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City, Uber reach temporary agreement for service at Sunport

By Jessica Dyer

Journal Staff Writer

Fliers have another way to get to and from the Albuquerque International Sunport — at least for the time being.

Uber drivers now can drop off and pick up passengers at the state’s largest airport thanks to a temporary agreement the ride-sharing company has struck with the City of Albuquerque. Signed and announced on Tuesday, the six-month deal provides the official permission the company needs to serve the airport. Uber will pay $1 for every pickup or drop-off, according to the office of Mayor Richard Berry.

That’s compared to the flat monthly fee of $1,193 that taxi companies pay to ferry passengers to and from the airport.

Despite legal issues surrounding ride sharing in New Mexico, Berry said he felt confident that the new agreement adequately navigated the situation. He said it also establishes a fair competitive climate between Uber and traditional cab companies already serving the Sunport.

“We want to be a city of innovation; we want to be a forward-thinking city,” Berry told reporters Tuesday. “Uber has contracts and agreements with cities all over the United State and all over the world. There’s no reason Albuquerque, N.M. should be in a situation where we can’t provide the opportunity for the citizens here.

“It is important that we welcome innovators into our community while setting a level playing field for those who have made long-term investments as well. We think we’ve struck a good balance on this.”

Uber has not technically been allowed to serve the Sunport because it did not have a formal agreement in place, a requirement for any company doing business at the facility, airport spokesman Dan Jiron said. However, staff could not easily enforce the ban since distinguishing Uber drivers from other vehicles is not always easy. Uber uses mobile apps to link passengers with contract drivers who use their own vehicles.

The temporary arrangement allows the Sunport to test the waters with Uber under an established framework of rules, Jiron said.

“We want to make sure it’s working properly and it is beneficial,” Jiron said of the six-month arrangement. “People want to use them; they like (Uber).

“We want to make it so they’re operating within our guidelines.”

Uber and other ride-sharing companies have riled taxi services who argue that such companies are skirting the regulations imposed on the taxi industry. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted in April on new rules to govern ride-sharing services, including requiring drivers be covered by at least $1 million in insurance from the moment a ride-sharing app is turned on and mandating drug and alcohol tests for drivers involved in accidents. Representatives of Uber in New Mexico have filed a motion seeking some relaxing of those requirements. The appeal is pending.

Lyft, another ride-sharing service, suspended its local operations in May due to the new standards.

Jiron said the Sunport’s agreement with Uber requires the company to operate in accordance with all state-imposed rules.

Journal Staff Writer Ali Stratton contributed to this report.