Lyft, Uber still face pick-up restrictions at Pittsburgh airport

Confusion over where ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber can pick up passengers at Pittsburgh International Airport prompted the Allegheny County Airport Authority to update its regulations July 1. But at present, ride-share companies are required to follow the same rules as any other non-commercial vehicle when picking up passengers at the airport, a spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

Even if the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission grants Lyft and Uber licenses to operate in Allegheny County, each would still need additional permits from the Allegheny County Airport Authority to be able to pick up passengers like taxis can.

The commercial curb at Pittsburgh International, where taxis wait for fares, and shuttles and buses pick up passengers, is designated for PUC-licensed commercial vehicles. That rule dates to the airport opening in 1992. It’s standard among airports to designate separate areas for commercial and non-commercial vehicles, airport authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny explained.

Lyft and Uber moved into the Pittsburgh area earlier this year, to the consternation of taxi companies and the PUC. The ride-share companies connect drivers in their own vehicles with passengers via smartphone apps. Despite daily proposed fines of $1,000 for each company and cease-and-desist orders, Lyft and Uber have continued to operate in Allegheny County.

And neither has yet demonstrated compliance with rules that would allow emergency temporary authority to operate in Allegheny County, but both have hearings before PUC administrative law judges later this month on applications seeking permanent operating authority.

The updated version of the airport authority’s ground transportation regulations includes provisions for ride-share companies permitted to pick up at the airport, similar to those for taxis and other commercial vehicles. Ms. Jenny said the regulations are normally updated annually each April, and stressed that the ride-share rules apply only to companies with PUC licenses and airport authority permits.

The airport’s annual fee for a regular use permit for a sedan-sized vehicle is $55; for an SUV or limousine, it’s $75; and for a bus or van with capacity of more than 16 passengers, the fee is $150.

The new regulations also include provisions for occasional use permits, which covers operators “not likely to exceed 40 trips from the airport per year.” The fees for occasional use permits are $25 for sedans, $40 for limousines and SUVs, and $50 for buses.

As it stands now, ride-share companies can only pick up passengers at the same locations at the airport that any other non-commercial vehicle can: short-term parking, long-term parking or the cell phone lot. Ride shares can drop off passengers the same as any other vehicle, including taxis, at the curbside area outside the airport terminals.

In its application to begin operating an experimental ride-share company that it calls Yellow Z, Yellow Cab specifically excluded airport trips as part of its proposed coverage area. Yellow Z is expected to be available sometime this month.

Airport access is an issue for ride-share companies in other states, most notably in California, where the California Public Utility Commission warned ride-share companies as recently as June about not picking up or dropping off at airports without proper permits. The California PUC created a new category of transportation network companies to cover ride-share operators in September, but in order to pick up and drop off passengers at airports, the companies had to have permits for each individual airport.

As of Tuesday, neither company had received permits to operate at California’s two largest airports, LAX and San Francisco International.

Even though Pennsylvania does not yet have so-called Transportation Network Companies, legislation proposed by state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, proposes creating such a designation. The bill awaits the legislature when it returns from recess in September.

Ride-share restrictions

Kim Lyons: 412-263-1241 or On Twitter: @SocialKimly.

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