San Diego International Airport

Fewer Rideshare Drivers Leaves Riders Waiting Longer

NBC 7 Responds looked at why rideshare wait times are so long.

NBC Universal, Inc.

If you've tried to call for an Uber or Lyft, chances are you've noticed either a longer wait time or a higher fee. That's because there are fewer drivers out on the road.

"For the first quarter, the supply of drivers signing into the app is down 40% on average across both platforms," SDSU Marketing Professor Miro Copic said.

In the early months of the pandemic, Uber and Lyft saw the number of riders fall by 75-80%, according to Copic, who said drivers turned to other ways to make money and are slow to return.

"They're not really seeing the long-term value driving for Uber or Lyft," Copic said. "It's really a side gig to make a little extra money."

With high gas prices, drivers say they're not making much money.

"It's really tough, it's really hard," said Ahmed Sofi, who's been a rideshare driver for more than three years. "I have two kids, a wife, and we try the best to make it. We'll see how it goes."

That's another reason why some drivers are slow to come back. Sofi said the airport's rideshare lot used to be full of cars, but now there's a lot less.

"Cars will come here and the app is off because drivers don't want to lose money," Jama Yacub, another rideshare driver. "It's not worth it for anyone."

Yacub said most drivers will wait to sign in to the app until times when the rates are higher. That means people are waiting longer for rides.

"Passengers are waiting longer to be picked up and then fees are higher," Copic explained. "The companies are trying to find ways to bring more drivers back because of the anticipated demand."

In the short term, Copic thinks this might mean more business for taxis. He thinks it might take until 2022 to reach the same level of rideshare drivers on the road. For now, that leaves the current drivers in a tough spot.

"Right now the app is telling me to go to the airport," said Yacub. "I will not go because it's not worth it."

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