A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 12, 2018

Secrets of Better Uber and Lyft Rides

Remember that you are being rated as a passenger. JL

Katherine Bindley reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Driver wages are based on miles and minutes driven. Other factors include zones, time periods that pay more and bonus opportunities. If drivers are faced with two routes that take the same time, they might pick the one that logs more miles with less traffic.“The per-mile rate is a lot higher than per minute. Sitting in traffic is the worst for a driver.”If drivers call to ask where you’re headed, they’re screening whether the ride is worth it. A poor rider rating may mean longer waits, as fewer drivers want to pick you up.
Remember the feeling of desperation when you’d try to hail a taxi in the pouring rain or on a street corner in the middle of the night? Remember when Uber solved everything? You pulled out your phone, tapped the screen and in a few minutes, poof, the car arrived.
Well, the honeymoon is over. Years later, Uber is under new leadership after months of scandal and upheaval. It has major U.S. competition now. (Hello, Lyft!) And the apps are no longer one-click experiences.
From choosing the type of ride—Lyft Line? UberXL?—to giving tips and driver feedback, things are more complicated. Then there are those ride-share mysteries: the crazy route that drivers keep taking, or the night you got canceled on by four different drivers.
After talking with drivers, combing through forums and speaking with Lyft and Uber—not to mention logging many miles in the back seat—I’ve compiled tips and explanations that should help improve your ride-sharing experiences.
Why drivers cancel
Drivers aren’t supposed to reject a ride based on the destination. Yet anyone who has ever been stuck trying to go to or from an out-of-the-way suburb knows it still happens.
Uber and Lyft drivers can’t see your destination until they’ve started the trip. (Shared rides are exceptions.) If drivers call to ask where you’re headed, they’re likely screening whether the ride is worth it.
“The more obvious ones will say, ‘Where are you going?’ The more sneaky ones will say, ‘I just want to confirm that your destination is downtown,’ ” says Harry Campbell, a driver for Lyft and Uber who runs the Rideshare Guy blog. Drivers would prefer a long trip, but not necessarily one that will take them away from the next fare—or from surge pricing.
Driver wages are primarily based on miles and minutes driven. Other factors include zones, time periods that temporarily pay more and other bonus opportunities.
Drivers aren’t paid for time getting to a pickup or back from a drop-off, which is why remote stops can be unappealing.
In an effort to fix this, Uber now pays drivers standard rates once they’ve driven for around 10 minutes to pick up a passenger. (Actual time varies by city.) If the passenger cancels, drivers get either the standard cancellation fee or the wages they already earned, whichever is more.
Uber still doesn’t compensate drivers for time and distance traveled after making an out-of-the-way drop-off. Lyft compensates drivers for some cancellations, but not any extra driving.
If you think your driver canceled because of your destination, contact Support. If your driver asks you to cancel, don’t agree. When drivers cancel themselves, their ratings can go down.
Secrets of Better Uber and Lyft Rides
5 stars or bust
“A four-star restaurant on Yelp or TripAdvisor is somewhere you’d eat at, but a four-star Uber driver is going to be deactivated,” Mr. Campbell says.
While the deactivation threshold varies by city, it’s true that giving drivers a 4 or lower suggests something went terribly wrong. Uber requires riders to explain ratings below 5. (Elements out of drivers’ control, such as traffic, won’t affect their ratings.) Lyft explains its star ratings when it asks for them and requests feedback if a ride isn’t perfect.
When a ride is especially good, leave kind words and, of course, a nice tip.
And guess what? You, too, are being rated. In the Uber app, tap the three lines in the top-left corner of the app; you’ll see your rating under your name. Lyft doesn’t show you your rating, but you can request it from the company.
You might get less than five stars if you’re late or if you aren’t near your pick-up location, or if you slam doors or act rude (including back-seat driving or leaving trash). A poor rider rating may mean longer waits, as fewer drivers want to pick you up.
Drivers rate passengers before they see their tip, so if you do have a low rating, it isn’t likely because you’re stiffing them.
Share with care
Lyft Lines and Uber Pools are rides you share with other passengers. During your ride, you might make stops that are near, but not necessarily on the way to, your destination.
Drivers never really liked Lines and Pools, because they didn’t get paid for the extra passengers. And they got a lower rate per mile and per minute, even as they had to pull over more times and be subjected to ratings from more people.
“You do more work and make less money,” says Herb Coakley, who drove for Lyft and Uber for two years. He created an independent app called Mystro to help Uber and Lyft drivers maximize their wages. The app can filter out shared rides, and passengers with bad ratings—another reason to watch yours.
Lyft raised its rates last summer so drivers now get the same amount for a Line as for a standard ride. Uber still pays a lower rate for Pools, but it pays a small fee for each additional pickup. Both reward drivers for having more pickups overall.
Uber drivers, but not Lyft drivers, can stop accepting more passengers to a shared drive. But don’t expect your Uber Pool rides to become standard rides very often—and don’t complain when they do add people. If you don’t want to share, don’t book a shared ride.
If you’re in a hurry, Lines and Pools aren’t your best bet because those ETAs can fluctuate. Going a few blocks out of your way for another rider can quickly add more than a few minutes to your trip.
Cheaper fares
You can save money by price-comparing Uber and Lyft. Just enter your destination to see rates and estimated arrival times.
If you want to find the best rates for well-traveled routes, look out for Uber Express Pool and Lyft Shuttle. These services are typically cheapest but they are only in select cities so far.
In a recent weekday search in San Francisco, a Lyft Shuttle was $4.27, while a Lyft Line was $4.77. Uber showed an Express Pool rate of $4.46 and a Pool rate of $5.37.
For these shared rides, you have to be willing to walk a short distance and you might have to wait several minutes to meet your driver. But during my evening commute last week leaving San Francisco’s financial district, the directness of a Lyft Shuttle route more than made up for the walk.
Bad routing explained
There are a few reasons you may end up taking a roundabout route, or worse, getting stuck in avoidable traffic.
If drivers are faced with two routes that take about the same time, they might pick the one that logs more miles with less traffic.
“The per-mile rate is a lot higher than per minute,” says Mr. Campbell. “Sitting in traffic is the worst ride for a driver.”
Other annoying routes can simply be the GPS’s fault. Uber uses a combination of navigation tech from TomTom, Google and its own team. Lyft’s navigation system is built around Google Maps. However, drivers often use Waze, which tends to have better traffic awareness.
Many San Francisco riders, me included, have discovered that drivers keep getting routed through the Broadway tunnel in the morning, despite ongoing construction. While routes through traffic can be fastest, tunnels and construction—and definitely their combination—are still problematic for even the best routing software.
If you’re the only person in the car, it’s fine to request a different route. In a shared ride, chances are the driver will stick to the app’s GPS.
Un-delete Uber?
It’s safe to say that since the #deleteuber movement began in January 2017, Uber has made some significant adjustments: Co-founder Travis Kalanick is no longer chief executive, and the company hired a new CEO, added two additional women to the board and implemented a change campaign to improve drivers’ work experience.
Still, many riders who switched to Lyft during that time might remain torn.
Photo: Katherine Bindley/The Wall Street Journal


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