Looking to jump the security queues at the airport? Elite status with a loyalty program or premium cabin tickets can often do the trick. Some airports will sell that benefit as well. At Boston’s Logan Airport another option now exists: Travelers who take the bus to the airport can access a special priority lane, reducing their wait at the TSA checkpoint. It is one of several changes that Massport, the airport authority, is implementing in hopes of reducing traffic and creating a more efficient passenger flow.
The fare on MBTA buses from Back Bay to Logan dropped by 60%, to just $3 as part of the move. Travelers who use that bus will also receive an orange priority coupon that allows them to skip to the front of the TSA ID check line when they get to the terminal. Massport hopes to more than double the number of riders of its bus service in and out of the airport over the next five years to 4 million passengers, a move that will be necessary to maintain the airport’s passenger growth numbers without overwhelming the roadway infrastructure in and around the terminals.
The increasing congestion is negatively impacting the airport roadway, the tunnels and Rte. 1A. This is the best plan for the long-term sustainability of Logan Airport, by reducing the traffic for all airport passengers, as well as the residents of our surrounding communities. This will be subject to review as we move forward.– Massport Board Chairman and Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis
While the new security treat and expanded bus options acting as carrots to shift passenger habits Massport also has a stick or two in play. Uber and Lyft passengers will now pay more for access to the airport and find that their rides are generally a little less convenient. As part of the new plans a thousand parking spaces in the central garage will be repurposed to serve as a consolidated TNC pick-up and drop-off facility. All riders leaving the airport with one of these services will so from the new location rather than the trio of existing pick-up lots.
Additionally, all passengers taking Uber or Lyft to the airport will be dropped at the central facility except between 4-10am when arrivals traffic at the airport is lower. Those passengers will also see an increase of $3.25 on their fares as Massport adds a drop-off fee for those rides; a similar fare already exists for pick-ups at the airport. In an effort to increase ride-sharing riders choosing Uber Pool or Lyft Shared will only be charged $1.50.
Not surprisingly, Uber and Lyft lobbied strongly against these policy changes, but to no avail.
The airport says 12 million passengers used TNC services in 2018, six times the number of riders that used taxis. That number is expected to grow to 15 million in 2019. Adding the $3.25 drop-off fee will bring a significant revenue boost to Massport, but the agency says the moves are about more than raising cash. As Massport Acting CEO John Pranckevicius points out, “Our goal has always been to move more people in less vehicles while providing a better customer experience, and we think this plan achieves that.” The group also notes that the revenue generated will go towards supporting other high occupancy vehicle operations. Presumably some of it will also offset the reductions seen from fewer travelers parking on-site. After all, the agency would not give up 1,000 parking spaces if it wasn’t good for business.
The centralized facility will be climate controlled and protected from the weather while delivering better lighting and improved wifi service. It will also offer wheelchair assistance, baggage check and Sky Cap facilities. The baggage handling aspect will be necessary to offset the fact that passengers will now be significantly further from the check-in counters when getting out of their car.
Massport also expects that the centralized facility will allow for more drivers to drop off a fare and pick up a new one in a single trip. Such rides, known as deadheads, represented 5 million rides at the airport in 2018 according to the agency. The new layout hopes to cut that number by 30%.