Martha’s Vineyard Airport will be able to charge fees to rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, similar to fees charged at larger Massachusetts airports, under a “successfully updated state law” pushed by state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, according to a press release.
“Municipal and county airports in Massachusetts have been unable to regulate ridesharing services due to an omission in state law, and were inadvertently left behind,” Cyr said in the release. “As airport passengers have shifted from utilizing traditional taxi services to app-based services like Uber and Lyft, Massport airports have benefited from the fees from rideshare companies. I am eager for Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod airports to now enjoy the same ability. These are some of the busiest airports in New England; allowing these airports to also register and impose fees on rideshare apps will further help transportation to our region run smoothly.”
According to the release, the state legislature passed a law in 2016 “establishing a regulatory framework for transportation network companies (TNC), such as Uber and Lyft.” The law allowed only Massport-operated airports to “impose a tax or fee or require any additional licenses for a TNC, a TNC driver, or a vehicle used by a TNC driver providing services to and from these airports.” The amendment, which was implemented into the $10 billion transportation infrastructure bill signed in August, will allow non-Massport airports “a limited authority to impose fees and certain other requirements on TNCs … that receive services from commercial passenger airlines.” The change closes a “loophole” that will provide “a much-needed revenue stream” for Cape and Islands airports. The release stated Martha’s Vineyard Airport was the state’s fourth busiest airport, based on 2019 enplanement numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“This legislation is about making sure the Cape and Islands are treated equally when it comes to state policy,” Fernandes said in the release. “After Boston Logan, Nantucket Airport is the busiest airport in Massachusetts, and the Vineyard and Cape airports are not far behind. Airports in our region deserve to be empowered by the state with the same rights as Massport airports. We are thrilled that this amendment will finally level the playing field for ground transportation operators.”
Uber and Lyft representatives were not immediately available to comment.
Currently, the Uber app’s map shows three to five drivers, and the Lyft app’s map shows two to four drivers on Martha’s Vineyard at a time, although it is uncertain how many or whether any of them drive for both companies.
“I highly doubt that is an accurate number,” Martha’s Vineyard Airport director Geoff Freeman said, pointing out that the airport has observed much more drop-off than the few cars shown on the app maps. Freeman added that the number of drivers will also be higher during the summer tourist season.
The updated state law brings a couple of benefits to Martha’s Vineyard Airport. One of these is compliance with FAA regulations. According to Freeman, the airport is “required to be self-sufficient on some level,” per the FAA.
“We can’t allow businesses to be doing business on airport properties without certain licensures,” Freeman said, giving an example of taxi cabs needing permits to operate at the airport.
Additionally, Freeman said Uber and Lyft “have taken business away from” the Vineyard Transportation Authority and the local taxi services for years, “without paying their fair share.” The charge on these rideshare companies’ operations can help to upgrade airport infrastructure, of which Freeman said Uber and Lyft are heavy users. “We lobbied hard over the past few years to pass this legislation,” Freeman said.
The airport is currently working with its legal counsel to create a contract, which Freeman hopes will be done in the next few months. Freeman said Uber and Lyft have been notified about this development.