Serious Surge on Uber this Morning


A reader reports:

“So I wanted to share with you just how ridiculous Uber has become. I know you covered it recently but this is insane. This morning I have a 4.0x surge. They clearly have an issue. I know it’s peak hours, but 4.0x?! Crazy! I attached a screenshot, maybe it’s worth starting another discussion about them?”

Ed. Note: I’m guessing the surge this morning is related to the metro mess on Orange/Blue/Silver Lines?

79 Comment

  • They’re messing up a really good thing.

  • The metro is messed up. Of course there is high demand.

    • Yeah I was gonna say, it’s probably related to Metro being jacked up today. Uber can’t really predict that. Those surge prices are ridiculous, though.

  • Good thing you’re being forced to pay those prices. Wait. What?

    • +1. Capitalism at its best. If OP doesn’t like it, use an alternative like Lyft, or god forbid, an actual taxi. Vote with your wallet. Do you honestly think complaining on a local blog is going to do anything?

      • +100

        I really get tired of hearing people whine about surge pricing.

        Look, you are made aware BEFORE you accept the service that the fare has increased. If you don’t like it, then find an alternative. Uber isn’t a public service; its a for-profit company. What did people do before Uber was even around?

      • Yeah, it’s called shop around. Uber was at 3.5x in Foggy Bottom (where I got unceremoniously offloaded from my Arlington-bound train to work) so I tried to find a taxi, but those were of course all gone. Sidecar had no results, and so I got a Lyft for +50%, which wasn’t too bad considering the major drama on the Metro. Competition works–pay the price or shop around.

    • +1. I don’t understand all the complaining. Like, I wish Dom Perignon were cheaper, but instead of complaining, I just never buy it.

    • justinbc

      But they “clearly” have an issue!

    • We’re not allowed to complain about anything unless we are forced t use it? That’s going to reduce the volume of blog comments by a fair amount then.

  • I was in adams morgan and had a 4.3x surge at 9:20… Was a little surprised

  • I’m usually pretty surprised when uber isn’t on surge pricing. I’ve come to expect it (sadly).

  • I used a taxi today. Much cheaper

  • wow how did we ever survive before Uber was around??
    Don’t like the price, don’t use it.

    • Yup, get on a bike. Take a regular cab!
      We take Uber all the time but rarely pay surge prices cause we avoid it at the *obvious* times that surge pricing is in effect.

      • Yes, plan ahead. Uber is obviously going to surge when all the bars close, for example, so leave early or plan to stay late. How did people get anywhere before uber?

  • I remember the days when Uber cars were nice and clean. Looks like anyone with a running engine can be an Uber driver nowadays.

    • I think it depends on if you use UberX or Black. I agree that UberX diminishes the brand, but still find Black to be a great service. There’s a reason why it is more expensive.

    • As opposed to taxis that (a) won’t take you to Ward 8 and (b) all smell like feet.

    • Agreed. A lot of the UberX cars I’ve used recently are pretty janky.
      Then again, a recent model Mercedes SUV picked me up yesterday in Potomac and drove me to CityCenter for $13. Can’t complain. It’s a crap shoot, TBH.

    • I don’t bother with Uber anymore. It used to be good – dependable quality service, prices just slightly above cab fare. Now, it’s a crap shoot what kind of car you’ll get, the drivers seem more lost and more oblivious than most cabbies (how is this even possible?!?), and surge pricing is usually in effect. I’ve actually gone back to using cabs in all but the most extreme circumstances, and even then I’ll usually walk rather than Uber.

  • The whole point of surge pricing is to deal with “surges” in demand…if you think it’s too high a price, don’t take an Uber and let someone else who’s willing to pay that much have the car.

    • Uber claims the point is to deal with demand by encouraging more drivers to work, but it doesn’t appear to actually do that. It generally just shifts the supply from part of the city to another. It does do a good job of capturing more revenue during surges in demand, so good for Uber I guess. The lack of pricing predictability is my biggest gripe with Uber, and I use the service fairly often. I would use it even more if I could depend on them to charge their advertised prices more often, even if those prices were a bit higher.

      • What it actually does is ensure that you will be able to get a car if you really, really need it. I am sure that someone who was late to a job interview this morning who was really grateful that they could get there, at some price. This is a way of allocating a scarce resource. The other options are to have either a wait or a lottery. The flat-fare cab system effectively employs both of the latter options, at peak times. So really we have all our bases covered.

        • No it doesn’t ensure that you will be able to get a car if you really, really need it.. It ensures you will be able to get a car if you are willing to pay it. It has nothing to do with your need. If you have a job interview and you’re broke then you’re still SOL. If you’re rich and in the mood for a leisurely joyride through the city then you’re good to go.
          Uber is free to run their business any way they want. My problem is with their claim that surge pricing is used to get more drivers on the road. It isn’t, and it doesn’t.

