Fact Check: Are Rideshare Drivers Stalling Rides to Increase Surge Pricing at the Houston Rodeo?

A story posted by KHOU 11 News in Houston stated that drivers are waiting in the green lot with their apps off, and are waiting to cash in on surge pricing.

This is partially true.

Yes, there are a select few in the lot that are waiting with their apps off in order to catch a ride at a higher rate. But to manipulate surge by logging off is a whole other story. In order for this to happen, a good amount of drivers will be required to go offline at the same time. With the number of drivers both Uber and Lyft have on the streets of Houston today, this is nearly impossible. So while there are some waiting, they are not manipulating the surge in any way. Furthermore, the majority of drivers you see in the Green Lot are drivers who are higher tiered. In other words, this will be your Lyft XL, Lyft Lux, Lyft Lux Black, Lyft Lux Black SUV, UberSelect, UberXL, Uber Black, and UberBlack SUV driver. There are considerably less rides in these tiers. If you are requesting a regular Lyft, or UberX, you will not get these cars for the simple fact that you are not paying enough. With the exception of XL (meaning 6 or more seats and more gas being used), you are guaranteed a luxury vehicle. These vehicles cost considerably more to run and therefore you will be required to pay a higher rate. But, it will be a lie to say drivers do not wait for higher surges. Smarter drivers simply won’t come within range of NRG until AFTER the show gets out.

Why do Drivers wait for higher rates at the Rodeo?

While this may seem unethical, can you really blame them? Besides the fact that you probably planned on drinking, you probably also decided that the parking would be more expensive (as it is in most cases), the traffic will be horrendous (waiting an hour for your driver in the green lot, umm yes, traffic is that bad). Both rideshare companies are now paying 60 cents a mile to drivers driving at base rates. The IRS mileage reimbursement is 58 cents a mile for 2019. Not much of a profit margin there. Without higher pricing, most drivers, will not even show up to deal with the headache that is the rodeo. We are not getting paid for the hour we spend in traffic trying to get to you, or the 30 minutes before we get your ping (request). Besides, how much was your water from the rodeo? $4? You can usually by 24 packs of water for less than $4. The rideshare apps, will cap off at 10x the amount (very, very rare it will get that high). That bottle of water (and nearly everything else at a large event) has a 24x markup. Majority of the time, you are looking at less than 5x the price. You are also not forced to pay for it. Check out this article you may of missed earlier this week that goes into detail how you can counter surge pricing.

With that said, the article stated some drivers were waiting for over 3 hours in the green lot for the surge pricing. Honestly, this is ridiculous. In my opinion, they should be forced to leave if they have their app off. Majority of the drivers know, surge pricing won’t come on until people start leaving by the masses. If they have their app on, waiting for a higher tiered ride, that is fine, allow them to stay. If they have it off, they need to be forced out the green lot. These drivers waiting around only contribute to the backup of traffic. The shows get out at 10pm. No reason why you should expect surge pricing before that.

On a side note, allowing drivers to wait hours on end without verifying they are on the app can also bring out the #airportmafia to the rodeo. These are drivers that are highly organized at the airport that cheat their way through the queues. At it’s core, there are phone holders that carry, 40+ phones in their cars. This allows them to wait in the airport queue (which can take a couple hours) while not actually being at the airport. Airport Operations has been working diligently to get rid of them at IAH. In fact, one of the main phone holders at IAH, Eusebio Moni was arrested after he refused to leave the lot at the request of Airport Operations. The Houston Police Department was called out and he ended up assaulting one of the female officers. The Rodeo, can give him (or someone else, as he was not the only phone holder at IAH) a new stomping ground (since it’s likely airport operations banned him from the airport) At the Rodeo, this can be used to reduce the wait times for those highly coveted rides that end up being a bit of a wait. This is unfair to drivers that are legitimately waiting for a ride, as they have to wait longer if there are more phones in the queue.

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