Impacts of the pandemic on rideshare drivers: increased fares, higher wait times, but less money
While more people are going outside and returning to work, the same can not be said for rideshare drivers.
A driver shortage has caused Uber and Lyft prices to rise and wait times to increase. D’Angelo Wicks, an Uber driver in Baltimore, believes this along with the new COVID-19 guidelines has caused less people to ride.
He said the fares are higher and people are not using rideshare how they used to. He recalls one time it cost a rider $77 to go 18 miles. Before the pandemic he made about $800 a week. Once the pandemic hit he made less than a third of that.
“In 2020, many drivers stopped driving because they couldn’t count on getting enough trips to make it worth their time. In 2021, there are more riders requesting trips than there are drivers available to give them. In response to this, we recently launched a $250 million driver stimulus to boost already high earnings for drivers. Boosted incentives and guarantees will help welcome existing drivers back to Uber and ensure first-time drivers do well as they learn the ropes,” said an Uber spokesperson.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC one of the reasons for the driver deficit is safety concerns and fear of contracting the virus.
Prior to the pandemic Wicks said the drivers did not have any guidelines that they or riders had to follow; people could sit up front, not wear a mask, and more people could ride in one vehicle.
“It did make you realize how unconscious we were to things we were doing health wise,” Wicks said about how Uber was very unsanitary before the pandemic with random strangers getting in the car, touching the handle and seats.
Following the start of the pandemic Uber worked with the CDC and WHO and released new safety guidelines for drivers and passengers. Now passengers can not sit in the front seat or directly behind the driver, the windows need to be open for ventilation, and both drivers and riders have to confirm they are wearing a mask. Lyft instituted similar protocols as part of its Health Safety Program which dedicated nearly $4 million to free cleaning supplies and protective equipment for drivers which included in-car partitions.
Wicks was surprised that these guidelines caused a lot of rider complaints. He had to call the cops on a passenger who refused to wear a mask and get out of his car.
Riders also started complaining about there not being enough drivers available. Many people wanted to give him their numbers to personally reach out to him to order an Uber or just pay him directly to take them places.
“I felt like I was a bit of a therapist when I did uber, made a bunch of friends actually. That’s actually one of the things I miss about driving now during the pandemic,” Wicks said.
Ygal Arounian, a financial analyst with Wedbush Securities, told ABC7 that he believes drivers have not returned because they are still getting unemployment and living off their stimulus checks.
Wicks stopped driving for Uber in January 2021. His full-time job was as a field artillery cannoneer in the United States Army at the time and he now is in the National Guard and does mechanic work for a bus company.
“If you have the right mindset with it, Uber is one of the best ways to make money,” said Wicks.
He said he always planned to return to driving, and with the new incentives, he definitely will. Tentatively, he plans to return to driving next month.