          • niceflipflop

            Really? So you’re saying that when Metro shits the bed and all of those people are stranded and looking for a way to get where they’re going…that the normal weekday morning Uber drivers are going to be able to accommodate every single one of them? Come on. Obviously, Uber is going to put the surge in the best light possible…but the idea that surge pricing doesn’t increase the number of drivers on the road is silly. It’s basic economics.

          • Except it generally doesn’t increase the number of drivers on the road, according to several people who have actually studied it. It isn’t even designed to. If it were, Uber would make several changes to the program.
            1) They would notify drivers that surge pricing is happening, so they could react to it.
            2)They would stabilize the pricing, changing the surge prices at a much lower frequency. Right now, the surge can start and end before a standby driver can even get off the couch and into the car. It can jump from 1.2x to 2x to 1.1x in the space of five minutes.
            3) They would take their commission off the base rate, and give the entire premium surge to the driver. Instead, Uber keeps 20% of the premium for themselves.
            Today was an extraordinary event, and nothing was going to accommodate everyone. But Uber’s surge pricing didn’t do that anyway. It just extracted more revenue from the ones most willing to pay. It’s Uber’s right to do that, but lets not pretend it’s anything but a cash grab.

          • Uber cannot be expected to get everybody to work at the price they are willing to pay. If they keep their prices lower, they effectively institute a lottery, because more people want cars than they can supply, and whoever gets them is randomly determined. They have a formula that sets a price, such that at that price, the number of drivers matches the number of people who need a car. Hopefully some more drivers show up! But, some people need a car so much they are willing to pay a lot for it. It is true that this more often includes wealthy people. Wealthy people get lots of things we all want. This is not the place to try to organize some great social re-alignment (which, for the record, I’m all in favor of. If our incomes were all more equal, the allocation of Uber cars at Uber prices would better reflect your definition of “need”.) If you don’t want an Uber at the price Uber wants to charge, don’t take Uber.

    • Which explains 2.0 surges on a weekend morning.

  • Uber needs to raise their prices a bit so that drivers know they’ll have a higher dependable income stream. This will attract better drivers and cars (which have taken a nose dive in the last few months). It will also end this ridiculous always-surge gimmick. The base price is really too low and amounts to dumping into the taxi market. Its unsustainable, which is why its always surging. I really want uber to succeed and I use it almost exclusively, but these are growing pains theyre going to have to get past.

    • niceflipflop

      It’s amazing how few people understand this. It’s not all greed. If Metro has an issue or some other problem plagues the morning rush hour, the only way to get more drivers out there is the make the math work for them. Oh sure, there’s alot more fares to be had. But as soon as the rush is over, all of those extra Uber drivers who wouldn’t have otherwise been out on the road are now driving around empty. The surge gives them a reason to go out for 1-2 rides.

      As for the part that IS greed…yeah, that’s how the world turns. Uber isn’t a public service. The market will bear what the market will bear.

    • Uber has been around for 3 to 4 years. And it seemed to operate just fine when it started without all of this surge pricing nonsense. It cost a little more, but was still more affordable than a taxi, the drivers were better, the cars were nicer, and it was entirely predictable. Now it’s a mess and I have stopped using it. And I would imagine I was a pretty consistent revenue stream for them. I used it exclusively and frankly entirely too often. No more.

  • Can’t you just take a normal taxi and pay a normal rate? Like monkey said above, nobody is forcing you to use Uber.

  • justinbc

    Yes, it’s definitely due to the Metro issues this morning. I saw some folks paying 5x, so maybe you got a “deal”?

  • In OP’s defense, I attempted to take a regular taxi (about 3 passed me by and the one who did stop wouldn’t go where I want to go because he was a Maryland Cab), a bus and all of the other options today including metro, which was totally messed up and had no luck with ANY. I would’ve ridden a bike if i didn’t have 3 bags with me for a work event! I don’t blame OP tbh, I mean when everything else is messed up what else can he/she do but try to take Uber?

    • niceflipflop

      But Uber didn’t even exist a few years ago. What would OP have done then?

    • Walk? It’s what I did. From Rosslyn to Farragut, with 4 bags in flip flops.

    • actually doesn’t that story reinforce that uber was right to move it up to surge pricing? if it’s super important to you and you have 3 bags, then shouldn’t the increased fare be worth it? put it this way – you definitley wouldn’t have gotten an uber at normal prices if such was the situation, so you wouldn’t have lot out anyway.

  • If you use Uber Taxi, there is never a surge price, and it costs the same as a DC taxi.

  • It’s a premium service that has prices that spike (sometimes fourfold or more) during periods of high demand. You know this. What exactly are you complaining about?

