San Francisco Airport Wants to Make Uber Less Convenient, More Costly

San Francisco airport has a new plan to help taxis and punish both Uber and its riders.

The airport already charges Uber $3.80 for both picks and drop offs, $7.60 for a roundtrip, while taxis don’t pay anything to drop passengers off and $5 for pickups. Put another way Ubers doing airport runs pay 50% more.

Taxi Cabs in Arlington, Virginia

Now instead of curbside dropoffs and pickups the airport wants to force Uber to use the top floor of the hourly garage. In its own version of Newspeak San Francisco airport calls this “express drop-off and pick-up.” Some passengers will call is distress drop-off and pick-up,

Top floor parking is open to weather conditions, but “customers would get picked up at the end of the enclosed walkways,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel. “Exposure to rainfall would be about the same as being curbside.”

Anyone wanting to still get curbside service would pay an additional fee, which isn’t imposed on taxi rides. It may ‘only’ be a dollar each way, which would move the gap between taxis and Uber to as much as 100%. And the $1 adds up since Uber and Lyft are convenient enough they now represent half the vehicle traffic at the airport.

It’s not that long ago that San Francisco airport was arresting Uber drivers – or that the DC taxi commission was leaning on me for speaking out again corrupt regulators.

(HT: Mark C.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. San Francisco and surrounding cities are generally governed by self-described Progressives who take it upon themselves to declare who is favored and who is not. If you don’t kiss the ring on their hand, to put it nicely, they will go after you anyway they can. That’s why Uber is in the position they are in. And a new ruling from the state Supreme Court will make matters worse for them. But they will absolutely succeed because they have a better product at a better price.

    Driving is a mess due to their policy of “road diets” (I am not making that up) that punish residents and visitors for the crime of driving. People with cars are barely tolerated so they can pay all the costs instead of grown men on bikes paying their fair share.

    If you value your sanity, find a tourist destination that wants you and your wallet, instead of just your wallet.

  2. SFO is already inconvenient to go to and navigate ( bus drop off totally not helpful if u have luggage )now more inconvenient and more $$$$to be picked up in a nice car vs a crappy cab!!

  3. This will have zero impact on pushing people to taxis. Avg cost from SFO to Mission District in a UberX is $28.50. Avg in a cab is close to $50.

    This is much less of a push to help people use cabs as it is as a cash grab for the city.

  4. San Francisco and Los Angeles are plagued by Uber and Lyft. The streets are becoming congested with these terrible Uber & Lyft drivers. They disobey traffic rules and are unsafe due to sleep depravation with the excessive hours they work. They need to be more expensive to push people back into using public transport.

  5. Anything that keeps Uber and Lyft vehicle numbers down from the arrival and departure terminals at SFO is a good thing. The traffic jam ups on the ramps are egregious now. Something needs to be done to whittle that down.

  6. @Art : you definitely sound like a sore-loser who can’t afford the richest-per-capita metro in the whole nation

  7. Ride sharing needs to go away. I hate making room in someone’s trunk for my bag and I hate sitting on dirty seats. And that was all just at SFO…

  8. Fuck all the haters in the comments above. Fuck them in the ass.

    Using Lyft or Uber carpool I can get from SFO curb to the front door of my SOMA apartment for $10-15. That’s barely more than the $9 public transit fare.

    I don’t mind walking a bit to a less congested pickup spot, as long as it’s rain-covered.

  9. I agree, SFO is full of these UBer Lyft guys blocking the road. Make them get picked up elsewhere so they are not causing all these traffic jams

  10. @ Gary — I am 100% in favor of SFO (and really, most airports) forcing uber/lyft pickups away from the terminals as they cause horrible traffic congestion. People will whine about having to walk, but most people could use a little extra walking (myself included).

  11. @Nick

    If you are a resident of LA area, please tell me where I can find public transportation to LAX from Orange County or Long Beach that I may not know of.

    LAX is congested beyond belief, Uber Lyft have their own designated spots I have seen no additional congestion that wasn’t there before.

