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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
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Shuttle Firm Drops Suit Against SF Airport

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — An airport shuttle service dropped its lawsuit claiming the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) concocted unfair rules to stifle competition after the airport scrapped plans to limit shuttle service.
     A.J. California Mini Bus dba Airport Express sued the airport's commission and director in July 2015, claiming a three-zone system for shuttle buses created an unconstitutional, "uneven playing field" that favored one shuttle service over others.
     Airport Express complained new rules enacted in 1993 forced it to share one space at each terminal with five shuttle companies while its competitor, SuperShuttle, retained exclusive rights to use two spaces at each terminal.
     The airport also let SuperShuttle offer rides to one in every three walkup customers, while Airport Express could only give rides to one in every 18 walkup customers, according to the complaint.
     Additionally, Airport Express said its competitor could coordinate directly with airport employees and loop around terminals at will, unlike other shuttle services.
     In December last year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler dismissed the lawsuit, finding the shuttle company failed to show the airport lacked a rational basis or legitimate government purpose for enacting those rules.
     After Beeler dismissed a second amended complaint with prejudice in May, Airport Express filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit.
     In its original complaint, Airport Express complained SFO stopped issuing new shuttle permits in 1993 and requested proposals to eliminate all but two or three shuttle firms serving the airport.
     On Oct. 4, the airport's five-member commission voted to abandon plans to limit shared-ride van service at the airport.
     Less than two weeks later, Airport Express voluntarily dismissed its appeal of Beeler's ruling on Oct. 17.
     SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said the airport hopes to reduce the existing curbside footprint for shuttle buses by shifting waiting vehicles to a staging lot, as it does for limos and companies like Lyft and Uber.
     "Our original approach was to issue an RFP [request for proposals] for shared-ride van services at SFO, awarding contracts to three operators," Yakel said in an email. "However, some operators expressed concerns about their ability to sustain operations if they were unable to meet the RFP requirements."
     The board elected to discontinue the RFP process and instead focus on a revised permitting process that will allow current shuttle operators to continue serving SFO while shrinking the footprint of their curbside parking spaces, he said.
     "Some of the existing companies plan to combine operations under one permit to achieve these objectives," Yakel said.
     The new shuttle permitting process will focus on continuing to serve five surrounding Bay Area counties, implementing an electronic reservation system, providing 24/7 customer service assistance, promoting alternative fuel vehicles and requesting that shuttle firms hire curbside coordinators, according to the airport.
     Airport Express' attorney, Jonathan Levine, of Prtizker Levine in Oakland, declined to comment on the dismissal.

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