Cab drivers decry Patrick’s proposed ride-share regulations at hearing

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Beyond the Uber Surge: How to Get Around on New Year’s Eve.

The rideshare giant expects to deliver 2 million rides on New Year’s Eve — which would be Uber’s busiest night ever, the company said in an email announcement. With better than 2 million riders expected for the celebratory hours after the the new year is rung in across the U.S., Uber set out a few consumer-friendly guidelines to avoid price surges that feel predatory.

New Year’s Eve: the day to overpay for everything from that glass of flat Champagne to the impossibly-high heels you’ll wear just once, to, once again, that ride home from Uber.Dozens of taxi drivers and industry supporters decried Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed last-minute regulations for ride-sharing companies Wednesday, with many calling the process rushed and urging state Department of Transportation officials to get drivers for the popular services off the streets. “This is government at its worst,” said Stephen Regan, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Regional Taxi Advocacy Group. “This was all done behind the scenes.Uber expects tonight to be its busiest ever, which also means it may well be the most expensive ever for a ride service unbound by any pricing regulation. If that happens, Inc. reports, Uber could generate more than $100 million in a 24-hour period that began with the lead-up to New Year’s celebrations in the Asia-Pacific region and will end with the wind-down of celebrations in the United States. On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held a Twitter chat to remind people about the importance of staying off the road if you’ve been drinking.

Earlier this month, Patrick proposed state oversight for ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft, which allow customers to request rides through smartphone apps. As angry customers flooded social media—“uber pricing policies are outrageous!” “my friends, family & I are never using Uber again”—Kalanick attempted to stem the tide. Due to high demand, and because it can, Uber is bringing back surge pricing, a boon to its drivers but a bane to passengers. “When you have such an incredible demand, this encourages drivers to get out to meet that demand,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennet told 1010 WINS’ Rebecca Granet. D.C. area residents have a host of options for getting around and getting home if they don’t want to drive or if they drink and shouldn’t be on the road. The practice, known as “surge pricing,” caught a lot of tipsy riders off guard the last few New Year’s eves as the young company was still entering new markets.

Under the proposal, the Department of Public Utilities would regulate a new category of vehicles called “transportation network carriers.” The regulations proposed by the Patrick administration would require ride-sharing companies to conduct national background checks and bar drivers with convictions within 10 years for “crimes of violence, sexual abuse, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, hit and run, attempting to evade the police, driving with a suspended or revoked license, felony robbery, or felony fraud.” The companies would also be required to ban all registered sex offenders. A company blog post anticipates the highest demand and fares will be between 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. in every time zone, and suggests users to “request right when the ball drops at midnight or wait until later for prices to return to normal.” Founders of Chicago-based app Quxsi, which uses algorithms to estimate surge fares for UberX, said riders should be wary of surge fares earlier than that. “People are going to be moving before 8 p.m. and between 8 and 10 p.m. — after midnight is going to be crazy,” co-founder Adam Janikis said. “We think there’s going to be surge all night.” “[Outages are] something that could happen with such a high influx of demand from a technical standpoint,” he said. “You can prepare to scale a service and make sure it’s going to be rock-solid, but if they’re talking about servicing two million rides, things could get a little hairy.” “I would not be surprised if we see the highest surge we’ve ever had in Chicago,” Banach said. “For some people, the convenience of Uber may be worth 40 or 50 bucks. Considering how cold it is, nobody wants to stand out and street-hail a cab.” To avoid paying hundreds of dollars for a short ride, customers can keep tabs on surge prices with Quxsi, as well as other apps such as SurgeProtector and Farecast.

Uber noted in a chart that it expects ridership — and fares — to peak between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., when folks are heading home, along with earlier surges at about 9 p.m. as people make their way to various celebrations. Request a car shortly after midnight, after you can drink no more and you’ve paid your tab, and chances are you won’t even be the only guy in your corner of the bar doing the exact same thing. Riders who use rival Lyft will also see a version of Uber’s price surge, called “Prime Time.” The feature is turned on when ride requests “greatly outnumber available drivers.” How much extra you’ll pay, Lyft says, depends on demand. Lyft will donate $1 for everyone who makes a “pledge” to get home safe by visiting Lyft.com/NYE. (TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. The SoberRide program is offering service in the District; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; and in Arlington, Fairfax, eastern Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia.

Back-load your drinking later in the day so you can stay up and out until at least 3 a.m. (you can sign up for a text alert to find out when surge pricing drops). From 8 p.m. on Wednesday until 3 a.m. on Thursday, the company is offering $10 rides in San Francisco, Seattle, Sacramento and San Diego, as long as the metered fare does not exceed $50. Residents can call the toll-free SoberRidephone number 800-200-TAXI and have their fare covered up to $30. (AT&T wireless users can dial #WRAP for the same service.) Sponsors include: AAA Mid-Atlantic, Anheuser-Busch, Diageo, District of Columbia Association of Beverage Alcohol Wholesalers, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Giant Food, MillerCoors, Red Top Cab of Arlington, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Volkswagen Group of America and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association. Among the cab companies participating: Alexandria Yellow Cab; Barwood; Fairfax Yellow Cab; Loudoun Yellow Cab; Northern Virginia Checker Cab; Red Top Cab; Silver Cab of Prince George’s County; Yellow Cab of D.C.; and Yellow Cab of Prince William County. Lastly, try Lyft, which at least caps its own surge pricing at 400 percent of a normal fare, or another ride service entirely, which may not be surging at all (the wait, no doubt, will be longer).

In 2013, the company generated $10.7 million in gross revenue from an estimated 200,000 rides in 60 cities, according to internal documents obtained by Business Insider. Since the surges could be different this year than in 2013, you can’t really extrapolate those numbers to project how much revenue Uber is likely to make tonight. In some regions, partyers can also take advantage of AAA’s “Tipsy Tow” program, which offers a free tow to members or non-members for up to 10 miles.

No matter how many times you explain that surge pricing does not take unfair advantage of drunk people, they are still bound to get upset by exorbitant fares. With demand high, (Uber officials say as many as 2 million folks worldwide may use the service) chances are you’ll be paying far more than the normal rate. Uber officials have been quick to get ahead of any possible criticism they might face by warning riders about “surge pricing” that kicks into effect when demand surges.

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