Severe traffic congestion created by a decision to move the area where ride-hailing services pick up travelers leaving San Francisco International Airport is causing a headache for residents, drivers, officials and others.
Mayors from Millbrae and Burlingame sent a letter to executives from Uber and Lyft expressing their displeasure with the traffic backup along Millbrae Avenue and Old Bayshore Highway formed by ride-hailing drivers headed to the new pickup zone.
The congestion can result in traffic stalls as long as 30 minutes for drivers spanning from nearby thoroughfares onto Highway 101, as ride-hailing drivers queue to access the domestic hourly parking garage.
Citing fears the congestion may impede access for emergency responders in case of a crisis, Millbrae Mayor Wayne Lee and Burlingame Mayor Donna Colson implored ride-hailing executives and airport officials to ease the logjam.
“This is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately,” said the letter signed Thursday, June 27.
For his part, Millbrae Vice Mayor Reuben Holober said officials with the city and airport have discussed the issue and he is hopeful a resolution can soon be identified.
“I hope we’ll be able to work with SFO. They have been a good partner with us in looking for solutions to relieve some of the traffic,” said Holober.
Holober said he believed much of the traffic jam is caused by drivers merging from multiple lanes down to one, creating a bottleneck which ripples from the garage back into city streets.
Ride-hailing companies echoed the concerns shared by local officials and shared hope that the issue will be rectified.
“As the concerns highlighted in the letter show, only a genuine and collaborative approach can address the challenges caused by SFO’s relocation plan, which Lyft opposed since being notified of the move,” Lyft spokeswoman Lauren Alexander said in an email. “We are confident that there are alternative options that will reduce congestion and improve conditions not only for Lyft drivers and riders, but all nearby residents as well.”
Uber offered a similar perspective in a prepared statement.
“We agree with the mayors that moving almost all [ride-hailing] pickups to the garage at SFO creates unacceptable delays and have been asking the airport to reconsider its decision since we first learned about it in late April,” a company representative said via email. “We have recently had productive discussions with SFO about moving pickups back to the curb, and are hopeful that we’ll see progress on these discussions soon.”
An airport spokesperson did not respond to multiple calls and emails for comment on this article.
An earlier press release from the airport when the pickup zone for domestic travelers was moved from the curbside suggested the relocation was necessary to accommodate an uptick in popularity of ride-hailing services.
Last year, airport officials required select services to relocate with hopes of improving traffic circulation around the domestic terminal. Since the effort fell short of the traffic calming goals set by officials, the moving mandate was expanded to all drivers. International pickups remain at the same location, as do dropoffs.
In a letter addressed to airport Director Ivar Satero, Lyft business director Bakari Brock offered a variety of alternatives to moving the pickup location which similarly worked toward addressing the airport’s traffic congestion concerns.
The company also called for postponing the pickup zone relocation, partially for fear of establishing an uneven playing field in the competition between ride-hailing services and traditional taxis.
“After the summer season concludes, [ride-hailing] operations should be re-examined to determine best options going forward for [ride-hailing] and all ground transportation operations,” said the letter.
For the part of Uber, the company updated its instructions to drivers heading to the airport with hopes that planning for the new mandates can cut down some on the traffic issues.
Recognizing the prevailing concerns, Holober said the city’s authority on the matter is limited until all agencies can come together and identify a solution.
“We are trying to work with SFO on the issue. We understand there have been discussions with them, as well as the [ride-hailing] companies, but there is not much we can do in terms of relieving that congestion,” he said.
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