92K people picked up from Sea-Tac Airport with Uber, Lyft in 1 month

92K people picked up from Sea-Tac Airport with Uber, Lyft in 1 month

A photo taken in late May shows a crowded ride share pick-up area in Sea-Tac Airport's garage.

New Port of Seattle numbers show more people are now turning to ride-share pickups from Seattle Tacoma International airport than taxis.

Ride-share companies and the Port of Seattle implemented a pilot program in April 2016 after months of negotiations. Latest numbers show just how in demand Uber and Lyft services have been over the last year: 92,000 people used a ride-share service in April 2017, with the 60,000 taxi pick-ups reported in the same month, according to Port of Seattle records.

“We knew it was going to be popular, but the numbers are a little higher than we thought they would be,” Sea-Tac spokesman Brian DeRoy told KIRO 7 News.

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DeRoy attributes the trend to the popularity of ride-shares and more people using the airport, where passenger traffic is up 10 percent.
Public transit and light rail use among Sea-Tac passengers is also slightly up, DeRoy said.

“Bottom line: More people are using the airport and more people are using ride-share than ever before,” he said. “Instead of having (a) buddy take you there, you think, ‘I can take an Uber pretty easy rather than bothering my friend.’ So you take a ride-share.”

The numbers may not be surprising to anyone who waited in the dense crowd of the pick-up area, located in the third floor of the parking garage.

KIRO 7 reported in November that on one of the busiest travel days of the year, more than 100 customers were waiting in the garage for ride-shares or taxis. Additionally, at the time, ride-share cars were contributing to a bottleneck area near the garage as other cars right toward arrivals and departures.

Port management has since streamlined this area, made the pick-up area bigger for ride-share vehicles and passengers, and made other adjustments.

“We’ve made improvements in the ride-share area with more signage, [and more] signage closer to the direct area where people go [in the parking garage],” DeRoy said. “We’ve added benches, and numbered parking spots. So instead of waiting and looking for the car, since they all drive Priuses, your driver can tell you, ‘I am the one in spot #18.’”

As ride-share pick-ups increase month over month, DeRoy said the Port of Seattle is “continuously monitoring” the increase in ride-share numbers and will consider further changes if needed.

A spokesman for Uber Seattle told KIRO 7 News that the company is still operating at Sea-Tac under a pilot agreement.

"Airport trips are an important earning opportunity for many Uber driver-partners in and around Seattle, and tens of thousands of travelers rely on Uber to get to and from the airport every month," Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley said. "We will continue to support the Port of Seattle's efforts to improve the pickup and drop-off experience at SeaTac for riders and drivers."