With news of Harrisburg International Airport reaching an agreement on Thursday with Uber, the popular ride-booking service, University Park Airport is keeping an eye toward the future, but has no plans to engage in a similar deal.
Under the terms of the HIA-Uber agreement, the state’s capital airport will collect a $2.90 fee for every Uber pickup and designate spaces and pickup areas specific to the ride-hailing platform. On Uber’s side, the company will maintain $1 million of commercial auto insurance for its drivers and conduct “multi-jurisdictional background checks on all prospective drivers through a nationally accredited third-party provider,” according to a release.
UPA, meanwhile, will as of now remain free for both Uber and taxi drivers to park, provided the space regulations are followed correctly.
James Meyer, the director of the Centre County Aiport Authority and operational manager of the commercial airline terminal, said Uber drivers are allowed to park in public spaces at the airport but are ticketed if their vehicles are left unattended or parked in spaces designated for taxis. The first 30 minutes in the lot nearest the terminal are free.
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“They can use those spaces just like any other passenger coming in to pick up a family member or friend,” Meyer said. “Same difference, same spaces.”
At a board meeting about four years ago, representatives from local taxi companies requested designated spaces along the curb, a similar system to those used by other airports. Before, some drivers held signs inside the terminal while potential passengers walked by. It was a more inefficient situation, Meyer said, one that sometimes led to disagreements between drivers. To remedy the problem, the parties reached a verbal agreement in which the airport set aside taxi-specific spaces and would ticket violators.
Since their implementation, traffic has improved. The spaces are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“They feel it’s a fair system for them in trying to acquire passengers,” Meyer said.
Uber, which launched in State College in February, operates under a two-year provisional license in Pennsylvania. Riders make reservations through a mobile app; they cannot flag a driver as is the case with a cab.
Patrick Evans, the owner of AA Taxi, has noticed more Uber drivers waiting at the airport. After passengers deplane, they can check for the nearest Uber driver via the app. Neither Uber nor taxi drivers can solicit passengers at the airport, Evans said. The decision rests with the consumer.
“They’re hoping someone gets off their flight, turns on their Uber (app) and then sees them right there,” he added.
Meyer has also seen Uber service pick up at the airport. With the burgeoning market, it’s been a learning process for all parties involved. The airport has had to educate some drivers, he said, in delineating procedure for taxis and ride-booking services.
But he added UPA is not “locked in” to its current situation, and will continue to monitor how ride-booking services develop in the area.
“As the (ride-booking) business grows, we’re going to have to grow with it, or make changes to accommodate that business as time rolls on,” Meyer said. “It’s demand-driven.”
Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy