Boston Convention Center Fights Proposed Uber Ban

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New legislation could soon ban ride-hailing vehicles from picking up passengers from the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for five years—a move convention center officials fear will have a negative impact on tourism.

The House has approved a bill that introduces a five-year ban on Uber and Lyft picking up customers at convention center properties to protect the taxi industry, which helped finance the convention center when it was built.

Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) officials say they were blindsided by the proposal and are now pushing for the proposed ban to be eliminated in a future version of the bill when it is considered by the Senate.

“[Our customers] are taking the ride-sharing companies, and if you take that away, then our business will suffer,” James Folk, director of transportation at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority told the Boston Globe. “We’re trying to get as many people here for economic stimulus and everything else, and if we lose that, we’re going to lose customers.”

The passing of the bill could potentially affect big industry groups as well as locals who flock to the 2.1 million-square-foot convention center for events, despite the fact that it boasts the fastest airport-to-convention travel time in the country (8 minutes).

One ride-hailing firm estimated that its drivers provided about 15,000 trips from the convention center properties during 2015.

Since the arrival of companies such as Uber and Lyft, taxi drivers have reportedly seen a big drop in revenue. From January to June of 2015, taxi ridership in Boston dropped 22 percent compared with the year before.

If the bill is passed, Massachusetts would join a short list of convention centers that have ban the rideshare companies, but many fear it’s the start of a trend.

Agencies in other states are working with Uber and Lyft to accommodate ride-for-hire firms in some way, rather than banning the vehicles. In 2015, Hilton partnered with Uber to provide guests with rides more easily through the HHonors app.

The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center boasts a 41,000-square-foot grand ballroom overlooking Boston Seaport, 516,000 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space and 82 meeting rooms. Other properties owned and operated by MCCA include The Lawn on D Powered by Citizens Bank, John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, MassMutual Center and Boston Common Garage.