Here's What You Need to Do to Take an Uber or Lyft at PDX Now

A sign stands outside an Uber drivers registration office on May 10, 2019 in Berlin, Germany.
Photo: Getty

Figuring out the best mode of transportation for leaving an airport can be tricky, especially if your preferred method is using a rideshare app. Confusion starts when you try to pin yourself to the correct location, and continues as you wait to be connected to a car, then try to actually spot it, and finally navigate multiple lanes of traffic to get to your driver, a process that is often excruciating for all parties.

Uber and Lyft both announced new systems this week for riders departing from Portland International Airport. These are intend to streamline the process by setting a designated area where riders can wait for a driver—much like they would wait in a curbside line for an available yellow cab. Instead of getting paired with individual drivers, riders will put their destination information into their preferred app and get a four- or six-digit PIN, depending on whether its Lyft or Uber. After that, they’ll join a line of riders waiting for the next available driver. When it’s a rider’s turn to take a car, they will give that PIN to their driver, who will punch in the code and start the ride.

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Here’s a condensed step-by-step guide to this new system, which, if successful, will likely see rollout at other national airports:

  • Load up your preferred app
    - For Lyft, select a standard Lyft ride
    - For Uber, select an UberX ride
  • You will be provided a four-digit (Lyft) or six-digit (Uber) PIN
  • Head to the pickup area and hop in the correct line
  • When it is your turn to take the next available car, present your PIN to the driver
  • Be courteous and tip your driver

That’s it! To catch their cars, riders will head to a specified pick-up area near arrivals. Both companies say they will have personnel present to help riders navigate these directions after spending many hours trapped in a metal tube. (I imagine the workers will also be there to maintain some semblance of order.)

Spokespeople for Lyft and Uber told Gizmodo by email that their drivers do not see a rider’s route prior to confirming pick-up, and the same code of conduct applies for drivers operating under this new system as it does regularly, meaning drivers are not supposed to deny rides based on destination. (Lyft discourages cancellations outside of specific circumstances, while Uber considers cancellations based on the destination a breach of contract.)

We’ll see if this system results in a smoother process than frantically scanning license plates and dodging cars in traffic, but it sounds like it has promise. Uber says it sees “enormous potential” for the application at airports. That said, Uber also acknowledges that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and not every airport will be a perfect candidate (for example, a smaller airport or one with limited curb availability). But Lyft recently tested the system at San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 2, and a spokesperson said the option should be available for the public soon, which seems to be a good sign.

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As for the rest of us? We’re stuck with the old system for now. The process mostly involves deep breaths, panicky scanning, and possibly tears. Hang in there.

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