Uber is matching the surge in water levels with a surge in prices for Manhattan residents who plan to use the on-demand car service in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. To keep more drivers on the road, the company is waiving its own fees and giving 100 percent of the surge money directly to the drivers.
Apparently, Uber’s NYC office took a loss by luring more drivers into their cars with extra money without passing on the price hike to customers, who complained yesterday when the company tried to reinstate surge pricing.
“So while we were mostly able to avoid higher prices the day after Sandy, the reality is that under this week’s extreme conditions, raising the price is the only sustainable way to maximize the number of rides and minimize the number of people stranded – by providing a meaningful incentive for drivers to come out in undesirable conditions,” the company explained in an email to customers.
TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook is defending the move, reasoning that “Anyone who lives in a metropolitan area dependent on public transportation knows that cabs are almost impossible to find on inordinately busy nights. Surge Pricing entices more drivers than usual to come out and work on a night like New Year’s Eve or Halloween, and keeps Ubers on the road.”
It seems appropriate to compensate the drivers for working in terrible conditions that include horrific traffic and roads that are slick with oil and littered with fallen trees. The streets in New York City really are a mess right now, even more so considering the unusually high demand for rides while mass transit is down.
But on a regular day, and even a slightly more exciting day, like New Year’s Eve — and this is something people in San Francisco may not realize — if you give New Yorkers an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Earlier this month, Uber shut down its yellow cab service in New York, citing road blocks from unions and taxi medallion bureaucracies.
But the yellow cab is not to be trifled with. Without the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to regulate the flat rate for a ride from the airport to a midtown hotel, all of our moms and dads would have to pay the “out-of-town mom and dad tax” of almost twice the regular fare just to come visit us.
Worse, rides back to Brooklyn and Queens would be the sole privilege of the wealthy, who probably don’t live there, anyway. The rest of us can just hang out in rat-infested subway tunnels until 4:00 in the morning and wait to be molested by drunk people.
As it is, I have to trick cabbies into coming to Red Hook by saying I’m “just off the Brooklyn Bridge,” but I’ve found that there are plenty of good “black” car services for getting around within my own borough. It’ll be really hard to plan for a late night at an industry event if, at any time, the rates can just triple. Adding passenger desperation to the mix is just asking for trouble.
I tried Uber on a business trip to San Francisco and found it to be incredibly helpful there, but New York is a completely different animal –a hungry, feral animal that’s been put in a cage for a reason.