Hartsfield-Jackson working on fixes for Uber, Lyft pickup congestion

The line of Uber and Lyft drivers at 11:36 p.m. Thursday waiting to enter Hartsfield-Jackson’s economy lot to pick up passengers. Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

The line of Uber and Lyft drivers at 11:36 p.m. Thursday waiting to enter Hartsfield-Jackson’s economy lot to pick up passengers. Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is looking for ways to mitigate problems with Uber and Lyft pickups at new designated ride-share pickup zones.

Over the last week, some passengers have voiced concerns about the airport's new pickup areas for Uber and Lyft, which require a walk through parking garages out to the economy lots. Drivers enter the economy lots to pick up passengers and must exit within 15 minutes to avoid paying parking fees.

Some congestion for Uber and Lyft pickups continued Thursday night, a peak period for business travelers returning home and other travelers.

According to Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Andrew Gobeil, the airport was able to keep the backup from becoming as bad as it was a week earlier, when lines of drivers extended from the pickup area back into the entrance to the economy lot.

He said the airport had staff on hand to look for Uber and Lyft hangtags and direct drivers to the correct lanes. While Thursday nights have brought crowds, Sundays and Mondays are also busy periods for travelers.

Uber pasengers pay a $3.85 fee per airport pickup, which is passed onto Hartsfield-Jackson.

The fee includes the same $1.50 fee paid by taxi passengers, along with a $2.35 per-passenger surcharge for businesses like Uber and Lyft that use private background checks instead of state fingerprint checks

Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Roosevelt Council said earlier this year: “The fee was for us to ensure that we could provide the service at a very high level.”

Gobeil emphasized that the new pickup zones launched Aug. 16 are a temporary measure for the next 18 months while massive canopies are built over the curbside areas. Taxi and limo pickups are not affected.

An Uber spokeswoman said in a written statement: "While the airport has the authority to designate rideshare pick-up locations, we will continue to give airport officials feedback about challenges for riders and driver-partners and feedback about solutions for our shared customers.”

The airport is directing passengers to wait until they get to the pickup zone to request a ride, rather than requesting it while inside the terminal.

But some travelers have run into problems with getting a cellular signal out at the economy lot, preventing them from being able to request a ride and requiring them to walk back.

Hartsfield-Jackson has heard the issue and is investigating it, Gobeil said. He said the airport is "looking for ways we can, if needed, boost the signal."

The airport is also adding signs, lighting and more customer service staff to help drivers and passengers, Gobeil said.

Over the next couple of weeks, the airport plans to build exclusive exit lanes for Uber and Lyft drivers that are separated from the regularly economy lot exit lanes, according to Gobeil.

But the airport is not considering moving the pickup zones because there is not enough space elsewhere, and it is not considering extending the 15 minute grace period because it could cut into the airport’s parking revenue, according to Gobeil.

“We want to ensure the stability and security of the parking revenue,” Gobeil said. “We are confident that if the drivers and passengers follow the process... there will be no need for them to exceed the 15 minute period.”