  12. @Gary — As someone who lives in the SF Bay Area and knows a little something about what’s going on…

    You’re right, Gary, in that the City and County of San Francisco IS trying to help taxi drivers and punish Uber (and Lyft) drivers. Not too long ago, San Francisco made the drivers buy medallions and “promised” the drivers they’d be worth thousands more than they paid! Many drivers had to take out loans to purchase the medallions which, back in the 170s cost $20-25k but by this century cost some $250k or more! When Uber and Lyft came around, the medallions were all but worthless, and the credit union that financed them foreclosed many of the loans.

    With SFO shifting Uber, et. al. to the top floor of the parking garage, they are doing the exact same thing that LAS is doing — they pick up in the short-term parking garage, too.

  13. I’m a fan of ride sharing, but I recognize that ride share pickups have an inherent problem that cabs don’t. With cabs, the first taxi in line picks up the first passenger in line, and with a dispatcher to control the flow of cabs from the holding area to the curb, it’s pretty efficient in terms of curb space.

    With ride share, a car is paired with a specific driver. And despite instructions, many passengers call for a car before they are curbside, as they are exiting the plane or waiting for bags, which leaves the cars waiting. At airports with limited curb space – CLT is a good example – the waiting Ubers sit at the curb, block pickups by other Ubers, and block lanes of traffic. When things get busy, it’s a real mess.

    I think the system at MSY works great. There’s a designated area in the parking garage for ride share pickups. It’s covered. Compared to getting a cab, you do have to cross several lanes of traffic and walk another 50 yards, but it’s still pretty close. And there are a couple of dozen spots where the driver can wait for you if the car arrives before you do, without blocking traffic or other pickups. For dropoffs, those are allowed curbside, the same as if a friend were dropping you off. I’d love to see other airports implement a similar system.

  14. For getting into the city BART is faster and more convenient than driving. But since so many people in SF don’t actually live in the city, it’s not at all a surprise that ride sharing is so popular.

    Maybe they should think about making BART more useful instead of trying to prevent people from getting a ride?

  15. I think this is a great idea. They should maybe even consider putting them all the way at the car rental to which there is an easy train.

    Look at Vegas, the pickup for both people and uber/lyft is in the garage, on different floors. Leaves the terminal streets fairly free from traffic.

    I think all airport should have an off site car rental facility, off site uber/lyft and extremely good treansportation (monorail) to those. Especially since US airports for the most part do not have public transport.

  16. @M.O. —> The fallacy with BART (which I *do* take to the airport frequently) is that it’s *not* a subway system in the sense of the New York City subways, the London Underground, Paris Metro, etc. It isn’t even on a par with the Chicago “L” or the Boston “T.” Its original design was solely to funnel workers into downtown San Francisco and home once again — and given that Marin and Santa Clara Counties opted out of the plan, the effect was to reduce traffic on the Bay Bridge and compete with CalTrain. Subsequently, plans were added to extend BART to SFO and, later, OAK; but nothing has changed that original purpose.

    So, yes, BART might encourage ride-sharing regarding Uber, etc. if one is going out to lunch or dinner after work, *or* if (e.g.) one takes BART into SF from the East Bay but needs to go to Fort Mason or Golden Gate Park. But if one’s destination is downtown SF, AT&T Park, or either airport, BART is easy, convenient, and does just fine*.

    * Especially is one is traveling with just a carry-on.

  17. Don’t really have a problem if the goal is to get cars off the roads and people on to BART. If that was the case, they would charge $5 or whatever for pickups /dropoffs from 8am-7pm. Charging the fees all day is just a money grab.

    I lived walking distance from a BART station in the East Bay. Found myself taking an uber home from the airport pretty frequently since it is faster, and still pretty cheap at $40-50. Never even considered during the cab days when it was $80-120 from SFO to Walnut Creek.

