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