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Security stands by as ride-share rolls at airport

Business impact on shuttle, taxis as Uber and Lyft take off unknown

Makalapua Bancaco searches for a ride on her phone via the Lyft app Friday morning at Kahului Airport. The Lahaina woman and her husband were among the first to catch a ride on the launch of legal Lyft and Uber pickups at Neighbor Island airports. -- The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KAHULUI — Security officials monitored for potential confrontations between taxicab and ride-share drivers during the first legal day of pickups for Uber and Lyft at Kahului Airport on Friday, while local airport ground transportation companies said the impact on business remains unknown.

“The main reason we’re here is due to any confrontation,” said Blake Takayama, head of airport security. “We will be monitoring for a while to ensure things go smoothly.”

Just over a week ago, the state Department of Transportation issued a decision that allowed transportation network companies, or ride-share companies, to start pickups at Neighbor Island airports — including Kahului and Kapalua airports on Maui — beginning Friday. The announcement came less than two weeks after scores of Kahului Airport taxi drivers held a demonstration to protest what they say is lack of state and county oversight of companies that effectively operate as taxis.

For the start of Uber and Lyft pickups Friday, Kahului Airport rolled out new ride-share signs near the main elevator and at the end of baggage claim. Also, there was a new sign to designate the ride-share curbside pickup location, located directly before the taxi staging area, “so it’s a level playing field,” said Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz.

“We’re not happy with it,” said airport taxi driver Sun Ko. “We’re very slow right now.”

Kahului Airport taxi driver Sun Ko opens her vehicle for passengers Friday morning. The taxi staging area averaged fewer than half the pickups of Lyft and Uber over a span of two hours Friday morning. -- The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“They’re picking up right there,” she added, pointing toward the neighboring area. “I don’t think it’s right.”

Takayama said he reminded a handful of noncompliant ride-share drivers Friday morning that they are required to display company stickers on the front or back window and that they cannot idle or park near the pickup area, referred to as staging, as taxi drivers are allowed to do.

“Some people are staging, but they don’t know the rules yet,” Takayama said.

Uber and Lyft had more than a dozen pickups between 8 and 10 a.m. Friday, which was noticeably more passenger traffic than the nearby taxicabs. The airport experiences highest passenger volume from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Moniz said.

A Lahaina couple, who returned from a trip to Las Vegas and Oahu, were among the first passengers to use the ride-share area Friday.

“I think it’s a great option,” said Makalapua Bancaco, who was heading via Lyft to Kahului with husband, Cornelio. “You have an option to take a shuttle, the option to take a taxi, the option to take Uber or Lyft.”

Keali’i Pimentel of Kahului, an Uber and Lyft driver, made multiple airport passenger pickups Friday morning.

“It’s been awesome,” Pimentel said in reference to work as a ride-share driver, adding that he’s been with Uber and Lyft for about a year.

The arrival of Uber and Lyft pickups at Kahului Airport adds to the airport ground transportation of more than 120 airport taxi drivers, shuttle services and the Maui Bus.

Roberts Hawaii officials said the ride-share impact on business remains unclear at the moment. The company has the sole shuttle contract with Kahului Airport, and Robert’s Tours & Transportation Inc. manages the Kahului Airport Taxi Service.

“I think we will probably see some type of impact, but I don’t think it will be substantial,” Gary Collins, Roberts Hawaii assistant to vice president of operations on Oahu, said Thursday. “Honestly, I’m not sure how it will play out for Maui. There was an impact for taxis here in Honolulu. . . . It kind of evened out and tapered off.

“There was a lot of hoo-ha initially.”

SpeediShuttle, a privately-owned Hawaii shuttle, tour and luxury vehicle company that started on Maui 20 years ago, said the impact will be hard to gauge because most of its business is done via prearranged booking, often for large groups, such as weddings and corporate functions.

“I don’t foresee it really hindering us,” said Mandy Bal, SpeediShuttle call center, groups and RTS manager. “It won’t impact us as bad as it probably will the taxi stands and the walk-up transfers that Roberts Hawaii has.”

Bal said that its Oahu service hasn’t been impacted “one bit” by ride-share companies.

“There’s no way one company can do it all,” she added. “Everybody gets a piece of the pie.”

Around lunchtime Friday, one-way estimates from the airport to Kaanapali were $87 for airport taxis, $72 for UberX and $64 for Lyft; Wailea one-way trips were $57 for airport taxis, $48 for UberX and $39 for Lyft, according to app prices and the state’s Kahului Airport website.

Ride-share rates may fluctuate and surge based on peak times. Maui taxi meter rates are fixed by the county.

“(Taxi) drivers are at the stand counting pickups,” Pukalani resident Nick Crowley of Maui Island Taxi said Friday afternoon. “It’s basically a TNC pickup every 2 minutes. Mind you, two out of the three options are more money for the consumer. Less of course for the driver.

“The entire airport taxi service of 129 legal operators will be gone if the county just sits and does nothing about this.”

Moniz said it’s too soon to tell how everything will shake out for airport ground transportation companies amid the arrival of ride-share pickups at the airport. He added that Uber and Lyft will report monthly to the state.

“Obviously, the taxi drivers are concerned,” Moniz said. “But there’s enough business to go around. Plus, we don’t know what the real impact will be. It’s still in the early stages.”

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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