for the fees associated with each trip to increase, and apply to both drop-offs and pick-ups at the airport.

The current fee is set at $2.66 for every rideshare trip from Sky Harbor. Airport officials are now proposing the fee increase to $4.00 per pick-up and drop-off.

“What used to be a five-dollar ride is going to be now like 15 or something?" said Adam Clayton, a downtown Phoenix resident.

Sky Harbor officials argue the money is needed for other airport projects.

"These fees are calculated to recover Phoenix's costs for the GT provider proportionate share of existing and future ground transportation infrastructure, improvements and operation/maintenance of this infrastructure," reads the proposal included in the Phoenix City Council agenda set for Wednesday, Dec. 18. "Including maintenance of the Phoenix Sky Train, and to comply with federal law requiring Phoenix to achieve and maintain economic self-sufficiency."

"The Airport’s plan unfairly penalizes those who rely on ridesharing to get to or from Phoenix by asking them to bear a disproportionate share of costs associated with the Sky Train," said Chris Garcia, Uber's Global Airport Partnerships Manager in an open letter to city and airport officials last week.

"Under the airport’s plan, rideshare users will have to disproportionately foot most of the bill — approximately 80% of the total — for a transportation option that they are not using."

Garcia adds, "If the Phoenix City Council approves the ground transportation fee structure currently recommended by Phoenix, Uber will be forced to cease operations at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport effective January 2020."

"I don’t really blame them," said Clayton "You have to defend yourself with the airport somehow and if they’re going to jack up rates on you every time that hurts their customer, not the airport."

If both companies cease operations at Sky Harbor, many travelers may be forced to pay more for alternatives such as taxi rates, or overnight parking fees.

“They need to learn how to share and work together because it’s good for the customer if it’s good for the customer you need to have it here," said Clayton.

Some worry the rideshare giants may be pulling the plug on a big chunk of business, and hurting customers as a result.

“The click of a finger, the convenience, everybody loves that," said Taylor Williams. "Why take that away when you worked so hard to build it?”

Drivers say the fee hike won't have an impact on them but losing the ability to operate at the airport will.

"There's always a nice thing that's out there, and the government always finds a way to come and screw it up for everyone," said Phoenix Councilman Sal Diciccio, who voted against the hike on October 16 -the day the initiative was first set to be decided.

"Sooner or later businesses, if you tax them enough, or over-regulate them too much, sooner or later they start making other decisions. So it doesn't surprise me that they're even thinking about it and that should concern everybody."

The vote though needs to be recast, after a "clerical" error by city officials.

"A portion of the agenda item did not get posted, we've fixed it, and there was no violation of state law," said Julie Watters, Communications Director for the City of Phoenix.

DiCiccio told KTAR 92.3 FM he plans to vote against the initiative again, and says he's unsure if other council members will change their vote.

"You end up driving people away, you end up pushing people out and it makes it harder for the average Joe to get to the airport," said DiCiccio.

The Phoenix City council will vote Wednesday, December 18 at 2:30 p.m.