Uber and Lyft Surges: What to Know

A few weeks after receiving the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Debora Lima returned to an old routine: She pulled out her phone and requested an Uber ride so she could meet friends for dinner.

But instead of getting a ride within five minutes as she had expected, Uber surprised Ms. Lima with a 19-minute wait and a pricey fare. It wasn’t a one-time glitch. Ms. Lima, a 28-year-old Miami resident, used to plan on spending $100 a month for frequent Uber trips. Just two recent rides ate through half of her monthly budget.

As the coronavirus pandemic appears to recede in the United States and more people return to traveling, socializing and using ride-hailing apps, they are discovering that those cheap and quick rides have become more costly and not so readily available. Customers around the country say they have been startled by the price jumps. In some cases, they say, their Uber rides from airports cost as much as their plane tickets.

Uber and its top rival, Lyft, acknowledge that prices are up and wait times are longer, but they won’t provide specifics. A recent analysis by the research firm Rakuten Intelligence found that the cost of a ride was 37 percent higher in March than it was a year ago. In April, the cost was up 40 percent.

Uber and Lyft have poured money into extra incentives for drivers, like cash bonuses for completing a certain number of rides. But the incentives do not appear to be as effective as they were before the pandemic. Some drivers said they aren’t back on the road because they are still afraid of getting sick.

Cristine Sanchez, a hospitality worker in New York, used to pay around $20 for Uber rides to Brooklyn from Queens. Now the fare is around $38, she said, and a trip to the Bronx costs almost $45.

Ms. Sanchez recently realized that airfares were nearly the same price as her Uber rides. When she found a $60 round-trip flight to Miami this month, she booked an impromptu trip with friends.

“If the choice is go to the Bronx or go to Miami, I’m going to Miami,” Ms. Sanchez said. “It’s like come on, Uber, come on, Lyft, let’s get it together.”

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