Policy would require commercial ground transportation operators at airport to have permits

Commercial vehicles for ground transportation would be subject to permits and fines if City Council approves

By Kevin Canfield Tulsa World Mar 28, 2018 “It’s the Wild West out there.”

That’s how Tulsa International Airport CEO Mark VanLoh describes the scene at the airport’s curb during peak periods. With business growing, so are congestion, maintenance needs and service demands at the airport.

To address those issues and others, the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust plans to require that all commercial ground transportation vehicles have permits.“We are hoping these permits will be able to allow our police officers to enforce the curb,” VanLoh said.

The permits would be issued by the Airports Improvement Trust, which oversees airport operations. The fine for operating without a permit would be $150.

“This is the only airport that I know of that does not have this policy,” VanLoh said. “I caught it about a year ago. … So it is one of the things on my agenda to get a policy so everyone is treated fairly.”

The Airports Improvement Trust approved a ground transportation policy in February.

VanLoh briefed city councilors on the policy on Wednesday, and they will vote on the issue next week. The City Council would have to amend the city’s airport ordinance to reflect the new policy and attendant fine before it could be enforced.

The permit fees will be determined by the trust once the council approves the ordinance. The airport already charges taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers $1 per trip.

VanLoh said he’s met with the city’s hotel/motel association to present a fee structure. Under that plan, hotels would be charged 50 cents per room per month. A 100-room hotel, for example, would pay $50 a month for the right to pick up guests at the airport.

“We have been giving them a long grace period to be sure everybody is on board before we really start cracking down,” VanLoh told councilors.

Airport parking services, limousines and businesses such as Turo — where individuals sometimes take their personal vehicles to airports and rent them to people getting off planes — would also be covered by the ground transportation policy.

“It’s crazy,” VanLoh said. “Technology is just out of control. We have to try to keep up with it and make sure our police officers can see something happening and know that a person is getting into a safe vehicle.”

VanLoh said it is not unusual for airports to use ground transportation policies and the revenue they generate to help maintain facilities.

“We don’t collect any taxes. We are self-supporting, and airports get some revenue from these permit fees from the people who use the airport,” he said. “It helps them pay for the roadway repairs, enforcement, signage — things like that.”

In the past, airports could build those costs into the fees they charged airlines to use the airport, but those days are over, VanLoh said.

“They’ve stopped,” he said. “We want to keep our costs to the airlines as low as possible so they keep on coming.”