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Sea-Tac airport may allow Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to start picking up passengers if new rules are passed.
Sea-Tac airport may allow Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to start picking up passengers if new rules are passed. Photo via Shutterstock.

Smartphone owners needing a ride from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport may soon have a few more transportation options.

The Port of Seattle has been in negotiations with Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar — also known as “transportation network companies,” or TNCs —  and could allow the companies to pick up passengers at Sea-Tac as soon as next month.

uberxThe Port Commission will meet today to discuss the latest updates in regard to discussions with the TNCs. A memo indicates that the Port “anticipates” TNC pick-ups to start in June or July of this year.

Lyft, Sidecar, and uberX are allowed to drop off passengers at the airport but can’t pick up riders because of existing taxi regulations that only allow Yellow Cab to pick up arriving travelers. (Uber’s luxury services, UberBlack and UberSUV, use commercially-licensed drivers and are allowed to pick up at Sea-Tac).

However, an exclusive 5-year contract with Yellow Cab expires this October. But before taking request-for-proposals on a new contract — either from Yellow Cab or other for-hire transportation companies —  the Port wants to see how TNC pick-ups will affect demand and supply.

Here’s how the Port outlines the issue in the memo for today’s meeting:

It is difficult to project the market penetration for these services at Sea-Tac Airport and what impact it might have on incumbent or future ground transportation operators. In order for staff to assess the impact of TNCs, and to make those impacts known to all firms interested in bidding on the on-demand taxi contract, Port staff is recommending a one-year delay in the release of the RFP for on-demand taxi service and a corresponding one-year extension to the contract with Puget Sound Dispatch (dba Yellow Cab Taxicab Association). Staff will finalize an operating agreement for TNC operations, allowing them to pick up passengers at the Airport. Staff plans to return to the Commission in 30-45 days with a specific request for approval of a one-year extension to the contract between the Port and Puget Sound Dispatch.

The memo also notes that under the 5-year contract, Yellow Cab pays Sea-Tac a $3.67 million minimum annual guarantee or 13 percent of its gross revenues from airport pickups. The Port added that there were 815,000 total taxi trips from the airport in 2014, up 10 percent from the year prior.

The memo notes that all three TNCs have “requested access to Airport property for the pick-up of passengers.” We’ve reached out to the TNCs for comment and will update when we hear back.

As the New York Times highlighted on Monday, Uber and other competitors are trying to ink deals with airports across the country to allow pickups. The Times reported how some TNC drivers park in a nearby lot or hide their company decals to avoid detection while picking up passengers at airports with existing regulations.

This past October, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar all gained approval from officials to operate at San Francisco International Airport.


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