City Councilman Sal DiCiccio assailed seven of his eight colleagues last week after they approved a sweeping set of changes to parking regulations at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
“The politicians at the City of Phoenix today passed another huge tax increase – and this one specifically targets the little guy, the independent small business owner trying to make a living,” the Ahwatukee councilman said.
Among the changes in the new regulations that council approved in a 7-2 vote are an increase to $4 for the drop-off fee charged to Uber and Lyft drivers and a new $4 fee for pickups.
Additionally, the regulations require new criminal background checks for taxi and courtesy van drivers. Rideshare drivers aren’t covered by those regulations under state law.
The airport also won a lifting of any caps on parking charges for terminal garages and the economy lots.
All the changes take effect Jan. 1.
Some Council supporters of the new regulations – notably Debra Stark – tried to fend off criticism of the new rideshare charges by noting that Uber and Lyft drivers are not required to pass them on to their passengers.
But DiCiccio ripped the fees, telling drivers who attended the meeting, “This is just the first step of many steps to take away your business.”
“You will be told constantly that this is being done for the best interest,” he said. “It’s not being done for the best interest. It’s a money grab – because that’s what the government does.”
Of those who submitted cards to speak on the issue, 69 favored it and seven opposed.
While DiCiccio urged the rideshare drivers to fight the fee and “do everything you can to stop this,” he pressed airport officials on several points.
One was related to the lifting of parking caps after Southwest Airlines employees expressed concern that what they pay for parking to go to work would increase.
“If you are an employee of the airport today, your rate will not change,” airport Director James Bennett said.
DiCiccio asked multiple times if parking fees for airport restaurant employees and other workers would change and Bennett said they would not.
The councilman also pressed Bennett and his aides on whether the airport planned to use license recognition profiling or facial profiling technology to detect rideshare drivers who have unmarked cars.
Bennett insisted under repeated questioning that the only license-recognition software the airport uses is to check vehicles parked in terminal garages.
He also said there were no plans to purchase such software.
Councilwoman Laura Pastor was clearly annoyed by DiCiccio’s persistence on the issue, at one point noting that if the airport attempted to buy either expanded license-recognition or facial-recognition technology, it would have to go through two different council committees.
DiCiccio also noted impacts on rideshare users who don’t have time to wait for a bus or the money to pay for expensive terminal parking.
“Someone rushing to get to the airport doesn’t have time to wait to for three buses and the light rail to get them to the Sky Train, and lots of people can’t afford to park at the airport – especially after we also gave the airport carte blanche to raise parking rates today as well,” he said.
Airport officials said the new fees will help fund infrastructure improvements, including upgraded Wi-Fi technology at passenger waiting areas.