August 12, 2015

ABQ gives Uber six-month airport trial

Uber app, Albuquerque

Effective immediately, people in Albuquerque are now able to use the ride-hailing app Uber to hitch a ride to the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Mayor Berry Courtesy Joey Peters

Mayor Richard Berry announcing the deal with Uber

Mayor Richard Berry made the announcement of a deal with Uber Tuesday afternoon, saying that its use is a “disruptive” business model and the way of the future.

“The world’s changing,” Berry said in a short press conference in the Sunport’s parking lot. “And we want to make sure those who are here can flourish, but we also want to make sure that we are a city that invites in disruptive new technologies and this is an important step for us as a city.”

The deal between the city and Uber requires that the ride-hailing company pay Albuquerque $1 for every passenger it either picks up from or drops off at the airport. Uber is also required to report its number of airport passengers to the city every 10 days.

Currently, cab companies pay a flat $1,200 monthly fee to use the airport.

Uber drivers, who work as independent contractors, must also submit to a criminal background check and abide by a zero tolerance policy for drug and alcohol consumption while on the job.

Transportation companies technically need contracts with the city in order to bring passengers to and from the airport. Berry said that the new contract, which will last for six months in a test run, “brings [Uber] into compliance with city law.”

He added that the regulations spelled out for Uber “level the playing field.”

Taxi companies have criticized rideshare companies like Uber as unfair for skirting cab regulations and operating purely on contract labor. Yet rideshare companies have argued that they’re different than taxi companies and shouldn’t be subjected to the same regulations.

In April, the state Public Regulation Commission voted to establish separate regulations on rideshare companies than cab companies. They include drug tests for drivers involved in car accidents and vehicle inspections by a licensed mechanic.

Shortly after, Lyft, another ride-hailing company, ceased operating in Albuquerque after arguing that the regulations were “exceedingly difficult.”

But the state regulations weren’t enough to convince cab companies of a level playing field. Cabbies, for example, must submit to drug tests as a condition of being hired, not only after an accident.

Three New Mexico cab companies filed a lawsuit against Uber over the regulations, which is now before the state Supreme Court.

Currently, Uber operates in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Steve Thompson, general manager of Uber’s New Mexico operations, praised the new airport agreement in a statement.

“We thank Mayor Berry for his support and look forward to connecting New Mexicans and visitors to safe, reliable, and affordable rides to and from the airport,” Thompson said.