By Callie Marsalisi, news correspondent

Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies will now be transportation options for passengers traveling to and from Logan International Airport (LIA).

A bill passed by Massachusetts legislators on July 31 and signed by Governor Charlie Baker on Aug. 5 will enable ridesharing companies statewide to pick up passengers from the airport, among other regulations.

The regulations on ridesharing companies mark a new relationship between such companies and the government as the latter tries to even out the transportation playing field, according to Daniel Aldrich, Northeastern University professor and director of the Security and Resilience Program.

Taxi services have long argued that they are unfairly burdened by the regulations and licenses when they compete with such companies, which have far fewer laws governing their daily activities,” Aldrich said in an email to The News. “This legislation puts Massachusetts at the forefront of the attempts to regulate an industry that has long been criticized for being free from strong oversight.”

Previously, Uber was restricted from picking up passengers at the airport by LIA’s overseer, Massport, according to a March 24 Boston.com report. In March, Uber spoke out against a potential ban that was voted out of the bill. The ban would have also barred drivers from picking up passengers at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Summer Street.
“[W]e should be advocating for choice and competition, and we should give riders and drivers the options they have come to expect in global cities,” the company stated on its official blog at the time.

Ridesharing drivers will now have to pass two background checks. One completed by the company, the other by the state. Prior to the bill, checks were conducted solely by the company.

The bill also includes a 20-cent tax on rides to compensate for the additional safety measures and to give money which otherwise would have gone to taxi companies or back to the community. At the moment, this additional tax cannot be passed on to riders.

In addition, the bill states that drivers may not impose additional charges on riders with disabilities, and that both companies and drivers “shall not raise base fares during a federal or a governor-declared state of emergency.”

The legislation enables ridesharing companies to grow while meeting consumer expectations, said Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin.

We applaud Governor Baker for signing this common sense legislation, which sets high safety standards while supporting consumer choice and innovation,” he said in an email to The News.

Emmalee Todd, a junior behavioral neuroscience major, said that she’s not sure that the extra background check will change much, but she knows that it can’t hurt.

“Redundancy in a situation where passenger security is potentially at stake doesn’t really strike me as a bad thing,” she said in an email to The News. “I’m glad to see that Massachusetts isn’t taking the approach of banning ride-sharing services altogether, like some cities and states have done.”

Additional reporting by Alejandro Serrano, city editor

Photo courtesy Creative Commons