  18. $1 is too little. Even a $5 tax wouldn’t change anything, at least not immediately. People are so conditioned to think “Uber” or “Lyft” these days that even a $1 fare hike won’t make a difference. The problem with SFO and LAX is that public transportation in these cities just doesn’t serve the needs of the people and ridesharing is a better solution to this geographic area’s problem than the current public transportation system can offer in California.

    I for one wouldn’t bat an eye to pay $24 instead of a $23 fare into downtown. Honestly, the money will just be misused by government organizations anyways…

    Also, the article says that the gap between Taxis and Ridesharing is creeping to 100%. That’s just airport fees. Taxis still cost a lot more than Uber/Lyft for the service provided.

    I think it’s an overall dumb idea.

  19. In addition to the limited coverage/routes that BART provides, the other ‘negative’ to utilizing it (as a form of public transportation) is the actual cost. When they extended the line to include the airport stop (moving it from a nearby one that required passengers to take a shuttle bus, similar to what one had to do at JFK before AirTran trains were build), they added an additional ‘surcharge’ baked into the cost of the ticket vs. going into/out of other stations. Tack on the frequency of the trains and your have a less than convenient option vs. ride sharing.

  20. It amazes me just how terrible SFO is at their ride-share pick-up/drops-offs. It is a self-made zoo. They for some reason force pick-ups on the departures level. This creates extra chaos exacerbated with the way airlines bank flights. For example if you are landing around 9pm just as folks are showing up to be dropped off to check in for red-eye flights it is a complete and total zoo on the departures level.

    They need to do two things to alleviate the problem. One, open up the garages as they plan to do, and as many other airports currently do to much success (see LAS and SEA) and two they need to allow pick-ups on the departures level outer curb where taxis currently operate. It is the most empty curb of the entire airport and would help relieve congestion greatly of having departures and arrivals all congested together on the same floor. Even SJC just down the road is smart enough to realize it makes no sense to push all pick-ups and drop offs together.

    I find it hard to believe that Uber/Lyft are at all responsible for the congestion. They are replacing rides that were already happening. It’s one thing to argue about congestion in a city but for an airport, you always had people doing drop offs and pick ups. I do not believe the data at SFO supports parking congestion is at all reduced because you now have Uber and Lyft operating — the garages are still full and still exceptionally outrageously priced. You just have idiotic policies forcing pickups and drop offs to the same levels and more congestion due to more flights/passengers.

  21. With the current trend, Taxis will be gone in 3 years. Why not ban taxies from the airport now.
    I would be happy to pay 25% more to go uber and not a taxi,

  22. @Bob Taylor- ith the current trend, Taxis will be gone in 3 years. Why not ban taxies from the airport now. I would be happy to pay 25% more to go uber and not a taxi,

    OK, so I will ask the question that no one seems to ask. Are you happy to pay 25% more for Uber because your company reimburses you?

  23. My complaint is when UBER uses software to charge different rates based on drop off location(s) & credit card type. My companion uses Visa card and I, an upgraded Amex card. Standing w companion @SFO. He requests ride to/fm same location(s). He gets $28 fm SFO>SF city ctr (same exact addresses). I make request 30 seconds later and get $35. (And I always get $32-35 for this route whereby my companion pays no more than $30 ever). Totally not fair. (algorithms @work).

  24. Ride-sharing is causing an awful lot of congestion at SFO – now worse than it’s ever been, with the entire departures level frequently gridlocked all the way back to the freeway. Hope this helps.

  25. Actually, this makes sense and is actually not that inconvenient for riders coming to/from Terminal 3. Dropping off at the top level of hourly parking is a way to avoid slow traffic past terminal one and two around the ring road if you are dropping off at the United terminal three. After exiting the freeway, you can drive right up a direct ramp from the roadway level to the top level of the hourly parking garage. I’ve asked people dropping off to do this before when traffic was heavy not the circle , so that they don’t have to do the slow traffic in the counterclockwise loop entering on the right side at terminal 3 heading over to terminal 1 in the past, but they are not permitted to do this.. I think this is a great move for dropoffs. There are walkways on the top level heading across the road to the top level of terminal 3, so its not too inconvenient.

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