Sidecar, the mobile-app-based ride service often in the shadow of publicity surrounding Uber and Lyft, has become the first Transportation Network Company to be granted a permit to pick up and drop off customers at San Francisco International Airport, officials announced Tuesday.
The move is also a first for an airport in California.
Headquartered in San Francisco, Sidecar expects to begin – or “resume,” as co-founder and CEO Sunil Paul wrote in the company blog Tuesday
– operations at SFO within 30 days.
The announcement comes as SFO continues permit discussions with Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies that have been illegally providing service at the airport.
“When regulators and innovators work together consumers win,” Paul wrote in the blog. “We commend SFO for their forward thinking, and for developing a framework that will allow Sidecar to provide safe and affordable transportation to people who live in and visit our city.”
SFO granted the permit to Sidecar as part of an extended pilot program to study the impact on airport congestion, Paul’s post said.
The taxi industry, which has struggled to survive amid competition from Transportation Network Companies, had a longtime stronghold over customers at the airport. Tuesday’s announcement could change that dynamic.
“I applaud Sidecar for taking the lead in their industry with the first authorized service at SFO,” Airport Director John Martin said in statement. “Their proactive approach sets an example for other transportation network companies to follow.”
Paul hailed the agreement, but said “there is still work to do.”
Specifically, shared rides, in which a Sidecar customer is matched with a nearby rider, which cuts the cost in half. They remain banned at SFO.
Paul wrote that the airport won’t allow shared rides until the matter is resolved with the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Transportation Network Companies and considers that type of service illegal.
“The sharing economy was born here, and I am committed to ensuring that San Francisco supports this innovation sector’s growth and success,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement.
Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend called the Sidecar deal “a win for the people who live and visit the Bay Area.”
“SFO is embracing the convenience, reliability, and seamless experience that the ridesharing industry offers travelers and it is clear that the countless hours we have spent working with airport officials on a solution has paid off,” she said in an email.
Lyft spokeswoman Katie Dally said in an email that the company continues to negotiate with SFO while making inroads outside of San Francisco, specifically “striking the first such deal in the nation at Nashville International Airport.”
SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said the permit that Sidecar received was also offered to Uber and Lyft.
“They all have been given the same opportunity,” he said.
Sidecar will be allowed to pick up and drop off on the upper level of the terminals, which is typically an area for dropoffs. There will also be a remote waiting area away from the terminals for drivers who are awaiting a fare.