NFTA to tax ridesharing trips to Buffalo airport

Posted at 8:44 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 18:43:33-04

UPDATE: The NFTA announced Friday afternoon it has agreed to new fee structures with both Uber and Lyft for ridesharing trips to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) and Niagara Falls International Airport (NFIA).

Under the new agreements, Uber will pay the NFTA a flat fee of $180,000 for one year of access to pickup and drop off passengers at the airports. Lyft will pay a $3.00 fee for each pickup and drop off. Lyft had previously said it would not operate at the aiports with a $3.50 fee.

The NFTA says these agreements are pilot programs that will last one year and be reevaluated.

ORIGINAL STORY: Ridesharing is coming to Western New York and if you plan on using the services to get to and from the airport you could end up paying an extra fee. The NFTA confirms with 7 Eyewitness News that the authority will add a $3.50 access fee for ridesharing trips both to and from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

It remains unclear at this point if the $3.50 fee will be paid for by the customer or the ridesharing company when services begin in Western New York on June 29th.

William Vanecek, The Director of Aviation for the NFTA, says this fee will help offset the revenue losses from fewer people projected to park in the airport's parking lot.

"Let's say for example that it costs $50 to park for a week at the airport, and that the Uber ride or Lyft ride including the fee is less than $50, odds are they'll say 'let's take the convenience of bringing [Uber] to the airport," said Vanecek.

In addition, the NFTA says the revenue from the ride-sharing surcharge will help the airport pay for an invisible "geo-fence" where ride-sharing drivers and riders alike can arrange pick ups.

"This fee will allow us to operate a geo-fence system that will prevent Transportation Networking Companies from unnecessarily circulating around the airport so we can minimize air emissions" said Helen Tederous, NFTA Spokesperson.

Tederous added "The $3.50 access fee is still lower than what other comparable airports are charging. For example, in Cleveland, another medium size airport is charging $4."

Executives from Lyft disagree. "The fee structure proposed by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is the 5th highest in the country, and outside of industry standards for the size of its operations. During the hearing NFTA staff justified their position to the Board with incorrect examples of other airport fee structures. We will not be able to operate at BUF under these terms."

Figures show that in Rochester, the pick-up and drop-off fee is $2 dollars -- Buffalo's fee is also higher than Denver, Houston and Pittsburgh. In Los Angeles, the fee is $4 dollars.

Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo calls the fee nothing more than greed in play. "This is nothing more than a money grab by the out of touch NFTA." "Instead for further standing in the way of progress, the NFTA should abandon this ridiculous fee and refocus on meeting the demands of public transportation for all of Western New York."

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw calls the surcharge a "hurtful fee on taxpayers," and is calling for a public meeting to discuss the matter.