After facing stiff competition from ride-share services Uber and Lyft, airport shuttle operator SuperShuttle is pulling out of Atlanta.
The last day of SuperShuttle operations in Atlanta is Feb. 28. The company, which operates in more than 40 airports using its hallmark blue vans, lasted just over two years in Atlanta after launching services in November 2014.
“Essentially, there just wasn’t enough business,” said Dave Bird, president of SuperShuttle International. “We just thought it was going to be an unprofitable and undesirable situation.”
The shared-ride shuttle contract from downtown, Midtown and Buckhead to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was troubled for years before SuperShuttle arrived. A previous operator of the central business district airport shuttles shut down, then the interim operator faced criticism of political cronyism. Later, a shuttle crash involving a new operator led the airport to rebid the contract.
SuperShuttle ended up winning the contract, launching with fares of $16.50 for a shared-ride van from downtown, $18.50 from Midtown and $20.50 from Buckhead to the airport. It brought with it the promise of a brand known across the country and a more sophisticated booking system to make the shuttle service work.
But that apparently wasn’t enough to make the contract viable.
“We brought a national presence to the game and weren’t able to get enough critical mass,” Bird said. “The airport transportation landscape is changing pretty rapidly these days.” SuperShuttle has cut service in some other cities, including in Colorado, according to news reports.
The company had asked for concessions from airport officials. But the airport declined to grant those requests.
One request SuperShuttle made, which was denied, was to reduce the fees it pays to the airport annually.
SuperShuttle had submitted a bid of $455,000 for Hartsfield-Jackson’s shared-ride shuttle contract. That was about three times the minimum bid and $184,000 more than the second-highest bid.
A SuperShuttle executive said at the time that the company could operate profitable with its bid amount, because it typically charges 50 percent or 60 percent the cost of a cab fare.
Atlanta city council member C.T. Martin, who now chairs the transportation committee, warned at the time that the shared-ride shuttle contract is “not a profit-making scenario,” targeting the market in between the convenience of cabs or limos and the affordability of MARTA at $2.50 a ride. And with new competition from mobile app-driven ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, “it’s going to be even worse,” Martin said. That could prompt the winning bidder to raise concerns about contract terms down the road, he predicted then.
Uber X charges less than cabs, and has a lower-priced uberPOOL shared-ride option.
Miguel Southwell, then the manager of Hartsfield-Jackson, was optimistic back then. “Shared-ride shuttles operate profitably across the country,” he said at the time.
Another request SuperShuttle made of the airport was to expand its service area to the rest of metro Atlanta beyond downtown, Midtown and Buckhead.
When SuperShuttle launched, “the local shared-ride shuttle services wanted assurances from the airport that SuperShuttle would only operate in the central business district,” said Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie. “We kept our word and did not grant SuperShuttle the ability to expand beyond the central business district.”
The airport does not plan to seek a replacement operator for the central business district shared-ride shuttle airport contract, McCranie said. Instead, the licensed operators of local shared-ride shuttles in the rest of metro Atlanta will pick up the central business district service area, he said.
SuperShuttle said it has found alternative transportation for customers who had bookings beyond Feb. 28.
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