    If you don’t want to hail a taxi the old fashioned way (or they don’t come where you are) there are apps that will do it for you, or you can just use a phone to call one.

    I really don’t understand why this merits writing to a neighborhood blog.

    • niceflipflop

      Not to go too meta with the whole thing, but OP’s email triggered a conversation about the economics of the free market, which itself drove readership and clicks for this blog. It’s almost as if Pop, like Uber, is trying to generate revenue.

    • Re. “you can just use a phone to call [a taxi]” — My understanding was that much of the time, D.C. taxis that were supposedly being “dispatched” by phone never show up. That’s one of the reasons why Uber became so popular in the first place.

      • Yep. I missed a flight once because I couldn’t get a cab to come out to Potomac Ave. I’ve also had a couple cab drivers sexually assault which is another reason I won’t take cabs.

  • Right when the B/O/S lines had issues, there was a 10 minute wait for an Uber near Farragut West with 1.7X pricing. I took the 38B bus instead!

  • Ignoring that this morning may have been due to special circumstances, I would note that in the last six months or so, it is very, very rare that Uber is not on surge pricing during rush hour. I understand the concept of surge pricing, but honestly, it is rush hour. That is not surge. That is normal. So perhaps their excuse for surge that it gets more drivers on the road is starting to lose some force here when it is a daily occurrence and predictable times. That just means they are not managing their business effectively.

    And you are right, we can vote with our feet. And I do. I haven’t used Uber in probably three months short of once time late at night when I tried and failed to find a cab. And I am someone who was a very, very avid user of Uber. I probably used them 3-4 times a week to either go to or from work rather than suffer through red line woes. Now I either suck it up and take the bus, or a regular taxi. If 90% of the time I check the app it is on surge, the service has simply lost enough reliability and predictability to be useful.

    • justinbc

      Just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean that it doesn’t warrant surge pricing, by their definition. NYE, for example, is an entirely predictable high demand period, but if you want people to set aside their own plans and drive people around then you’re going to have to pay them more. The same thing conveys on a smaller scale to driving around in rush hour traffic.

      • Yes, but logically wouldn’t drivers who have committed to being Uber drivers want to work during rush hour? The idea is that surge pricing gets more drivers out on the road. But that makes little sense if this is you job. Are you avoiding the timeframes when there is demand for your service? Sure, without surge the driver makes less money during that high demand trip, but there are a lot more trips out there to grab up than if you are not working during that time.

        I guess to me surge pricing works when it is surging and there are still nearly zero drivers available to pick you up. But it does not seem to work when it is surging and I see 8 cars circling around within a few blocks of me for half an hour straight.

        There is something to be said for predictability for customers. And the amount of time during which the service seems to be surging generally has increased a great deal in the last year. The only thing predictable about using Uber lately is that I’m going to be paying surge pricing.

        Presumably it is working for them and people are paying for the increased pricing or they would probably stop doing it. But for me, it just isn’t working anymore. It becomes too difficult to determine how much it will actually cost to get to work or wherever I’m heading with surge pricing, so more often than not, I’m incentivized instead to take the bus, walk, or a regular taxi. Anything over 2x surge is usually netting out higher than a DC taxi.

        • justinbc

          “Yes, but logically wouldn’t drivers who have committed to being Uber drivers want to work during rush hour? The idea is that surge pricing gets more drivers out on the road. But that makes little sense if this is you job.”
          Maybe the disconnect for you is that for many Uber drivers this is not “their job”. It’s a job, that they do when they want to take a fare. I know some people who are Uber drivers. Those people also have other jobs, and drive when they need extra cash. So no, if the rates were flat, why on Earth would they choose to drive during the most hellish time of day?

          • Because there’s more demand for cars then. The same reason cabs work during rush hour. They spend less time not being paid while looking for fares.

          • By your logic, surge pricing is not going to do anything if these people have other jobs and are simply not available during rush hour to work.

            But to actually address what I think is your actual rebuttal point, if there is excess demand versus drivers, then drivers who choose to work during rush hour would be able to make a higher number of “trips” with customers than in low demand periods than during periods where drivers exceed customers (non-surge times) and they have to drive around waiting for customers.

            There is already an incentive to work during rush hour versus other times (assuming you can). You’re guaranteed to have a customer in your car pretty much the entire time you are working.

    • Actually, if 90% or more of the time it has surge pricing, then it sounds more predictable. Just also more expensive.
      All of these laments about not using Uber when surge pricing is in effect suggests that Uber rates are spot on – people are happy to pay at normal fares but surge pricing seems too much, for some, but there are clearly enough people still willing to pay this increased fare so the available cars get used.

      • You’re assuming the cars are actually getting used. Most of the time when it is on surge, there are more cars in my vicinity than when not on surge. In a perfect world, surging would result in very few cars available to just meet the demand that exists at that price point.

