Taxi companies: Uber, Lyft should pay at airport

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Uber or taxi? You can catch either ride service at Tampa International Airport.

In terms of price, however, you'll notice at least one big difference: the cost of a taxi fare is almost double the price of the same trip in an Uber or Lyft.

There's a reason for that. Cabs, limos and buses all have to pay a fee to operate curbside, and their contracts are costly. Tampa's Yellow Cab pays roughly $35,000 each month just to pick up passengers at TIA.

An estimated 19 million passengers travel in and out of Tampa International each year, and cab companies are paying for that traffic. Their contract with TIA requires cab companies to pay about $4 per passenger, regardless of whether or not they even take a taxi.

Right now, ride share companies like Uber and Lyft pay nothing. Cab companies say that's not a fair fare.

"Either make all of the ride share industry pay the same fee by airplane passenger or don't charge any of us. It is that simple and that fair," Yellow Cab CEO Louis Minardi said in a statement.

"They're all starting to complain and rightfully so. It should be a level playing field," said Hillsborough County Commissioner and Aviation Authority Secretary Victor Crist. "At this point the cab companies are paying for something that the ride share companies are not and that's not fair. We're going to try to level the playing field so that the airport gets what they need to cover the costs of the airport and the vendors that make a profit off the airport get what they need in order to compete and fairly do business."

Ride share agreements already exist across much of the country and in other Florida airports. In Miami, Uber users pay a two dollar surcharge, in Palm beach, it's $2.50, and it's an extra $4 on top of your fare if you catch an Uber at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The company says it's completely open to paying a similar fee at TIA. 

But there's a catch.

In addition to charging fees, at least one member of the Aviation Authority wants to require ride share companies to install new technology on every vehicle operating at TIA. 

"The way that Uber and Lyft work is off the app and not off of a meter," said Crist. "We're going to have to set up a bar code reader at the airport and Uber and Lyft and other ride share companies will have to have a bar code in their window so that when they come through the reader reads them."

Uber says that requirement would be a no-go. The company says it doesn't have to install special technology in its vehicles at any other airport in the country and it's not about to start in Tampa. Uber says it already tracks its own vehicles and offers routine audits of its data to the airports where it currently does business.

"At the airport, we don't generally operate on the 'trust me' system," said Crist, who says outside technology is needed to gather accurate data on how often ride sharing vehicles are actually coming in and out of TIA. 

An Uber spokesman Friday said the company is more than happy to work out a deal with airport officials and local regulators, but is asking they keep fees and requirements reasonable. Requiring its drivers, who operate their own personal vehicles, to install extra technology, Uber says, is not reasonable.