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Uber, Lyft pilot project at Pearson Airport is ‘unfair,’ taxi industry representatives say

The pilot project will now permit Lyft and UberX to pick up passengers from Terminal 1 and the airport’s arrivals level at “ride app pick-up” designated areas.

Chloë Ellingson/The Globe and Mail.

A new pilot project that will allow passengers to be picked up at Toronto Pearson International Airport by a ride-sharing service gives companies such as Uber an unfair advantage, taxi-industry representatives said on Tuesday.

“It is a floodgate that is going to destroy our industry,” said Kram Punian, executive director of the Airport Taxi Association, following the announcement of the pilot project by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Pearson.

The pilot project will now permit Lyft and UberX to pick up passengers from Terminal 1 and the airport’s arrivals level at “ride app pick-up” designated areas, according to GTAA spokesperson Maria Ganogiannis. Ms. Ganogiannis said via e-mail that passengers at Pearson were previously only able to order premium ride-share services such as uberBlack, Uber’s licensed limousine service. Following Tuesday’s announcement, “all options may pick up and drop off,” she said.

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Concerns, however, are arising from the Greater Toronto Area taxi industry, who say Uber and Lyft were permitted to pick up passengers at Pearson for many years prior, despite not having the appropriate license needed to operate on airport premises.

“They’re not branded, they’re not marked,” Rita Smith, who has worked in the taxi industry for more than 30 years, said of ride-share cars. “The [airport] commissioner doesn’t have any way of knowing whether that’s your mother or father picking you up from the airport or an Uber driver.”

In order to be authorized to pick up airport passengers, Mr. Punian said taxi operators must pay fees to the GTAA and the City of Mississauga, as well as ensure their vehicle meets the requirements set out by the airport authority.

“It is not a fair playing field,” Mr. Punian said. He added that it has not been disclosed to him by the GTAA, Uber or Lyft on whether ride-share companies are subject to the same rules and regulations that taxi companies are in order to operate within airport premises.

Uber Canada spokesperson Xavier Van Chau directed questions regarding the financial details of Uber’s agreement with the GTAA to the airport authority. Ms. Ganogiannis said an airport fee would be part of the ride-share price structure.

In a news release, the GTAA said the launch of a ride-sharing pilot project follows “significant” demand from airport passengers.

“We believe that a pilot of full ride sharing options is timely at Toronto Pearson, and in line with other airports across Canada and the U.S. already offering this service,” Scott Collier, vice-president of customer and terminal services at the GTAA, said in the release. Ride-share services are already offered at Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal and Calgary airports.

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Ms. Ganogiannis said work on the pilot project began in the fall of 2017 and the GTAA has been “collaborating and consulting with the industry for over nine months now.” Mr. Punian, however, says the Airport Taxi Association was not part of the consultations.

“They’ve completely ignored us for the last two and a half years,” Mr. Punian said of the GTAA. Carley Smith, spokesperson for the City of Mississauga, said via e-mail that the city’s enforcement division was not consulted either, but that the GTAA has full authority over who operates on its premises.

The pilot project will be continuing for 18 months, Ms. Ganogiannis said, during which the GTAA will “collect information, measure impacts and gather passenger feedback.”

She added that taxi and limousine drivers will continue to operate out of designated pick-up areas at Pearson and will “retain existing pricing and fee structures.”

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