    • I had someone last week tell me that she takes Uber to work every day, because it’s cheaper than parking. I don’t imagine she’s the only one. Demand is increasing. It may be predictable, but it doesn’t change the fact that if people are waiting longer for cars, the price surges.

  • I agree that surge pricing can get a little out of control, but 2.0x is actually the same price, with tip, as a regular DC taxicab. I just wanted to put it into perspective for people.

    • Sure, but for a lot of customers, if it is the same price, they can walk outside and get a cab almost immediately rather than click the button and wait 5-6 minutes (or longer) for the driver to actually find them.

      • maxwell smart

        Maybe yes, Maybe no. I’ve often have cab drivers flat refuse to take me to Upper NW because they only wanted to stay within about a 2 mile radius where they could flip fares faster. Uber – never complains about my destination. Also, in general, I find the Uber cars to be cleaner and better maintained, I like that I can put in my destination and it gives them GPS directions before I get in the car (can’t tell you how many times I’ve given clear directions to a cab driver and ended up all over the place) and that I don’t have to bother with payment – it’s billed and I go on my way.

        • Cab drivers refusing to take you to upper NW is not a real argument. They aren’t allowed to refuse the fare. Get in the cab and then tell them where you are going and threaten to report them if they refuse you. That problem is easily addressed. They simply aren’t allowed to do that. And frankly, in the last year, the general quality of the taxi cabs in DC has vastly increased as most drivers are being forced to purchase newer vehicles.
          I won’t argue the billing point. It is a tiny bit faster to just get out of an Uber than pay with a credit card (which all taxis now are required to take). And recognizing the ease of finding a cab varies depending on where you are and in some instances, ordering an Uber is much faster, for peopel who live in high density areas with a lot of taxi traffic, for the same price, I will always walk out of the door, grab a tax in two minutes than wait 8 for an Uber at surge pricing.
          And I definitely tip my hat to Uber for the improved service and quality of DC taxis. It’s much easier and nicer to take a taxi in DC now and I fully believe the rise of Uber is to credit for that. But now that DC taxis are nicer and take cards consistently, my willingness to put up with surge pricing + lost drivers who cannot seem to maneuver through DC is vastly diminished.

    • justinbc

      You’re forgetting that a lot of people don’t tip.

      • Really? I always assumed everyone else did. I usually give the lesser of $2 or 20%.

      • Doesn’t the Uber fare include the tip? Or is that only for the Uber black car (or whatever it’s called)?
        (I’m registered with Uber, but have never actually used it.)

  • I had 5.0x by Rosslyn station

  • Unlikely, but maybe all the people complaining, who can’t grasp the concept of supply and demand, will delete their Uber apps and use regular cabs out of frustration. That might make a small dent in the demand and alleviate some of surge pricing for those of us who recognize how the service works and exercise free will in electing to pay surge prices. Either way, Uber will remain a very viable, growing platform so there’s no downside to a few folks abandoning it from that perspective.

  • Around 11:30PM Saturday night at Zaytinya it was my friend’s turn to get us an Uber home. No surprise it comes up surge pricing, then I try on my phone and it isn’t surge pricing, we both try at the same time again and she gets surge and I don’t. Answer me that Uber?

  • I don’t understand why folks don’t plan ahead.
    First thing I do in the morning is listen to the news, we live in the NATION’s capital, anything can happen. (Metro delays, mean alternate transportation).
    Next check Uber (sigh, even in SE they were surging @ 2.7 x’s normal rate), I ordered a Lyft (no surging). Arrived to work on time. Both car services rarely surge at the same time. If Uber is surging try Lyft, if Lyft is surging do Side Car. I mean really. Some folks are soooo spoiled…Uber can only monopolize the system if we as consumers keep choosing ONLY them… Capitalism is one thing, but folks just need to exercise other options available….When you don’t plan ahead or listen to the news or give yourself enough time to make an effective desicion, you eff the day up, no one to blame but oneself.

  • 4.0+ was due to a pretty major metro failure downtown this morning. Uber is so omni-present its easy to think it is a utility/public service but it’s not.

    Compared to alternatives UberX is a great deal for your money, even at most surge pricing it’s often cheaper than a cab. Only rarely on days like today (metro disaster), NYE or 3am on Saturday will you end up paying truly seriously steep prices.

    Every form of transit has its advantages/disadvantages, metro can break making your commute miserable, cars can break or crash, uber can surge, buses stack or don’t come, if you walk it can rain or snow.

  • Apparently uberX is desperate for drivers. They’re accepting any 4 door car 2005 or newer, compared to NYC where they have an approved list of vehicles that must be 2011 or newer.

Comments are closed.