One-year pilot agreements with two ride-hailing services, allowing them to offer rides to and from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, are set to expire next week. Talks are underway to extend the opportunity for passengers to hail cars provided by Uber or Lyft.
The hope is to get new deals ready by the next NFTA board meeting, scheduled for June 28. So far, the authority seems satisfied with the program.
"It has been a positive experience and really void of a lot of complaints, not that we were anticipating but we just didn't know because it was a pilot program," said NFTA spokesperson Helen Tederous. "We're not surprised but very pleased with how things have gone so far. We haven't really seen some of the problems that people had at other airports."
NFTA Transit Police Chief George W. Gast told WBFO there were some early wrinkles to smooth out early into the agreement, including instructions to ride-hailing drivers about where they could and could not operate on the airport grounds. Helping ease traffic concerns is the rule that ride-hailing drivers may not park on the grounds, as traditional taxis are allowed to do.
"You can't hail an Uber. They have to wait off airport property to be called in," Gast said. "If you're going to hail someone, it's going to be a taxi. That hasn't changed. It's been a coexistence. But I don't think either program has added to traffic issues at the airport at all."
What wasn't revealed were revenue numbers. Last summer, NFTA officials told Erie County lawmakers they anticipated losing money, perhaps up to $2 million. Tederous did not have revenue figures available but explained there are numerous factors that must be considered as all sides negotiate.
"It's more complicated than simply revenue," she replied. "A lot is involved with that. When we look at that, revenue versus what it will cost in our maintenance and operations here. It's a complex process but we are looking through that and going through everything."