If your New Year’s Eve plans involve paying for a ride home after midnight, it might cost you more than you think.
Ridesharing fleets have flooded Seattle’s streets this year, prompting a special Seattle City Council committee to find a way to regulate them. A year later, the drivers are still unregulated, which means nothing is stopping them from hiking prices after midnight, when Seattle’s Champagne-soaked New Year’s revelers will be trying to get home safely.
Seattle strictly regulates its 1,000 cabdrivers, and they must charge the same rates regardless of demand.
Of course, you might not be able to find a cab when you need one on New Year’s Eve.
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Uber is betting you might instead jump into one of its vehicles, which use smartphone applications to arrange pickups and are generally cheaper than taxis. On its website, beneath an image of clinking Champagne glasses, Uber links to a video of its CEO, Travis Kalanick, offering “pro tips” to help riders on New Year’s Eve.
He promises reliable service but says if you want an affordable ride, don’t call for one between midnight and 3 a.m.
“At about midnight, right, the ball drops, people kiss their special someone, they pop some Champagne. And right after that, people want to get out of Dodge,” he says. “It’s at 12:15 a.m. in cities around the world when the demand just way outstrips anything that supply can bring to the table.”
Uber plans to charge higher prices when a lot of people need rides, to encourage people to adjust their schedules and to attract drivers to keep more Uber cars on the road.
Lyft, the car-sharing company that uses pink mustaches to distinguish its vehicles, does not plan to charge higher rates on New Year’s Eve, a spokeswoman said.
Taxi-driver lobbyist Chris Van Dyk, who is deep into a fight to get car-sharing vehicles off the road, said people ringing in the new year will get “screwed.”
“It’s obscene,” he said, adding that unregulated drivers are not trained to deal with drunken people and might not have proper insurance. Lyft and Uber both say their drivers are insured.
“We think that is about as reckless as putting [drunken people] behind the wheel,” Van Dyk said. “Is it gonna be hard to get a taxi on New Year’s Eve? Seattle’s got 1,000 licensed taxi drivers. I guarantee you every one of them is going to be working. It may be difficult, but … every cab company in Seattle is staffing up their dispatch services.”
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @EmilyHeffter