Boston Airport Considering Charging People to Drop Off Passengers

Boston’s Logan Airport will study charging drivers who pick up or drop off passengers. In exchange, an environmental group won’t oppose the airport adding parking.

  • Environmental groups don’t generally like parking, it means cars, cars mean pollution (they don’t like airports either)

  • But they like parking more than pickups and dropoffs, which double the number of car trips

The airport removes a bureaucratic impediment to developing parking, and if they ultimately adopt the fee they get more money too while the environmental opposition to airport growth gets to tax passengers in hopes of encouraging them to take public transit.

Copyright: boscorelli / 123RF Stock Photo

Passengers aren’t just going to object to the fee, but the fee upon a fee because drivers departing Logan either heading South or West are paying tolls (for the harbor tunnels) as it is.

This seems on face shocking to some, however businesses frequently pay an airport fee already — whether it’s taxis or Uber, or hotel or rental car shuttles. Usually passengers aren’t charged, but commercial vehicles on airport property frequently are.

It’s actually not unprecedented to charge passengers who are dropping off passengers: DFW airport’s access road has a toll and driving through in under 8 minutes costs $4. Several years ago they raised the price from $1 to $2, but gave a $1 discount for using an automated toll tag. They not only raised the price from $2 to $4, but eliminated that discount as well.

They’ve set it up with that 8 minute cutoff so that commuters using the access road pay more than passengers.

These fees are common in the UK.

Airports usually justify the fee as:

  1. Limiting congestion. If people have to pay to drive onto the airport grounds, fewer of them will do it (pushing people to car pool, use public transit, or shuttle on in a group from off airport).

  2. Raise revenue for airport investment. All they’re saying there is that it’s a source of money and they need money.

In the case of this second argument, they’re in a position to extract rents and they choose a variety of ways to do that. It’s why higher minimum wages work at airports. The capital investment has been made and is unlikely to be duplicated, so airlines and passengers are ‘stuck’ along a certain margin. Although lower cost carriers may seek less-expensive airports that are relatively nearby such as Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami so airport costs do matter.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Here’s why the environmental groups are wrong on this one. People who get rides to airports are less likely to own a car in the first place! If the environment is the concern, the activists should be encouring the sharing of cars, which is exactly what is done when a car is used to drop off a passenger.

  2. “Airport groups don’t generally like parking, it means cars, cars mean pollution (they don’t like airports either)”

    I think airport groups generally like airports. Do you mean environmental groups?

  3. I own two cars, and always get a ride to and from the airport. Usually Newark, but sometimes JFK or PHL. The fee isn’t going to change my behavior or anyone else’s. It’s simply going to be another way to nickle and dime me.

    In cases like Florida with FLL and MIA, where you have two legit options – I can see people voting with their wallets. I head down that way roughly 3 times a year, often on my way to the Florida Keys/Key West. Price/Relative comfort is always the deciding factor regarding which airport I fly into.

  4. if airports are truly concerned about pollution, they should be :

    – capping total flights
    – capping greenhouse pollution per passenger
    – adjust their landing fee structure to be progressively more punitive on older gas guzzlers
    – adjust their landing fee structure that favors more widebodies and penalizes necessary 50-seat and 76-seat RJs
    – build a frequent and reliable rail system

  5. Given that the vast majority of Massachusetts residents claim that they wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more for , I think they wouldn’t have an issue with this.

  6. Sometimes when I’m picking up a passenger I have to make a second loop. Would I have to pay a second fee? This could lead to congestion in pickup areas.

  7. Lax needs this desperately. So does SFO. I would gladly pay $5 per drop off to cut down on the number of cars clogging the loop

  8. That’s going to be painful for a lot of people. If you’re coming from downtown, you already get hit with the $3.50 toll for the Ted Williams or Sumner. Granted, you can avoid this by using the Callahan Tunnel, but it’s not as convenient.

  9. *Something* needs to be done about traffic at logan. It’s totally insane. Busses double and triple parking to let passengers off (because there are already lines of cars single and double parked in the bus stops) has become the rule and not the exception. I watched an impertinent BMW force it’s way through a line of people disembarking a bus just last Saturday. It’s a total free for all and someone’s going to get killed.

  10. Some of the thoughts and the comments are incorrect about Logan. As of last October with the launch of the overhead gantry toll collecting, every vehicle in either direction through the tunnels now pay, so taking the Callahan (the oldest of the tunnels) isn’t free. You just don’t stop for a toll booth. The Ted Williams (the new one) used to only be returning to the city with a toll but now they get you both ways, on the Boston side.

    The airport is not on a rail line but does have one of the least used MBTA rapid transit train lines – the Blue Line – with a stop close by that you can take a free shuttle from. Ideas on developing a few other transfer points from other rapid transit lines would be one of the uses of this new windfall of monies, but with the MBTA that could be decades off. The Big Dig gave us the Silver Line with an electric bus until it is about to enter the tunnel for the airport but then it turns to diesel is incredibly poorly thoughts out and nowhere near capable of the necessary capacity. Buses like Logan Express from the suburban lots do one swing through the airport to drop off passengers and only then another swing through to do the pick ups. Dozens of US airports have monorails or trams that do the same – offload first then pick up. The Logan Silver Line buses mix at each stop so you have a couple dozen trying to get off with bags all as dozens more try to climb on with their bags. It’s nuts and would not be difficult to solve if there were only a few more buses to put on the route, but that is added cost. Logan is in high growth mode and needed the parking decades ago. It needs even more public transportation but when so many Logan-bound flights arrive hours late and well after all public transit including the suburban Logan Express buses have finished up for the day, there are no options other than driving.

  11. Did I read this correctly? The “fee” goes to the Enviornmental Group? Since this is a fee collected on a public facility, it’s a tax. And since when is a NGO empowered to collect a tax and since when can they hold the airport (which receives Federal funding) hostage? This is infuriating. If they get away with this, look for it to come to an airport near you too.

  12. This fee is earmarked for projects that help with the environment, like transit improvements. There is a $1 per attendee and $1 per vehicle parked during consumer shows (car show, boat show) at the state-owned Boston Convention & Exhibition Center that does go to a private group (community group) but this Logan tax on cars is not as punitive. But still uncalled for. The environment group has been behind creating gridlock at Logan for decades by challenging parking lot and parking garage expansion since the 1970s. If Logan had the right number of parking spaces you wouldn’t have all of the airport gridlock as people try to find parking and drive from one lot to the next.

  13. When “environmentalists” stop flying all over the world to conferences discussing how horrible the internal combustion engine is, especially in private planes, I may start paying attention to their opinions.

    I predict a long wait.

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