New York airport regulator partners with ride-share firm Via

(Reuters) - Ride-share provider Via said on Thursday it had partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide flat-rate shared trips from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, which is plagued by congestion and limited access to public transit.

The new service, LGA Connect, will run from LaGuardia to most New York City boroughs for a $15 flat fee, with trips to farther-flung Bronx and Staten Island costing $20, Via said.

That is at least half the significantly higher fees of rivals Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc, which also offer shared ride options, but generate most of their revenue through private rides.

LaGuardia has frequently been voted one of the worst airports in the United States, most recently in an October survey by research firm J.D. Power, which gave the airport's arrival and departure process the lowest possible rating.

Via’s general manager, Alex Lavoie, said in an interview on Wednesday the city had decided to partner with Via to improve the airport’s traffic problem, exacerbated by year-long construction and a growing number of ride-hailing vehicles.

“The goal is to get people out of single-occupancy rides to reduce congestion,” Lavoie said.

Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority, said in a statement on Thursday the agency was constantly looking for ways to reduce congestion and improve the LaGuardia experience, with LGA Connect offering travelers a sustainable and affordable option.

Via operates app-based consumer ride-share services in New York, Chicago, Washington, London and Amsterdam using vans through a joint venture with Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz.

Via has also struck partnerships with over 90 public transit providers worldwide, for example by optimizing school bus routes.

Lavoie said four to six passengers would share a ride as part of its LaGuardia service, with Via using its algorithm to optimize routes and group passengers in the most effective way to reduce lengthy detours.

Passengers would typically not wait more than 10 minutes before the shared ride departs, he said.

The Port Authority’s move comes at a time when U.S. cities are passing taxes to combat what they describe as increasingly clogged streets due to ride-hailing.

Uber and Lyft argue that growth in private and commercial vehicles is the main cause for worsening inner-city congestion.

The Port Authority in September approved taxes on trips to New York City-area airports.

Beginning in October 2020, private ride-hail trips to and from those airports will be taxed $2.50, and shared rides by $1.25.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Paul Simao