While ride-share drivers have been shuttling passengers to and from BWI for years, the two-year deal approved by the Board of Public Works on Wednesday makes Uber and Lyft official transportation providers at the airport, officials said.
The ride-share firms agreed to pay $2.50 per pickup and drop-off, and the airport will establish dedicated zones — similar to those for taxis and shuttle buses — for Uber and Lyft rides. The details still are being finalized, and the new setup is expected to go into effect later this summer.
"This action will formally integrate these services into the ground transportation system at the airport," said Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. "We will establish physical zones for these companies to operate."
More than 50 U.S. airports have established such agreements, even as the ride-share companies have battled with state and local governments over driver background checks and other requirements. The $2.50 fee per ride is significantly less than the $4 fee those companies pay at Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports near Washington.
The agreement "shows we're committed to paying into the system," Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons said.
Creating clear waiting areas for rides-hare, and supporting the airport's operational costs, will "make transportation more convenient for travelers and support the airport's ground transportation operational costs," Gibbons said.
The deal will create a dedicated driver waiting lot, provide passengers with signage and allow for convenient pickups and drop-offs, said Mike Heslin, market manager for Lyft Baltimore. Lyft is offering $5 off two rides to and from the airport to celebrate the deal, with code RIDEBWI.
"By reaching this official agreement, we're able to create the best experience for our passengers and our drivers," Heslin said in a statement.
Dave Sutton, spokesman for the taxi lobby's "Who's Driving You?" campaign, said the airport deal shouldn't blind passengers to the potential dangers of ride-share.
"Despite the airport providing a committed space, passengers should be aware that Uber and Lyft are cheaper because they under-invest in passenger safety, specifically driver background checks," Sutton said.
The deal legally allows and regulates Uber and Lyft's operations, the Maryland Aviation Administration wrote in the contract request, "while providing a level playing field for all ground transportation at the Airport."