Sacramento International Airport signs agreement to allow Uber to serve travelers

The ridesharing company Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, has begun service to Sacramento’s airport and pays a small fee for each customer.
The ridesharing company Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, has begun service to Sacramento’s airport and pays a small fee for each customer. Associated Press file

Sacramento International Airport has given the Uber ride-share service the green light to drop off and pick up passengers and others on airport grounds.

The airport is already served by traditional taxis, shuttles, buses and limousine services, but officials said it is time to acknowledge the popularity of new ride-share companies that contract with private individuals using their personal cars as de facto taxis. Riders summon drivers via a few touches of a smartphone app.

“This agreement gives customers an additional choice for ground transportation services at Sacramento International Airport,” said Director of Airports John Wheat.

Airport officials say they have had talks about permitting other ride-sharing companies, also known as “transportation network companies,” to do business at the airport, but have not signed any other deals yet. After initial reluctance, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and several other California airports also now allow Uber and other ride sharers to do business on site.

“Our customers have asked us and asked us and asked us to bring Uber to the airport,” Sacramento airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said. The airport had recently allowed some ride-sharing drivers to obtain permits and serve the airport, but quickly stopped issuing permits when they were inundated with requests.

Uber Sacramento general manager Jay Gierak estimated the cost of an Uber ride from the airport to downtown would be in the $14 to $17 range, less expensive than regular taxi rates, which generally are $33 or more. However, Uber employs “surge pricing” during high-demand moments, causing fares to rise suddenly and dramatically. “We can’t predict (when),” Uber spokeswoman Laura Zapata said. “It’s supply and demand.”

Consumers who use Uber also will pay an add-on fee of $1.25 or $1.75, depending on the size of the vehicle. Uber will pass those proceeds on to the airport, according to terms of the deal.

The pickup area for Terminal A will be in the taxi area north of the terminal. For Terminal B pickups, riders will meet their driver at the commercial curb on the west side of the ground floor.

The first Uber user on Tuesday was Sonia Garcia, a nurse from Mexico City, who arrived on business. “It’s cheaper,” she said. “It’s comfortable. I use it a lot in Mexico City.”

The agreement to allow ride-sharing services to operate at the airport has drawn complaints from traditional taxi companies and drivers who feel they are being pushed aside.

Officials with Yellow Cab of Sacramento, the largest traditional cab company, note that Uber and other ride-sharing companies do not have to abide by any local taxi regulations. Those include a variety of safety checks of taxi drivers, including updated DMV checks of driving records. Ride-sharing companies are regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission.

“It is a travesty,” Yellow Cab official Victor Caballero said. “This is not just about unfair competition but rather public safety.”

Yellow Cab last month launched its own smartphone app, “Curb,” in an attempt to compete with the ride-sharing companies. The app allows riders to summon a cab with a tap of a button.

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