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New Year’s Eve a bust for some Uber drivers, Lyft drivers make it out OK

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Ride share and taxi at SFO (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Another New Year’s Eve in San Francisco meant another night of rideshare “surge” pricing for partygoers.

Many Uber and Lyft drivers were shaking behind their steering wheels fearing low profits, based on a slow New Year’s Eve last year which many drivers described as a “bust.”

Now it seems this New Year’s Eve was more of a mixed bag. Uber drivers report low profits, but Lyft drivers said they saw an uptick in passengers past 1 a.m.

Taxi drivers gave mixed reviews as well, some saying it was one of the “worst” New Year’s ever, while another taxi driver told the Examiner last night was “epic.”

On the downside for drivers, surge-pricing may have been low, according to complaints in ridehsare forums and interviews by the Examiner.

But that may also translate into a good deal for passengers, who (somewhat) avoided sky-high prices.

“Credit to @Uber_SF: two smooth rides last night, no price gouging. Perhaps Noe Valley ⟺ The Richmond was not a high demand route,” wrote Twitter user @nelson, in a Tweet.

Uber’s surge pricing and Lyft’s “Prime Time” pricing are fare increases that kick in when there are many passengers requesting rides in any given area. The prices then automatically increase in order to lure out more drivers, so supply of drivers meets the demand of passengers, the so-called “rideshare” companies argue.

Uber has been scorched in the news for spiking that surge as high as 8x on New Year’s Eve in the past. But in San Francisco last night, riders mostly avoided those high prices.

Surge pricing on Uber didn’t spike until near 1 a.m., according to screenshots shared on social media, and for most of the night the dreaded surge seemed to hover near only twice the price of a normal fare.

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New Year's Eve Uber surge near 7:26 p.m. Screen shot courtesy of anonymous Uber driver.

Some Lyft and Uber drivers vented their frustrations on UberPeople.net, a public forum for drivers.

“Been watching the map all night. Low surge prices, and a million drivers,” wrote “amp man,” a San Francisco-based driver.

“Getting stuck in a $800.00 a month car payment so I could drive for Uber has been a huge life mistake,” he wrote.

Driver-side screenshots shared with the Examiner by an Uber driver show mostly normal pricing throughout San Francisco until about 10:30 p.m., when the western and southern neighborhoods began to surge near 2x.

By midnight, The City and the outer Bay Area were all hitting a 2x surge – that’s Uber-speak for prices that were twice as high.

After 12:30 a.m. the surge started, well, surging.

On social media, Uber passengers reported surges as high as 4x. J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab, tweeted a charge of 3.7x. A USA Today reporter also tweeted a screenshot of 4x surges close to 12:40 a.m.

Lyft drivers posted screenshots to social media of a busy night past 1 a.m., with some saying they enjoyed steady business until six in the morning.

Taxi drivers reported mixed evenings to the Examiner, but many were bolstered by the taxi smartphone app Flywheel’s guaranteed tips.

“Last night was epic, best taxi shift ever,” one cabbie, Douglas O’Connor, texted to the Examiner.

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