Sidecar scores permit to operate at SFO

Sidecar will be the first transportation network company allowed to operate legally at a California airport when it begins operations at San Francisco International Airport in the next 30 days, SFO officials announced Tuesday.

The airport is also in talks with Uber and Lyft to begin operating there, but so far neither company has signed a similar permit, SFO officials said.

The permit for all three companies is identical, but logistical discussions continue with Uber and Lyft, such as how to track how many vehicles are coming through the airport, SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said today.

Sidecar will be charged $3.85 for each trip to the airport, a fee similar to what taxi and limo services pay to operate there, Yakel said.

The airport first established the permitting process for TNCs in April after the California Public Utilities Commission set new regulations requiring permits at airports last year.

The CPUC previously threatened to shut down TNCs operating at airports in June, citing numerous problems with drivers caught there, including unlicensed drivers, cars without proper insurance or registration and cars operated by someone other than its owner.

Since beginning enforcement of the ban on TNCs in April, Yakel said today hundreds of verbal admonishments have been issued for drivers using the airport while not permitted and about three dozen misdemeanor citations have been issued for second offenses.

Most of those drivers were working for Uber, Yakel said.

A statement from Sidecar today did not address any particular provisions of the permit except that the company would not be able to run its Shared Rides program, a carpooling feature that the CPUC has said is illegal.

But Sidecar and SFO officials, as well as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, issued statements today hailing the decision. Lee said:

“The sharing economy was born here, and I am committed to ensuring that San Francisco supports this innovation sector’s growth and success.”

Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul said:

“When regulators and innovators work together, consumers win. … SFO is one of our most in-demand places for ride requests, so we’re excited and proud to work with them to offer riders safe and affordable travel to and from the airport.”

Airport director John Martin commended Sidecar for coming to an agreement with SFO:

“Their proactive approach sets an example for other transportation network companies to follow.”

Yakel said that with only Sidecar being permitted to operate at SFO, enforcement would continue for Uber and Lyft drivers trying to make pickups there.