[By Lee Davidson]
Lyft and Uber now have captured 70% of the commercial ground transportation business at Salt Lake City International Airport, its advisory board was told Wednesday.
That is up from 0% five years ago when Lyft became the first ride-share company to earn official permission to operate there.
Because of that, plans unveiled Wednesday will give those ride-share companies the lion’s share of the allocated pickup and drop-off curb space at the new terminal scheduled to open in September as part of a $4.1 billion rebuild of the airport.
Uber and Lyft will have a 510-feet-long strip of curb space, compared to just 90 feet for a taxi stand. And for drop-off, taxis must share a 360-foot area assigned to resort shuttles and limousine companies for their pickup and drop-offs.
Hotel shuttles will receive 150 feet of space, and charter buses get 200 feet.
Treber Andersen, acting airport operations manager, said the number of people using ground transportation at the airport has increased 18% a year since 2015 — much faster than the also-strong growth in airline passengers there, now approaching 27 million annually. About a third of all people arriving at the airport now use commercial ground transportation, instead of driving and parking.
Andersen said Uber and Lyft have driven that growth, literally.
“They operated at a little bit lower fare. So people who usually would use the parking facilities or rental cars started using Uber or Lyft,” he said.
Andersen noted that despite the ride-share companies taking an ever-larger slice of the market share, other taxis, rental car companies, shuttles and parking companies have also seen their business increase or remain steady in recent years.
Advisory Board Chairwoman Cynthia Miller said that without ride-share, “Our parking would have been even more inundated and overbooked.”
Andersen noted that the airport now has 594 ground transportation companies licensed by the city to operate at the airport. Many of them are one-car taxi companies allowed after deregulation forced by the arrival of the ride-share companies. But all combined, the ground transportation companies have 2,073 registered vehicles and 2,418 drivers.
Ride-share vehicles operating at the airport are far more numerous — totaling than 6,500, according to Uber and Lyft estimates, Andersen said.
The two companies have come up with new programs that have helped reduce congestion at the airport, Andersen said.
“One of them is called ‘rematch,’” he said. As drivers drop off someone “their phone will say somebody is ready for pickup right in front of you…. So they are able to use one vehicle for essentially two trips.” Uber says about 40% of driver’s dropping off passengers are able to use it to immediately pick up another ride.
The other new program is called “prematch.” The ride-share companies use algorithms to forecast when rides will likely be needed, and send cars into the area then “to reduce the time that a customer actually has to stand waiting for the vehicle.”
Finally, Andersen said the airport is exploring with Lyft and Uber possible future use of a new system used at a few airports called “fast match PIN,” where passengers line up to board the next available ride-share car.
While in line, they use smartphones to enter their destination and receive a price quote. But instead of receiving the name of a driver and a car description, they receive a number. Their driver can enter that number to receive information about their destination and leave.
When Portland started using that system, “they saw a decrease in congestion in their [airport] traffic by about 60%, so it was very successful there,” Andersen said.