Disruptive technologies are rapidly changing how the world works. Consider how ride-sharing services such as UberX and Lyft are reshaping transportation.
It should come as no surprise that after these services were allowed to operate in Minneapolis and St. Paul, there’s growing consumer demand at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Of course, some passengers already use ride-sharing at MSP, even though the Metropolitan Airports Commission has not sanctioned the services. But that could soon change. The MAC is proceeding with a public process to decide if, how and when ride-sharing services (also called transportation network companies, or TNCs) should operate at MSP, just as they do at an increasing number of major metropolitan airports.
While we applaud the effort, the MAC should be guided by a few fundamental principles: Changes should not burden taxpayers, they should be pro-consumer and they should be implemented as equitably as possible.
The MAC held a public hearing last week to discuss its preliminary plan, which could result in ride-sharing at the airport as early as this spring. Arriving passengers could hail a ride through a smartphone app that connects them with drivers who would pick them up at designated areas at both airport terminals. The existing taxi infrastructure would remain.
The MAC has drafted an ordinance that would govern operations and fee structures for the TNCs that it believes would meet its stated aims of satisfying consumer demand, creating a level playing field for commercial ground transportation providers, and promoting safety, service and accountability of TNC operators.
Not surprisingly, some of the more than 750 taxi drivers who serve the airport are not happy. A spokesperson for the Teamsters, which represents an association of the drivers, said that the issue is more the timing (drivers were required to renew their MAC licenses by early November, and some claim to be surprised by the TNC issue, although a MAC spokesman said they were given ample notice), as well as disparate requirements facing taxis and TNCs.
On Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, issued a statement calling for the MAC to delay any changes until it has conducted a review of its policies “to ensure that all regulations imposed on ride services companies at the airport are fair, balanced, and justified.”
A delay may indeed be wise, but only if it serves the purpose of leveling the competitive playing field. But clearly there’s consumer demand for ride-sharing services at the airport, and the MAC should embrace that new reality with appropriate policies.