Uber, Lyft Passenger Picks-Ups To Start June 18 At Phoenix Sky Harbor

Published: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 7:50am
Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 1:54pm
(Photo by Lauren Loftus - KJZZ)
The Uber mobile app opened at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft can start picking passengers up directly from Phoenix Sky Harbor terminals beginning June 18.

These drivers, who work as independent contractors, have been dropping off people without question for a while now because the airport only regulates passenger pick-ups. Sky Harbor recently adopted a new policy so Uber and Lyft drivers can join taxi, limo and shuttle bus drivers in the pick-up lines. But some critics worry they may not be as thoroughly vetted.

Background checks for all drivers are required, but Uber and Lyft managed to get Sky Harbor leaders to back down on the airport’s standard fingerprint background check which supporters call the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to public safety.

During Wednesday’s Phoenix City Council meeting, Councilwoman Thelda Williams joined the majority of her colleagues and voted for the new policy, but Williams also said she’s a firm believer in fingerprinting.

“I also understand that the state has stepped in and that’s not an option for us at this time," she said.

City staff told council members that state law requires name-based background checks for ride sharing services. Those checks search for convictions on robbery, sexual assault and other crimes dating back seven years. If needed, Williams says Phoenix could lobby the legislature next year to change state law. 

Background check requirements were part of an overhaul of Sky Harbor's nearly 30-year-old ground transportation policy. It also includes a new fee structure which officials say will more evenly spread the costs and help raise money for the maintenance of roads around the airport. The airport estimates taxis, limousines, shuttles and other car services cost the airport about $10 million a year in maintenance.

The fee applies only to airport pick-ups and ranges from $3.25 to $9 based on the number of seats per vehicle. The fees will be phased in beginning in January and take effect immediately for new drivers who receive permits including Lyft and Uber contractors.