The Phoenix City Council recently voted to increase fees on ride-sharing services at Sky Harbor International Airport by 300 percent – an action that one attorney says directly violates the Arizona constitution.
"To add insult to injury, they didn't increase it for anything [that's] related to ride-sharing service," says Jonathan Riches, director of national litigation at the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute. "They increased those [fees] to pay for a sky-train that these users don't use and that the city had improperly budgeted."
Indeed, the airport argues that the new fee structure should "incentivize" use of the PHX Sky Train and, as well, cut down on the traffic congestion.
The city's action in December both imposed an entirely new drop-off fee of $4 (increasing to $5 by 2024) and increased the existing pickup fee at Sky Harbor from $2.66 to $4 (also increasing to $5 by 2024), effective February 1. According to Riches, that will make fees for ride-sharing services at the airport some of the highest in the country.
"Because the city council did this, the ride-sharing services said 'We're going to pull out, we're not going to provide service anymore because this is not fair to us, it's not fair to our drivers or our passengers,'" says Riches.
A notice on the Sky Harbor website says it "has not been formally notified that either Uber or Lyft will cease operations on a specific date." Should that happen, though, Sky Harbor International – one of the largest airports in the U.S. – would be the only major airport in the country that doesn't have ride-sharing services provided to customers who want to use it there.
"It was decided by a few left-wing local politicians and it's going to have repercussions for the entire state of Arizona," says Riches. "So, I think a lot of people are offended by this – they're offended by the policy and they're offended by an illegal action by the city."
Seattle recently raised trip fees on ride-sharing services, using the increase for "things like light-rail and alternative modes of transportation," according to Riches.
"[But] Phoenix just decided that this was a money grab and they went after it. In fact, they went after it in a way that directly violates Arizona's constitution," he contends.