It’s no secret that traffic in East Boston has become unbearable. It’s also no secret that Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft heading to and from Logan Airport are contributing greatly to the problem.
With 12 million trips last year Massport Acting CEO John Pranckevicius said this week Uber and Lyft need to be better regulated when coming and leaving airport property.
“What we are seeing are 12 million trips to and from the airport but they are only dropping off or picking up seven million riders,” said Pranckevicius during a phone interview Tuesday.
These remaining five million trips are what the industry calls ‘deadhead’ trips or trips that do not include a passenger when arriving or leaving Logan.
“This is when a TNC ride generated somewhere else and ends at Logan but then the Uber or Lyft driver leaves the airport without a picking up a passenger and heads into the neighborhood or surrounding area looking for another fare because they don’t want to get back in line and wait for another fare at the airport,” explained Pranckevicius. “It also goes the other way. This is when a trip generates at Logan but the car arrives empty. So we are trying to figure out a way to make it more efficient.”
Pranckevicius said the growing congestion at Logan is significantly impacting passengers and the surrounding communities.
“The bottom line is we need more people to get to and from the airport in fewer vehicles, and we think we can do that with these new strategies,” he said. “This plan is better for our customers, better for the community and better for the environment.”
Making it more efficient, Pranckevicius says, would mean in a perfect world the passengers arriving at Logan are dropped off and then the TNC driver would pick up about another fare at the airport. On the flipside Pranckevicius would like to see more TNC arriving at Logan with a fare whose destination is Logan instead of empty.
According Pranckevicius, Massport officials are currently in discussion with Uber and Lyft about specific TNC initiatives like implement rematch and shared ride so TNC’s are not arriving or leaving Logan airport; making change to the TNC fee structure; implementing new Logan Express (LEX) and HOV Initiatives; a revaluation of Logan Airport parking rates; and find ways to optimize TNC operations at Logan.
While these discussions are ongoing Massport aims to move all TNC pickups and drop offs to the ground floor of the Central Garage by the fall. By doing this, the TNCs can implement better rematch and shared ride options.
“By moving these operations into the garage, it will be easier for a TNC driver dropping off a passenger to match with a waiting pick up passenger,” said Pranckevicius. “Passengers will have a shorter wait time to be picked up, in a weather-protected area and will have the option to take a Massport-discounted shared ride, such as uberPOOL and Lyft Shared. TNC drivers will wait less time between customers, and experience less congestion on our roadways.”
Another goal is to improve Massport’s LEX operation. According to Massport LEX is the seventh largest transit system in Massachusetts with four suburban locations in Braintree, Framingham, Woburn, Peabody, and Back Bay. Since 2009, LEX ridership has increased by 67 percent–from 1.1 million riders to 1.8 million. The goal is to increase annual ridership to 4 million.
The stations in Braintree and Framingham are the most popular with more than 740,000 and nearly 580,000 riders annually. Under the new plan, Braintree will increase service from two to three trips to Logan per hour starting in May. Parking capacity at both Framingham and Braintree locations will also be increased. Beginning in May, the LEX pick up and drop off site in Copley Square will move just outside the MBTA’s Back Bay Station. This new location provides easy access to the Orange Line and Commuter Rail. Riders will also benefit from a discounted fare plan– $3 for trips to Logan and free from Logan to the Back Bay Station beginning May 1.
By next year, a LEX curbside service will be available for commuters at North Station with connections to the MBTA’s Green and Orange lines and the Commuter Rail. The fare will be $3 going to Logan and free from Logan to North Station. Other LEX locations are also being considered.
Pranckevicius said these major initiatives are expected to eliminate up to three million vehicle trips off the roads, and double LEX ridership while improving the customer experience and reducing emissions.
Massport’s board is expected to vote on the plan at this month’s meeting.