Eastern Iowa Airport working on ride-hailing fees, rules

Cab operators ask for level playing field

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Airport Commission is working to address the growing presence of Uber and other ride-sharing services at The Eastern Iowa Airport.

Cabdrivers pay a fee of $350 per month for the use of a parking space near the passenger terminal. Limousine operators pay $300 per month per parking space and hotel/motel courtesy vehicle operators pay $100 per month plus $1 per room for the number of hotel/motel rooms for which the courtesy vehicle provides service.

Cabdrivers such as Christopher Griffin of Yellow Cab and Kevin Finneman of American Class Taxi, while waiting at the airport’s cab stand on Tuesday, said that ride-hailing drivers are parking in front of the passenger terminal and often leaving their vehicles to solicit passengers.

That practice violates the airport’s prohibition on vehicles parked in the terminal drive other than briefly to pick up or drop off travelers.

“Uber drivers have been coming in and picking up several times a day,” Griffin said. “Some of our drivers have the Uber app on their phone, and they can see where all the Uber cars are parked. The cars that are available show up on the Uber map.”

“A lot of the Uber drivers do not carry their signs,” Finneman said. “In some cases, I have watched them pull up and shut off their app so they do not appear on the Uber map.

“I have seen some of them pull into the taxi line behind us. We’re paying $350 a month for our space and they’re sitting there hoping to pick up a fare.”

Griffin said he pays $600 a month to insure his taxi cab because it is classified as a commercial vehicle for hire.

“Uber drivers are paying for regular auto insurance,” he said. “We carry $1.5 million of liability coverage for each passenger.”

Griffin and Finneman said ride-hailing drivers should be required to use the airport’s cellphone lot next to the administration building.

“They would show up on the Uber app as drivers available for service,” Griffin said.

The Cedar Rapids Airport Commission on Monday approved a new ground transportation category — transportation network company — to regulate ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Airport Director Marty Lenss said a monthly fee will be determined in negotiations with each ride-sharing company applying for a permit to operate at the airport.

“We’re taking a look at our rules and regulations and making sure we have parity between the network transportation companies and our mainline cab and ground-transportation companies,” Lenss said. “We want to make sure we have a level playing field for all commercial operators that come out to the airport.

“The cab companies support the changes in rules and regulations, but they want them enforced.”

Lenss said the airport will be testing the use of transponders mounted in ground vehicles that would be picked up by sensors around the airport, potentially transitioning rates and charges into a trip charge.

“We’re looking at technology as a way of creating a level playing field for all parties.” Lenss said. “That’s really what we’re after and what the commission wants to see.”

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