Uber, Lyft challenge proposed Atlanta airport pickup rules

Yesterday, a proposal was unveiled in Atlanta that would require Lyft and Uber drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks before they can pick up passengers at the Hartsfield-Jackson International airport. Uber was quick to decry the proposal, and Lyft has now followed expressing its own similar sentiments. Said Uber, such a proposal — if it passes — would simply mean Uber would no longer operate at the airport.

The proposal aims to address concerns about rider safety and the background checks drivers undergo. Issues with the background checks and concerns they're not extensive enough have been a long-running source of criticism against such companies, and have prompted lawmakers in some cities to take steps toward ensuring passenger safety.

In this case, the Atlanta City Council will vote whether to approve or deny a proposal that would require Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo and pass a fingerprint-based background check, as well as display decals on their cars' bumpers notifying others of their affiliation, and to operate only in designated pickup locations at the airport.

The proposal would also have the ridesharing services shelling out $1.50/per ride, and $10,000 toward regulation enforcement, infrastructure, and other similar costs. While many airports have take some steps to regulate ridesharing services like Uber, none have been quite so all-encompassing and drastic. Many airports have a designated pickup area in which Uber and Lyft can operate, for example. Requiring such substantial fees and extensive background checks, however, are far out of the ordinary, at least as far as airports are concerned.

The move isn't just to protect passengers, however — it is also intended to create a "level playing field" that gives taxi drivers a fighting chance against ridesharing services — never mind that if travelers were interested in the taxies, they wouldn't be flocking to the more convenient and less expensive Uber and Lyft rides.

Of course, the flip side of the coin is that taxi and limo drivers have to obtain and pay for commercial permits, increasing their costs of operation, and they also shell out payments to the airport — not requiring the same from ridesharing services would be giving them a strong edge over the competition.

It's an issue being dealt with around the globe; residents have largely embraced the services, but taxi drivers have long been unhappy with them — in some cases rioting — and some cities have moved to ban them, at least until proper regulations are updated.

In a statement today, a Lyft spokesperson said: "While the Hartsfield-Jackson staff has recognized the benefits Lyft provides, the current plan as proposed will make it extremely difficult for Lyft to operate." The service plans to "work together" with the city to reach a deal.