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SFO cashes in on ride-hails: Uber, Lyft pay $2M per month

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San Francisco International Airport is making big money off of permitted ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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It’s no secret that Uber and Lyft’s trips are booming at the San Francisco International Airport, and those rides also bring the airport big bucks — a trend that is poised to continue.

Fees to the ride-hails ballooned the airport’s coffers to the tune of $39 million since late 2014, officials revealed at a Board of Supervisors committee meeting Thursday.

That’s $2 million in fees from Uber and Lyft — per month — straight to the airport.

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Those bucks come straight from the riders themselves in the form of a fee, according to Lyft and Uber.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Sub-Committee on Thursday approved an extension of the contract between the airport and a nonprofit, the Airport Research and Development Foundation, which assesses and collects fees from Uber and Lyft trips at the airport.

At the committee meeting, Supervisor Katy Tang praised the airport for seeking a middle-road approach with Uber and Lyft, instead of an outright ban.

Tang said SFO officials were creative for “not just saying, ‘No, we’re not going to allow the rideshares at the airport’ … to find an innovative way to make revenue from it.”

“I want to commend you for that,” she said.

The airport began issuing permits to ride-hails like Uber and Lyft in October 2014, which allowed pick-up and drop-off at the airport with a fee of $3.80 per trip, according to the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office. To facilitate those fees, airport staff created a tracking system to monitor ride-hail trips to the airport, so the fees could be collected.

That tracking system, called the application-based commercial ground transportation system (ABCT), is also licensed to eight other airports for additional fees.

The three-year extension of the research foundation’s contract to collect those fees, approved Thursday, is capped at $250,000 a year, but the firm has brought far more cash to the airport — $39,593,777 in fees.

That was a surprise to the airport, its director, Ivar Satero, wrote in a report to the Airport Commission.

In 2014, permittees managed by the foundation represented less than 37 percent of ground transportation trips at the airport, Satero wrote, but that has ballooned to 68 percent of all ground trips at the airport today.

“This high level of [permitted] trip activity was unanticipated when the agreement began in March 2015” with the foundation and tracking system, Satero wrote.

Trip data provided to the Examiner by the airport shows 20,389 Lyft trips and 125,341 Uber trips to and from the airport in January 2015.

By January 2017, those trips to and from the airport boomed to 115,469 for Lyft and 431,501 for Uber.