Cities and airports look to develop best practices for rideshare pick-ups and drop-offs

By Brian Lutenegger

The demand for ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft is exploding in many U.S. cities, particularly in larger cities where households are less likely to own a car or drive to work. In high-traffic locations with limited open curbside space, pick-ups and drop-offs can create safety concerns for passengers and both safety issues and congestion for drivers and other street users such as bicyclists. Double parking, mid-street loading, and blocking bike and transit lanes are common results of the increase in ride-hailing, and cities are beginning to experiment with solutions.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, have all begun to move toward designated pick-up and drop-off zones in one or more popular commercial corridors.

Fort Lauderdale worked with Uber to identify pick-up and drop-off hotspots on Las Olas Boulevard, a popular nightlife area. During peak traffic periods, the city will convert 18 parking spots into designated locations to pick-up and drop-off passengers. When a grace period ends, rideshare drivers may receive a fine for noncompliance.

Washington, DC, is testing a similar program in Dupont Circle, which reserves 61 parking spaces for pick-ups and drop-offs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, which maintains the area, made the request to the city for these new restrictions. The city worked with the police and Department of Public Works in the design of the zone. The city’s use of such zones during special events also informed the design. After a year, DC will evaluate the success of the pilot before deciding whether to expand to other neighborhoods.

San Francisco is also planning a similar pilot of designated curbside spots. Under this program, passengers being picked up or dropped off will be notified by text of the exact location. Police there found that between April 1 and June 30 of this year, 1,723 out of 2,656 traffic violations were issued to ridesharing vehicles. The city has identified locations in eight neighborhoods where the program is proposed. There will also be a data-sharing component of this partnership requiring the ridesharing companies to hand over coveted data about its operations such as the number of drivers on the road.

These zones are seen as a way to combat issues created by rideshare vehicles, but they also benefit rideshare drivers as pick-ups and drop-offs can be challenging.

However, these pick up areas are not limited to busy commercial districts in the heart of cities. They are already commonplace at many airports. A number of U.S. airports have also designated Uber and Lyft as official airport transportation providers and provided them with zones for pick-ups and drop-offs. For example, Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) created such an area over the summer. The companies will pay a fee for each rider arriving at or departing from the airport and will include a waiting lot for drivers as well as signage for passengers.

Over time, cities will likely develop best practices including how the ridesharing companies will compensate the city for lost parking revenues. Airports will also further refine their practices around ridesharing vehicles. And as autonomous vehicles become prevalent, these pilots could serve as a precursor for how cities regulate their movements to pick up and drop off passengers on demand.

SSTI has previously written about NACTO’s Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism which includes the recommendation for better curbside management such as designated pick-up and drop-off zones.

Brian Lutenegger is a Program Fellow at Smart Growth America