Getting to and from Logan Airport by Uber and Lyft will change Oct. 28, when the Massachusetts Port Authority rolls out the first phase of a plan to shift all of their pickups and most dropoffs to the Central Parking garage.
On that day, Uber and Lyft pickups from Terminals A and C will move to a dedicated area of Central Parking from the weather-exposed sites that are now used. On Nov. 4, pickups from Terminals B and E also will be moved to Central Parking.
Curbside dropoffs by the ride-app companies will be allowed at all terminals until Nov. 11, when changes begin to kick in for that process, said Jennifer Mehigan, a spokeswoman for Massport.
The plan to reduce traffic congestion at Logan, where Uber and Lyft accounted for 12 million vehicles in 2018, will mean more walking to and from Central Parking. But the plan includes an exemption for people with disabilities, who will be able to bypass the garage and continue to be picked up and dropped off curbside by Uber and Lyft.
Passengers with disabilities, such as the blind, deaf, and those with other physical and cognitive handicaps, will be able to declare themselves disabled on the Uber and Lyft apps when they request a ride, Mehigan said. Such “self-identification,” she said, will allow drivers to avoid the pickup and dropoff restrictions.
“Both Uber and Lyft really stepped up to the plate, from our perspective. They helped solve the problem,” Mehigan said.
Private vehicles, taxis, and limousines can continue to pull up to the curb at Logan, where 40 percent of travelers arrive and leave by Uber and Lyft, according to Massport.
David D’Arcangelo, state commissioner for the blind, applauded the policy for travelers with disabilities.
“What impressed me most about Massport is that this is really an integrated approach that they’ve taken,” said D’Arcangelo, who sat on an advisory board that discussed the changes. “They’re trying to build in considerations for all of their users, and that includes people with disabilities.”
D’Arcangelo said the option to identify as disabled is important, both for those who need the help and for those who choose not to classify themselves that way.
“It’s all about leaving it up to the person with disabilities whether they want to identify or not,” D’Arcangelo said. “For people who don’t want to do it, that's fine. It’s a choice that’s going to suit their need.”
Lyft officials said they remain concerned about the larger issues around curbside bans, but that reaching out to people with disabilities is important.
“We are glad to have worked with other stakeholders on solutions that preserve convenience and reliability,” said Tyler George, New England regional director for Lyft.
George said 55 percent of its riders in Boston use Lyft to get to the airport, and that the company has worked for weeks to inform its drivers about the changes.
Mehigan acknowledged that drivers can abuse the changes by pretending a passenger has a disability and proceeding directly to the curbs.
“We certainly will be looking at the data and, if necessary, investigating drivers who are abusing this,” Mehigan said. “If a certain driver continues to drop off passengers at the curb, that may call for that driver to be looked at and talked to.”
Passengers also could take advantage of the system, she said.
“Certainly, we can expect some abuse,” Mehigan said. “But at the same time, we have to rely on the honesty of people. It’s very similar to the handicapped parking space or the handicapped stall in the restroom.”
Although all pickups by Uber and Lyft will be moved to Central Parking by Nov. 4, the changes for dropoffs will continue into December. On Nov. 11, ride-app dropoffs at all terminals between the busy hours of 4 to 10 a.m. will be shifted to lower roadways at arrival areas. During the rest of the day, curbside dropoffs at departure entrances will continue normally.
On Dec. 9, however, all ride-app dropoffs outside of the 4 to 10 a.m. window will be shifted to Central Parking. A temporary exception will be at Terminal C, where every ride-app dropoff — regardless of the time of day — will be moved to the garage while a construction project is underway.
Massport will post signs in the airport to point passengers toward the ride-app area.
About 5 million Lyft and Uber vehicles traveling to and from Logan were empty last year, because they had dropped off passengers or were picking them up, Massport said. The new ride-app area in Central Parking is designed to shrink that number dramatically. Now, a driver dropping off a passenger will be able to connect with an arrival there. “This means only one vehicle is needed to service two passenger trips,” Mehigan said.
Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.