Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Tucson Airport Authority: Common Sense Transportation Regulation

Here’s a shout out to the Tucson Airport Authority, operator of the Tucson International Airport. Officially, only taxi and livery services that held a valid contract with the authority could pick up passengers at designated curb locations; off-site street cabs and livery companies for years picked up pre-arranged rides by parking in the short term parking lot and meeting their passengers in baggage claim. With the growth in the number of off-site livery services and taxi providers, the authority deemed that this informal process was no longer acceptable, as the possibility for abuse grew through solicitation of passengers at baggage claim for passengers (if anybody has traveled through any New York area airport, you know how irritating this solicitation by “gypsy” cabs could be).

The TAA could have played this straight by the book and prohibited every transportation provider from picking up at the airport except the contracted providers. But the TAA realized there must be good reasons why off-site providers were picking up at the airport, including:
  • There are times when flights come in and there are very few or no airport taxis available, so frustrated customers have looked to other providers for reliable pick up services
  • Many passengers coming into Tucson are elderly and prefer door-to-door assistance with baggage, something that generally cannot be provided by the airport taxi and livery providers
  • The overall supply and demand does not warrant increasing the number of permitted vehicles to pick up the slack if off-site providers were banned from servicing the airport
In other words, the TAA recognized the value, the flexibility, and the customer service that these off-site providers offered, and that the airport’s value proposition would be diminished by banning off-site providers. They realized a solution by listening to all parties concerned, including airport employees, contracted transportation providers, and off-site companies.

The solution: Instituting a permit process that allows qualified off-site providers to obtain a one-time permit for each pick-up, allowing the provider to park just beyond the airport taxi curb, enter the terminal to meet the pre-arranged ride, and escort them out to their vehicle. Each provider must provide the name of the incoming passenger and their flight information when obtaining the permit. While not perfect, it is a very workable solution. This is a win-win situation for everyone: airport providers need not fear illegal solicitations on-site, off-site providers can retain their present customers, passengers can keep their choice of transportation services, and the TAA realizes some additional revenue from permit sales, while maintaining standards for transportation services and minimizing liability concerns.
The TAA’s handling of this issue reflects a common sense attitude, and is one that should be an example for any governmental authority that is considering any regulation or change to operating procedure. As one off-site cab driver that offers pre-arranged pick up services at TIA, I want to personally thank the TAA for their approach to resolving this issue.

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