Longer walks, higher costs: New Cleveland Hopkins drop-off locations, fees irk drivers, passengers, lot owners

December 30, 2018

Longer walks, higher costs: New Cleveland Hopkins drop-off locations, fees irk drivers, passengers, lot owners

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Frequent travelers through Cleveland Hopkins may soon notice some changes in the way they are picked up and dropped off at the airport. And they likely won’t be happy about them.

Starting Tuesday, private car services and ride-share drivers will no longer be able to drop their passengers off on the upper, ticketing level of the terminal, at the door of their departing airline. Instead, these drop-offs will occur at the south end of the lower, baggage-claim level, at door 7.

In addition, private car drivers will no longer be able to pick up arriving travelers at the terminal curb. Instead, they’ll wait for their passengers in the small lot currently used by Uber and Lyft drivers, about 100 yards east of the terminal.

At the same time these new rules go into effect, the airport is increasing the fees it charges these transportation companies to pick up and drop off travelers at the airport.

“Our clients will be paying more and getting less service,” said Alexander Jagodik, the owner of Cleveland Taxi Limo. “We will for sure lose business because of this.”

These new fees – a large increase for most companies – also will be assessed on the shuttle buses that transport travelers from off-site parking lots and area hotels. Instead of paying an annual fee of $550 per vehicle to drop off and pick up passengers, private car and shuttle companies will pay $4 per drop-off and pick-up.

Taxis and ride-share drivers already pay the $4 per trip fee.

Michele Dynia, a spokeswoman for the airport, said the new fees will equalize what different transportation companies pay for drop-off privileges. The revenue will fund airport improvements – and do so without increasing airline fees, which are already among the highest in the industry.

Jagodik, who owns 11 vehicles and employs 16 drivers, said his company makes approximately 300 trips to the airport per month, for which he’ll be charged about $1,200. For the year, that’s $14,400 – more than double the $6,050 he pays now.

Chavez Properties, a Cincinnati company that owns both Park Place and Airport Fast Park parking lots, will pay approximately $400,000 to operate its airport shuttles under the new fee structure. That’s on top of the $600,000 that the company pays to Brook Park for that city’s “transient parking license fee.” (The lots are located in Brook Park.)

Said Melanie M. Chavez, a principal with Chavez Properties: “By CLE enacting the new ordinance, facilities offering competitive and convenient parking options to CLE travelers will now essentially face double taxation. The new fee assessment is a real disservice to both CLE travelers and airport parking providers.”

Jagodik said that while he’s not happy about the fee increase, he’s more upset about the changes in drop-off and pick-up locations.

Starting Jan. 1, private drivers will have to pick up Cleveland Hopkins passengers at the Uber/Lyft lot, pictured here. The lot, part of the Ground Transportation Center, is located between the lower drive and the parking garage. (Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer)  Lisa DeJong

Most of his clients are business travelers, who are willing to pay for convenience. They want to be dropped off and picked up at the terminal curb nearest their gate, to minimize the hassles of frequent air travel.

His company charges $45 for a trip from the airport to downtown Cleveland. The additional $4 will raise the price nearly 10 percent.

He recently sent an email to a list of 5,000 clients, informing them of the changes. “They were livid about it,” he said. “Instead of making it easier for Cleveland to conduct business, the airport is making it harder.”

Frequent traveler Bruce Miles of Broadview Heights said he started using a private car service several years ago, during the Hopkins’ remodeling project that routed off-site parking shuttles away from the terminal curbside. “Now they are mandating these private limo drivers drop off at the same location as the off-site parking lots,” he said.

“Why do they want to make the airport less traveler friendly? I guess I’ll be hiring my neighbors, friends and family for rides to the airport now.”

Airport officials say these changes are necessary to decrease the number of vehicles on the roads in front of the terminal.

As local airport passenger traffic has grown in recent years, the roads in front of the terminal have become increasingly congested, sometimes backing up onto Ohio 237.

“The roadway is too crowded and we expect another 400,000 people on the roadways next year,” said Dynia. “Moving the transportation companies alleviates the road by redirecting 350,000 trips to the Ground Transportation Center.”

Officers direct traffic as cars gather to pick up travelers on the lower drive of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. On January 1, 2019, commercial drivers such as Uber and limousines will have to drop off and pick up passengers only at designated spots and not at curbside because of heavy traffic. (Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer)  Lisa DeJong

Read more: City Council OKs $3 million in improvements to Cleveland Hopkins Airport transportation center

City Council OKs expanding $4 transport fees for commercial dropoffs, pick-ups at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Unlike off-site parking and hotel shuttle buses, rental-car shuttles still use the main terminal curbside. Carmel Conlin, owner of Carmel’s Cleveland Car Service, believes those shuttles clog up the roadway more than private drivers do.

Family and friends dropping off and picking up travelers, too, are much more likely to linger in the roadways than commercial drivers. “I don’t sit there and park. Our clients text once they have their bags and are ready to walk out the door,” she said. “I’m the least of their worries.”

She’s concerned that her older clients with mobility issues and families with young children won’t be able to easily negotiate the extra walking to and from their gates.

A few days before Christmas, she drove an older couple, headed to Arizona, to the airport. “I’ve driven them for years. They’re in wheelchairs,” she said. “How are people like this going to navigate the airport, make it up the escalators with baggage, or make it to the Uber lot with bags when they cannot really walk themselves? I have no idea.”

She noted that she frequently transports passengers to the Detroit and Pittsburgh airports, both of which allow private drivers to drop off travelers directly at the terminal curb.

Cleveland City Council approved the changes in late October, at the request of Airport Director Robert Kennedy.

The fee increase is expected to raise about $1.8 million a year, which will be used to pay for improvements to the Ground Transportation Center. The center was erected during the terminal-remodeling project leading up to the Republican National Convention in 2016. Initially planned as a temporary solution to construction-related congestion near the terminal, it has since been made permanent. The city is currently seeking bids to improve the center, adding wider corridors, heat and other amenities.

New drop-off and pick-up locations at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Long-term, the airport may seek to expand or re-route the airport entrance road to accommodate more traffic, according to Dynia. A major evaluation of airport infrastructure, including roadways, will be included in the facility’s new master plan, which is expected to get under way next year.

Kennedy has said he is committed to keeping airline-related costs down at Hopkins, which has some of the highest aviation fees in the country. Instead, he is working to raise revenue from non-air services, including parking, retail and advertising.

Though owned by the city, the airport is independently funded and self-sufficient -- no local tax dollars support its operation.

Jagodik, the owner of Cleveland Taxi Limo, said it’s not fair to overburden local small business owners in favor of large, international corporations.

“They’re doing this so the airlines don’t have to pay,” he said. “Why are we subsidizing these huge airlines?”

Meanwhile, Chavez, with Fast Park and Park Place, promised that service will be not affected by the new fees. “Our primary concern has been and always will be to get our guests to and from the airport as quickly as possible, regardless of this new trip fee,” she said. “We are evaluating how this fee will impact our daily parking rates, but bottom line, our service will not be negatively impacted.”

Cars gather to drop off passengers for their flights on the upper drive of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. On January 1, 2019, commercial drivers such as Uber and limousines will have to drop off and pick up passengers only at designated spots and not at curbside because of heavy traffic. (Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer)  Lisa DeJong

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