A Lyft "glowstache" rests on a dashboard of a car at the company's San Francisco headquarters on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

‘Rideshare’ drivers brace for possible New Year’s Eve bust

As this week proves to be slow-going for Uber and Lyft drivers alike, some are fearing a repeat performance of last year’s mostly sluggish New Year’s Eve.

Last New Year’s Eve “rideshare” drivers in San Francisco agreed: The night was a bust.

No one could pin down the cause, but Uber and Lyft drivers had guesses: Fear of surge pricing (what Lyft calls “prime time”) perhaps scared riders off, Flywheel’s flat-rate deal perhaps drew some riders to taxis, and Muni’s free buses likely netted more than a few passengers.

Also, many noted at the time, the lure of huge profits due to surge pricing drew many more Uber and Lyft drivers than usual, drivers said, flooding the streets with “rideshares” even in the face of dwindling ridership.

The speculation over tonight’s possible New Year’s Eve profits played out on Uber and Lyft driver forums, on Facebook, and in interviews with the Examiner.

One Tuesday post to UberPeople.net was titled “soo..slow..,” referring to this week’s slump in ridership. UberPeople.net is a public forum for both Uber and Lyft drivers.

One local UberPeople.net poster, kingdog, wrote “getting a good night of fares this week involved a little too much luck for my liking. eesh. hope new years even surges! [sic]”

Another member, manuella, who is based in San Francisco, wrote “today was the least I have earned in as long as I remember, Monday as well.”

Member soupergloo, also in San Francisco, wrote “I’m hoping NYE will make up for the lack of money I’ve made so far this week…it’s dead today.”

Others speculated that Muni’s free rides would again eat into rideshare profits. Member Leroy Jones wrote “I am staying home for (New Year’s Eve).”

Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen told the Examiner “New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year, but we are committed to keeping safe rides affordable and reliable even during the busiest times.”

To help passengers she wrote the Examiner in an email, that Lyft is maintaining its standard Prime Time cap of 200 percent through New Year’s Eve – that means no extravagant “surges.”

Uber did not respond to requests for comment.

Uber and Lyft both sent out emails to riders to prepare them for New Year’s Eve.
Lyft’s email included such recommendations as “Get in the Spirit” and “#DeckYourLyft like a Golden Fistbump winner.” Uber’s email to riders merely said “To avoid the highest fares, catch a ride just after midnight or have your app notify you when Surge Pricing drops.”

Some drivers wrote in open forums that Lyft has a $40 an hour guarantee for drivers between 7 and 11 p.m., and $45 between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. New Year’s Eve, but the Examiner was unable to confirm this deal with Lyft before press time.

Lyft and Uber competitor Flywheel, which is an app that hails traditional taxis, re-launched its #SurgeFreeNYE hashtag and advertising campaign which touts its surge-less prices. “what you see on meter is what you pay,” the company wrote in a recent tweet.

Even though he said “a lot of drivers aren’t going to drive because of what happened last year,” Uber driver Eric Barajas told the Examiner he’ll give New Year’s Eve driving a shot anyway.

“I’m going ot try it tonight and see what happens,” he said, “But man, it’s not lookin’ to good so far.”

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