AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Bergstrom International Airport told KXAN that they have updated their new system for picking up travelers at the airport via rideshare apps and taxis.
The new system went into effect on November 19, forcing any traveler who is leaving the airport using a taxi or a ride share app to navigate to a parking garage beyond the main terminal and wait for their ride at a color-coded pickup area. ABIA made this change to reduce traffic congestion around the terminal.
Bryce Dubee, a public information specialist with the city’s aviation department, explained that ABIA has taken in a lot of feedback since then from drivers and passengers, leading the airport to add LED lighting around the new pick-up area, to add staff who help guide travelers to the right spot and to add signage as passengers make the trek to the separate parking garage. Dubee said that the most common pieces of feedback ABIA received were requests for more signs.
“Understandably some folks are getting used to the change,” Dubee said. “They’ve expressed some concerns and frustrations, we are working to address as much of that as we can.”
He said the change has a benefit for drivers.
“They don’t have to do any circles anymore around the terminal when they’re picking up folks and things like that, they now have a dedicated area, they can go to there,a designated ride app wait area.”
Dubee explained that only ride share drivers who are parked in the designated wait area area able to accept passengers who are coming out of the airport.
“If you’re here during some of our peak travel times during the day, you’ll notice significantly less cars on the lower level of the terminal,” he said.
But many of the passengers coming in Tuesday after their holiday travels said they didn’t realize the pick-up location had changed until they got their luggage.
Jose Lopez picked up his bags and requested an Uber while doing so as he always did, but was surprised when he was given different options: was he going to meet the driver at the red 4 pillar or the red 3 pillar?
“I was like, ‘what is this?’ I didn’t know until I saw some signs,” he said.
Lopez, who was returning from vacation in a warmer climate, was frustrated that the walk to the pick-up location had portions which were not covered, exposing him and his luggage to the chilly rain.
His advice for the airport?
“Just include more signs because it’s hard to know all the changes that are happening,” Lopez said.
Passenger Kepler Francois was less bothered by the walk.
“It was a little confusing at first, but if you follow the signs it’s easy and it’s going to make the area in front less congested,” he said.
Francois noted that he and his family depend on ride share options being available when they return to the airport.
“Yeah you know, not putting a burden on someone else to come pick you up,” he explained.
Several taxi cab drivers told KXAN they fear this new pick-up spot is impacting their business,some said that passengers have told them they’re opting to get picked up by friends instead of heading to the new location.
“The city should handle this,” said taxi driver Surrinder Gill.”This will be most difficult to handle when ACL or SXSW comes this place cannot handle that rush.”
The airport has been trying to get the word out to travelers, posting different videos to show people how to get to the pickup spot from baggage claim, if you’re exiting the terminal without checked luggage, of if you are a ride share or taxi driver
For people with lots of bags, or with disabilities or for those who don’t feel like making the walk, Dubee explained they can get to the pick up spot via a shuttle service. The shuttle picks up a short distance outside the terminal and has an average wait time of four minutes.
According to ABIA’s numbers, they have transported more than 30,000 people in shuttles to the new pick-up spot.
Dubee explained this pick-up relocation is the first part of the airport’s 20140 master plan. He added that within two to three years, the ABIA parking garage closest to the terminal will no longer exist as the terminal itself expands.
Dubee added that the need for growth comes because the airport is at capacity, he explained it was originally built to support 11 million passengers and when all the numbers are tallied up ABIA expects that around 16 million passengers passed through its doors in 2018.
“You’re going to see a lot more changes in the future as we kind of build out and expand out in that direction,” he explained.
But as for the ride share app and taxi pick-up spot, there are no plans to change how it runs or where it’s located, Dubee said.