Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has been hitting the airwaves and social media alerting the public to help stop a 200 percent fee increase for rideshare customers at the airport that the council plans to pass on Dec. 18.
“There is still time to stop this,” he tweeted. The Phoenix City Council “failed to follow state law the first time, so it is scheduled for a new vote on Dec 18. I strongly urge the other council members to think about what they are doing and pull back on this enormous tax on the public.”
The council voted 7-2 Oct. 16 to increase airport fees on services provided by Uber and Lyft, from $2.66 to $2.80 per ride to $4 and $5 per ride each way to the airport and the 44th Street PHX Sky Train Station, starting in 2020.
"Part of being the fastest growing city in the country is the responsibility to invest in our future,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said when she voted for the fee increase. “If we want to stay at the top of the pack for customer satisfaction and innovation, we have to invest in Sky Harbor.”
In part, critics argue, the city is trying to fill a budget gap needed to operate the airport ground transportation system. It only has $4 million of the $18.3 million it needs to operate the automated train connecting the terminals, parking lots and light rail station at the 44th Street Station.
“Commercial ground transportation businesses are currently paying a fraction of what it costs to operate the ground transportation program at Sky Harbor,” an airport spokeswoman told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
The airport conducted a yearlong study to determine a fee adjustment for its ground transportation system. Bringing the fee up to $8 per ride, the airport argues, is “consistent with industry practice.”
“The city wants rideshare passengers, who account for 67 percent of the airport’s commercial traffic, to pay 83 percent of the airport’s $26 million in annual ground transportation costs,” Laurie Roberts writes at the Arizona Republic. “Taxis, meanwhile, account for 13 percent of commercial traffic but would foot just 6 percent of the tab.”
Uber started a campaign encouraging the public to tell the council they oppose the fee increase. Uber argues the increase will make “Phoenix Sky Harbor among the most expensive airports in the country for ridesharing.”
Lyft sent a letter to the airport Nov. 4 saying it reviewed its options and “without an alternative path forward, we are obligated to prevent the unfair penalization of our drivers and riders by ceasing operations at the airport beginning January 2020.”
Lyft argues the fee increase “unfairly burdens its riders with a $26 million price tag tied to the PHX Sky Train, a capital improvement project that is unrelated to their choice of transportation.”
In the airport’s Nov. 6 reply, Director of Airport Services James Bennett states that the 44th Street Sky Train Station fee of $2.80 will not change. Premium curb service will increase to $4 and $5 by 2024. The city also took issue with Lyft’s claims arguing that based on its current ridership, their fee burden would be roughly $6 million.
“Just like the shops, restaurants, and services at the airport pay rent at market rate for the privilege of making a profit from airport customers, so should ride share companies,” he wrote.
But the public, and city council members were kept in the dark over this exchange, DiCiccio claims.
“The Airport hid this letter from the Council for at least two weeks," DiCiccio said. "I only found out about it because of a phone call, not from City staff. This is, at best, incompetence. More likely it was a deliberate attempt to keep Council and public in the dark."