POLL: Uber Surge – Do You Still Ride?

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I’m having a crazy Saturday here at home in Fort Worth.  The TCU/Texas Tech game means that Uber is BUSY and I have had a good day of driving so far.  I’m taking a break to watch part of the game, but it was hard to stop because this is what my Uber driver app has looked like.


Lots of surges surrounding where I live (my usual park-and-work spot is my own front porch).

An Uber surge means that the estimated demand for rides outstrips the number of cars available.  When this happens, Uber recalculates rates to increase pricing for rides until supply/demand are normalized.  The multipliers shown are how much the normal fare will be increased due to the surge.

There has been much criticism of Uber surge pricing.  Some claim that it equates to price gouging.  Others feel it skirts around regulated transport rates and does not protect consumers by transparently communicating prices.

As a driver, I’m aware that I’m picking up a fare that is on a surge  as the philosophy behind the surge is that its supposed to motivate me to get to an area that is surging, lured by the extra fares.  The theory is that fares will normalize once enough drivers take the bait – until that point, the riders with the most money (or at least desperation) get the available drivers.

For consumers, Uber has taken steps to be more transparent about surges.  If surge fares go beyond a specific multiplier, the rider is required to type in the surge amount to confirm that they understand that surge pricing applies.  It is also always possible to estimate a fare from the Uber app so if a surge is in effect, consumers can estimate what the real cost might be.

In the highest surge zone shown on my map above, the typical fare on a game day is often well below the minimum fare with time and distance – it’s not uncommon for me to drive college students on a four minute long half mile ride, so a 4.5 multiplier surge doesn’t necessarily equate to 4.5 times the normal fare.

For example, that four minute long half mile fare might only be $2.50 if there were no minimum, but its always rounded to $5.00 here.  Of that, $1.00 is always a safe rides fee in this market that does not appear to be subject to the multiplier.  So even with a 4.5 surge, the consumer might only pay $7.75 for a short ride, as our rates are always calculated by both a time multiplier and a distance multiplier.  (Some Uber markets have various policies on minimums, other surcharges, and calculation factors, so pay attention to the rates for your current market on the Uber app.)

If you Uber, I’m curious how Uber surge pricing changes your behaviors.  Sound off in the poll – or via your comments.  Me?  I’m going to go hit the post game traffic – I can’t resist an Uber surge!

During an Uber surge, do you still ride?

  • No, I'll wait or find another means of transportation. (60%, 34 Votes)
  • Yes, if I need to go, I need to go. (19%, 11 Votes)
  • Yes, but only to a certain level (i.e. 1.5x) and then no. (14%, 8 Votes)
  • Yes, but only after waiting to see if the surge goes up or down. (7%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 57

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About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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  1. Arriving New York Penn Station, 4pm on a Friday (shift change!) in the rain.

    I can wait in an hour long cab line. Or Uber with a 1.5x surge. Yes please!

    Whether I’ll accept surge pricing depends on my alternative… If I’m not in a rush, I can put something off, and the surge is significant then I’ll wait. If I’m standing outside in the rain and the surge is modest then I’ll take it.

    How unpleasant or inconvenient is waiting? What are my other transportation options? How expensive is the surge?

    The answer to whether or not I’ll pay a surge is always “it depends” … on the factors above… in other words, just like the answer to most things it’s “at what margin?”

  2. You guys say you are travel bloggers but repeatedly use uber. They always charge more. Makes no sense. If u guys are really pros then you would know how to EASILY find cheaper reliable drivers with nice private cars that will come pick you up. EVEN in ny.
    I can pay $30 for one of these compared to $50 for uber.

    • Ah, if only I got to travel to NYC regularly – tons of black cars. But the key point here is that on the weekends when I’m home, I *drive* during peak times for UberX, which IS cheaper than any black car service here in DFW. Yesterday I made $300 driving around my own neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas for the TCU/Texas Tech football game thanks to those crazy surges. I’m not sure where a reliable black car in NYC was going to help me out there – but if you know of one that will pay me $300 on a Saturday, I’m all ears. (It’s a great way to monetize a car that sits at the airport 200 days a year… and pay for house repairs!)

  3. i really only use Uber if I need to get to the airport. Never encountered a surge pricing, but if I need to get somewhere and I don’t wait to wait or bother anyone, I will pay the surge price. Uber is great with lots of promos so I wouldn’t be against paying a surge price.

    Side note, I can’t believe people wouldn’t want to walk 1/2 mile…

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