Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Despite Fare Hikes, Uber and Lyft Drivers Struggle

Kate Conger, New York Times:

When there aren’t enough drivers to meet demand, the companies pay them more, sometimes resorting to so-called surge pricing to lure drivers to areas where demand is high. Some recent surges have made prices jump 50 percent or more, said Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. Surge pricing can be a boon for drivers, but it sometimes provokes outrage from riders, especially during holidays and large events when demand can send prices soaring.


Uber and Lyft have poured money into extra incentives for drivers, like cash bonuses for completing a certain number of rides. But the incentives do not appear to be as effective as they were before the pandemic. Some drivers said they aren’t back on the road because they are still afraid of getting sick.

Dara Kerr, the Markup:

Drivers, however, say those expensive fares aren’t necessarily making it into their wallets. Both Uber and Lyft drivers get paid for the distance and time spent on a ride. They’ll get bonus payments when there’s a surge and high demand for rides, but most of the fares passengers pay usually go to the company. Additionally, drivers say, the labor shortage hurts them too: With fewer drivers circling around, they’re having to go farther than usual to pick up passengers, and they’re not paid for that time.

Kerr shared an example from one driver:

Hector Castellanos has a locked-in schedule. Every Monday morning he wakes up well before sunrise to get ready for his day driving for Uber and Lyft. He’s usually on the road by 5 a.m., works nearly nonstop until about 5 p.m., goes home, sleeps, and then does it all over again every day until Saturday. On weekends, he allows himself time off.

In all, after expenses, he nets about $500 per week. It’s tiring, he said, but he has a system and it works for him. It did, that is, until a month ago, when Uber started tinkering with its app.

That’s about $26,000 per year for a sixty-hour work week that could be upended at any time by either of the two companies Castellanos is simultaneously working for. That is unethical.

Castellanos lives in California, where Uber and Lyft were given special treatment by voters in November to continue treating drivers as independent contractors. Uber has since pulled back on the in-app measures it took to promise drivers more independence.