CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Hopkins Airport Manager Robert Kennedy was summoned to the City Council on Monday afternoon to explain the city's unexpected turnaround over new controversial landing and pick-up procedures at the airport. airport.
Beginning February 18, travelers using commercial transportation to the airport, including Uber, Lyft, limo and private car, can be dropped off and picked up at the sidewalk terminal.
A new policy, effective January 1, required these commercial drivers to use remote pick-up and pick-up points to reduce congestion on the airport's roads.
The roads are still congested, said Kennedy at an emergency hearing convened by the city council. However, any change to the landing and pickup locations will be delayed until the completion of the Land Transportation Center in the coming year.
In the meantime, all vehicles using the land transport hub – including hotel shuttles and off-site car parks, which have been using the transport center for years – will temporarily return to the edge of the terminal. The shuttles will not come back next Monday, but at a later date unspecified, according to Kennedy; even in this case, they will stop at one specified spot on the sidewalk.
Mayor Frank Jackson decided to cancel the changes late afternoon Friday afternoon, according to Ed Rybka, the Mayor's Regional Development Chief.
Shortly after the decision was made, City Hall sent a statement to The Plain Dealer about the changes. (Note: The Plain Dealer was working on a story about changes to a story in Sunday's newspaper and asked for a comment from City Hall.)
Many board members did not learn the decision until they read it Cleveland.com Saturday morning.
Related coverage: Cleveland City Council calls for an emergency hearing to summon mayor
Frank Jackson's administration about the surprise airport policy
Rybka and Kennedy apologized to council members for failing to inform them beforehand.
"It's not that our feelings were hurt because no one told us," said Kevin Kelley, chair of the city council. "We receive calls from the public. For that to fall Cleveland.com Saturday morning without any notification to myself or to the members of this instance, especially on an issue of such great importance to this city, left me in a very bad position. We have all received phone calls from travelers who do not like the system. "
The Council approved the changes concerning airport pick-up / drop-off in October, after months of meetings with private car services and other people likely to be affected by the news. rules.
Many travelers were unhappy with the changes, arguing that the new locations were inconvenient and time-consuming, especially for older passengers and those with mobility issues.
Stephen Qua, owner of Company Car & Limousine, told The Plain Dealer last week that his business was down 40% in January as customers stopped using the service because it no longer allowed convenient access to the terminal.
In addition, Kennedy had a meeting last week with representatives from the Cleveland clinic, who were worried about patients going to and from the airport.
The changes were implemented with the aim of reducing congestion on the main airport routes. In the five years since United Airlines closed its Cleveland hub, the number of regional travelers using the airport has increased significantly. According to airport officials, traffic to get to the airport is connected to Ohio 237 during peak traffic periods.
The land transport center is one of the ways in which the airport has attempted to divert traffic from the main roads. The center, opened since 2016, was initially a temporary solution to handle traffic during a terminal improvement project.
Since then, it has become an unmissable reference at the airport – but with fragile walls, narrow aisles, insufficient lighting and no heat. The goal is to make the transportation hub a more user-friendly facility for passengers, Kennedy said.
Last month, the city received proposals from competing companies for the land transport center. In the end, once the improvements are made to the center, these commercial vehicles will be directed to the main roads again.
Diverting traffic from the land transport hub during construction will shorten the construction schedule, initially planned in stages.
Kennedy said he hoped the work would begin at the end of the summer – after the All-Star Major League Baseball game in Cleveland in July.
In the meantime, the airport will continue to charge $ 4 per trip on commercial drivers, which also came into effect on January 1. This money will be used to finance the improvement of the land transport center.
Kennedy said the airport should be able to collect the bulk of these revenues, even without the collection and removal points, which will soon be removed, and equipped with monitoring equipment to account for vehicles as and when.
The airport is in the process of purchasing license plate recognition equipment that will facilitate the surveillance of commercial vehicles. In the meantime, he said: "We will meet the industry on self declaration."
City Councilor Dona Brady suggested that all of these changes could be delayed further until the airport puts in place a new master plan, which should be started later this year. This plan, probably completed in 2021, could recommend major changes to the airport terminal, roads, parking, and so on.
"Why do that before the master plan?" She asked. "Do you have an established master plan after the fact? It does not make sense to me. "
Kennedy said the master plan would likely lead to major construction work that will not begin until 2023, at a cost of more than $ 1 billion.