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OP-ED: The New Changes for Rideshares at Boston Logan Airport Hurt Passengers

SmarterTravel

As I dragged my suitcase past the dozens of purple signs and arrows pointing to the new “Rideshare App” pickup at Boston Logan, I realized everyone around me was just as confused about the new process as I was. Here’s what I experienced recently with the new Uber/Lyft changes at Boston Logan Airport. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t good.

Uber/Lyft Drop-Off Changes at Boston Logan Airport

On a recent rideshare to Boston Logan, my driver dropped me off at the new “Central Parking” area. But neither my driver nor I could not figure out where I should go to enter the terminal, since we were in a mostly vacant lower level parking garage and there were no signs pointing me where to go, only just curbside labels of Terminal A, B, and C. Once I got out and walked to the other side of the drop-off curb, a parking attendant directed me to the elevators to take me up to my terminal. After about a seven to 10-minute walk through elevators, moving walkways, and escalators, I finally recognized something familiar in the airport (an airport I’ve been to probably over 100 times mind you) and found my way to the security lane at Terminal C.

The Massport website says “For departing passengers, the walk from this new Uber and Lyft area is approximately 5-7 minutes to the ticket counter, or shorter depending on your airline and terminal.” I had a light carry-on and walk faster than average, and there is no way someone would make that walk in five minutes. There is a curbside check-in available for departing passengers at the drop-off location; however, the line was long when I walked past and passengers were being told to go up to the normal check-in lines. If I were traveling with multiple suitcases, strollers, children, or a pet, I would be extremely frustrated with this new, added inconvenience of airport rideshare. The only win for passengers with this new plan is that if you’re getting dropped off for a departing flight between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m., you can be dropped off at your terminal (but at the arrivals rather than departures curb).

Lesson learned: Leave at least an extra 15 minutes for the new Uber/Lyft drop-off at Logan if you’re coming between 10 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Uber/Lyft Pickup Changes at Boston Logan Airport

In fairness, I didn’t love the pickup situation at Logan previously for Terminal B, but as a passenger, I felt that the Terminal C lot option worked fine. The parking lot was large enough to accommodate traffic flow, it was close to the baggage claim area, and there were climate-controlled waiting vestibules. For drivers though, it was a nightmare of circling the airport until matched with a rider. There were numerous times where I did encounter long wait times for pickups at Logan, as well as increased surge prices, and have occasionally opted for a cab.

This time around, instead of the normal under-five-minute walk to the app pickup lot, I walked about 15 minutes after exiting the security area and then waited another 10 minutes for my driver to pick me up at the new lot. Along the way, I fielded at least five questions from other disgruntled passengers asking where we actually were and overheard conversations of others trying to communicate with his or her driver. The new system suggests that it will reduce pickup wait times, but tells you to wait until you’re in the designated area to call your ride. I’ll have to wait and see what the average wait times are, but from my experience, I waited just as long, if not longer than I would have before.

While chatting with an Uber driver on a non-airport ride the other day, I asked her thoughts on the matter and she said she loves the new system. The traffic flow is much better for drivers and safer overall since there is a dedicated lane for rideshare drivers to enter and exit the airport. Additionally, there is supposed to be something called “Rematch,” which matches drivers dropping off a passenger with a passenger waiting for pick-up. I’m all for providing a better experience for rideshare drivers and do hope that this streamlines the process.

Uber/Lyft Pricing Changes at Boston Logan Airport

For a while now, there has been a pick-up fee of $3.25 for individual rideshares. But now the airport allows Shared Rides, with a discounted fee of $1.50 for pick-ups and drop-offs. There is also a new $3.25 drop-off fee for all Uber/Lyft riders.

This pricing shift bumps up the price considerably on many rideshares. I live just under three miles away from the airport, and without traffic, the ride should take about 10 minutes. Typically, a cab ride leaving the airport costs about $22 (including tip) and a rideshare is about $18. This time, I was quoted for a $25 Uber fare, a $20 Uber Pool fare, a $21 Lyft fare, or a $13 Shared Lyft fare. Suddenly, the rideshare option was about as expensive as a cab ride; and, with the new long walk to and from the terminal, a lot less convenient.

I decided to go the least expensive option, the Shared Lyft, since I wasn’t in a rush. I was matched with a couple whose suitcases took up the entire trunk and back seat. My driver was unable to help me find a place for my suitcase, which meant my only option was to shove it under my feet in the front seat or cancel. That was a good reminder that sharing rides from the airport is a nice idea to save money and reduce congestion, but it’s not always realistic, as it’s impossible for drivers to know how many pieces of luggage a rider will have.

Uber/Lyft Changes at Boston Logan Airport Reactions

Both the driver who dropped me off and the driver who picked me up felt that these changes were poorly communicated and that there was no input asked of the actual rideshare companies. I noticed other passengers who were also waiting for rides having issues communicating their location and commenting on how far of a walk it is to get to the actual pickup location. Here’s an overview of the airport’s Ride App Fact Sheet, with my notes about the reality of each:

  • Ride App Fact Sheet: “By reducing congestion, we are improving the experience for all passengers and getting them to or from Logan Airport quicker.”
  • Rider Take: It took me 10 minutes longer to get to my security check-in and an extra 25 minutes to get my rideshare home.
  • Ride App Fact Sheet: “The current Uber and Lyft pickup lots were originally small employee parking lots, exposed to the elements and not designed to handle thousands of daily Uber and Lyft trips.”
  • Rider Experience: I never had an issue in these parking lots as there were weather-controlled vestibules and I felt safe waiting in an open area, close to the baggage claim area. As a solo female traveler, I don’t love the idea of waiting alone in the lower level of a potentially empty parking garage.
  • Ride App Fact Sheet: The new, dedicated pickup and drop-off area in the Central Garage will have:
    • Baggage check and Skycaps
      Rider Experience: These lines were long and people were told to go upstairs, so depending on the time of day this may work nicely or it may not.
    • Improved Wi-Fi
      Rider Experience: I did not test this, but did experience issues getting an accurate location of my driver. In looking at Twitter, it seems there is a major GPS-signal issue for drivers when they come into the parking lot and are not able to communicate with their riders.
    • Better lighting
      Rider Experience: Again, it’s the lower level of a parking garage, lighting wasn’t great, especially at night.
    • Wheelchair assistance
      Rider Experience: Did not experience this, but if this applies to you, see this section of the Massport website.
    • Increased enforcement of Ride App/TNC drivers and vehicles
      Rider Experience: I did find that having dedicated spots to pull into is safer than the old Terminal B lot, but no different than the previous Terminal A/C lots.
    • Weather-protected and climate-controlled waiting
      Rider Experience: On a freezing day in the winter, it still felt, well, freezing.

    Here’s a peek at the experiences others have had with the new system:

    For those who try to save money or time by taking rideshares to/from the airport, know that they are no longer a time- or money-saving solution (which is the whole point of paying for rideshares in the first place) at Boston Logan. And until there are more accessible public transportation options for all Boston-area neighborhoods, a car (rideshare or not) remains, for most, the only viable way to get to the airport.

    You Tell Us: What is the pickup/drop off situation like at your home airport for rideshares? What can be improved? What do you like?

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