Uber, Lyft riders are paying more and waiting longer

Some drivers aren’t coming back because of an uptick in violent carjackings and a lack of support during the pandemic, says the group Chicago Rideshare Advocates.

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A woman uses the Uber app on a Samsung smartphone

Passengers are waiting longer and paying more for Uber and Lyft rides in Chicago.

Sun-Times file

Rogers Park resident Crystal Martin sometimes skips the bus and orders a Lyft so she can catch up on sleep while headed to her job as a bartender.

One morning in June, Martin received a message on her Lyft phone app that she may not even get picked up.

“That’s a scary thing when you gotta get to work,” she said.

When Martin requested a Lyft after a shift ended at midnight this month, it cost $60 for a ride from Navy Pier back to Rogers Park.

Chicago passengers have been requesting rides as the city reopens, but there are fewer Uber and Lyft drivers to pick them up. With the demand straining the supply, passengers are waiting longer and paying more.

Courtney Brewer, who works at Gayle V’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese in the Loop, checked her Lyft and Uber apps for a ride last Friday.

“Uber was $90. Is it taking us to Indiana? It’s crazy,” said Brewer, who wanted a ride to Logan Square from the Loop around 5 p.m.

That ride cost about $20 last August when Brewer started working downtown.

The city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department said there were 26,952 ride-hailing drivers working in April, about 40 percent of the 65,689 drivers working in April 2019. The number of drivers dropped to 14,765 in April 2020, the month after pandemic restrictions kicked in statewide.

Why aren’t drivers coming back to their jobs as more people get vaccinated and businesses bring workers back to their offices?

Chicago Rideshare Advocates co-founder and ride-hailing driver Eli Martin points to an uptick in carjackings as one factor, especially a carjacking that killed an Uber driver in Cicero on May 31.

And Martin said neither ride-hailing service delivered on promises to protect drivers during the pandemic.

“The number of carjackings has been through the roof compared to the last few decades,” Martin said. “We’re sitting ducks.”

“You just don’t know when or where it’s gonna happen,” said Lyft and Uber driver Lori Simmons. “It’s just scary that it can happen at any time. It’s also the fact that there’s no protection.”

Uber worked with the Chicago Police Department to develop and send safety information and tips for Uber drivers, according to an Uber spokesperson. Uber’s law enforcement outreach team has worked with CPD on multiple investigations to help them identify and arrest carjacking suspects.

Lyft said it tried to protect drivers by requesting policymakers give drivers priority status as essential workers in the early phases of vaccine distribution.

“We’re seeing big increases in demand for rides, as vaccines roll out and people start moving again,” said a Lyft spokesperson. “We’re working to meet demand, including providing incentives to drivers.”

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