Lyft, Uber secure SFO deal

Jeff Chiu/2013 AP File PhotoMany Lyft drivers that worked on New Year's Eve made slim profits

Uber and Lyft have signed deals to operate legally at San Francisco International Airport, officials announced Monday. The news comes after competing app-based ride service Sidecar signed a deal with SFO on Tuesday, the first agreement of its kind for any airport in California.

SFO received a permit agreement signed by Lyft on Friday and one signed by Uber on Monday, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said. The deal details are identical for all three transportation network companies, allowing them to pick up and drop off passengers at the airport, he said.

“When we announced the news about Sidecar, we did say we hoped this would encourage others to do so, so we're very happy that Lyft has also sent us a permit,” said Yakel, adding the same applies for Uber.

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have been granted permits as part of a 90-day pilot program, during which the airport will limit the number of vehicles from each ride service.

“We really want to get an initial look at how many vehicles this [pilot] represents on a daily basis and whether our roadways and structure we have support the business, or if we need to make adjustments,” Yakel said.

The airport started negotiations with the three most heavily used TNCs in The City last fall, when the California Public Utilities Commission first began creating a framework to regulate the ride services.

Many TNC drivers continued to operate at the airport illegally, resulting in several hundred verbal warnings and about three dozen citations.

Drivers for the ride companies will be able to pick up and drop off at the upper level of SFO and will be sharing the same waiting area with limousines at a lot near the intersection of South Airport Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue.

They will begin operations within 30 days.

Ryan Graves, head of global operations for Uber, which only has its UberX product approved at the airport, would not elaborate on what prompted the longtime deal to finally come through, but said, “It does a lot for the business, mostly in removing any kind of confusion” about hailing an Uber.

Graves added UberPool, which allows customers to share rides going in the same direction, will be allowed under its UberX platform. But Yakel said the shared service, which was not permitted for Sidecar, will not be allowed for any of the TNCs because the Public Utilities Commission currently considers the service illegal.

Lyft, in a blog post published Monday, stated: “We first began this process with the airport several months ago, and have jointly agreed to a unique framework that upholds Lyft's highest safety standards and SFO's dedication to providing innovative options to travelers.”

Lyft's deal with SFO is its second airport agreement. On Sept. 25, the San Francisco-based Transportation Network Company secured the first authorizing deal of its type in the country with Nashville International Airport in Tennessee.

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