Why are Uber prices so high? Shortage of drivers is one answer

During the pandemic, drivers left Uber because demand plummeted. Drivers also lost some price setting and ride selection benefits too. Photo by Shutterstock.

A lot of people are trying to return to something resembling normal life — after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. That includes taking flights and going to restaurants and bars. It’s exciting — until you decide to call an Uber. Prices are way up. One local Uber rider reported paying about $100 for a ride from the airport that usually costs about $30.

Many drivers left the apps during the pandemic, as demand withered. But Uber has also upset drivers by taking away some of the price setting and ride selection benefits they launched during the campaign against Prop. 22.

Tyler Sonnemaker, an Insider reporter covering the gig economy, says some drivers left due to safety concerns of driving amid the pandemic.

“As contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers don't get paid sick time, they don't get health care, they don't get workers comp, and some of these other benefits that the company's corporate employees do. So drivers get sick or hurt on the job, the risks are a lot bigger,” he tells KCRW.

He says it was also difficult for drivers to receive COVID-related sick pay, as well as unemployment insurance. “As pay continues to drop, drivers are saying, ‘Hey, that calculus may not be worth it for some of these risks.’”

Drivers have been concerned about other safety issues unrelated to COVID, adds Sonnemakers. Those are carjackings, robberies, and sexual assaults.

Sonnemaker says Uber and Lyft are investing money in getting drivers back on their platforms to meet the rising demand for rides now. But it’s unclear what the profitability of these companies might look like in the near future.

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