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July 11, 2014

The new rideshare business can be very isolating for the drivers, especially Uber.   While Lyft and Sidecar have Facebook groups and forums for drivers to communicate - Uber does not.   Where Lyft and Sidecar have occasional meetups for drivers - Uber does not. In any job there are situations that arise that need to be addressed, where an employee/partner needs to contact the dispatching/office.   From day to day questions about driving, to suggestions and complaints about how the business operates, communication in any business is essential to successful operations.   Interchange between the drivers and all three of the major platforms is restricted primarily to e-mail.   This isolation between fellow drivers, and from the drivers to the office, is at the heart of the conflict in a rideshare drivers mind.  In an attempt to bridge this gap of communication, drivers around the world are trying to organize their voice and be heard.   

With a lack of physical offices, and no driver support  phone line, communication is limited to e-mail correspondence.   A poll on UberPeople.NET reveals that the average response time for an e-mail inquiry from a driver to Uber, is between 2 and 7 days.   Imagine any career where your only method of communication with the "boss" is limited to e-mail, and that you have to wait a minimum of 48 hours for a response.   If that response isn't adequate information for you, it will be another 48 hours minimum for another interaction.   Imagine that in some instances those 48 hours stretch into over 100 hours of time between corresondence.  In addition, the volume of this business makes for a good deal of automated driver support responses.   One driver, e-mailing an unknown person at the support office, and waiting for days for a reply, sometimes a form response, produces a feeling of minimal self-worth to the company.      Because there is no physical space where the work takes place other than the drivers car, connection between drivers is also very limited.   So there are two natural things that are occurring; 1) Drivers are trying to unite in various ways to have their voice heard by the company.  2) Drivers are communicating with each other through outlets like UberPeople.NET, Facebook, and Reddit.

In Seattle, with the help of the local teamsters, drivers founded the App-Based Drivers' Assosication (ABDA) in May.  Shortly after the teamsters became involved in Los Angeles as well.

Seattle - http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2014/05/teamsters-organize-uber-drivers-in.html

Los Angeles - http://www.teamsters117.org/los_angeles_uber_drivers_follow_seattle_organizing_model

The question is though, what is one or two cities representation in a business of nearly 150.   If one thing can be seen from these attempts so far it's that; change takes time.   Getting a critical mass across the world is inherently difficult.

One of the bigger attempts to organize has been the UberX facebook group.   Ramzi (AKA The Dude) has created the group that now has over 1k likes.   UberX Facebook membership is concentrated in San Fran, but has likes from drivers around the world.  The group has organized protests outside Ubers office in SF.   Although not much has seemed to change as a result of the protest, Uber has acknowledged the protests and offered additional meetings and feedback methods for drivers.   

Ramzi and SF drivers protest outisde Uber


The UberX facebook group has also evolved into The Drivers Network (http://driversnetwork.org).  This site, created about two months ago,
asks the visitor to "join us".   The site allows any transportation provider to join - Uber, Lyft, Taxi, etc.   Drivers input their name, e-mail, phone number, and zip code.   Then to be verified; a driver needs to upload a screenshot of their driving platform screen.   A member of UberPeople.NET thought to test this verification system.   They created a Gmail account, took a Lyft drivers screen, and imported Travis Kalanicks (Uber CEO) photo into the screenshot.   Then they changed the attributes of the screen to match the created e-mail, and used a fake phone number.   The graphic didn't even contain the required name that Lyft displays over the photo, or the standard replaced green photo background. Yet sure enough a few days later the account was "verified".   This experiment really seems to minimalize The Drivers Network into a simple mailing list.  Once you are verified, there is no additional content to the web-site itself.  Being a member merely results in a welcome e-mail and additional weekly e-mails from the sites administrator "The Dude" (Ramzi).

Falsified Lyft driver screenshot including Uber CEO photo approved for 'The Driver Network' verification


The disdain for the company is glaringly obvious throughout UberX Facebook and in The Driver Networks mailings.  However it is a bit marginalized by a confused political message, typos, and a ranting train of thought.  "The Dude" propels his griping viewpoints onto the group and mailing list, and drivers cheer.   The objectives are from the heart but scattered and without order.  

From The Drivers Network e-mail

The rich keep getting richer and drives keep getting exploited.  Drivers (cab, uberx, black car etc.) it's time we come together.  Drivers we must stop allowing these tech companies, cab companies and wealthy investors the ability to exploit us.  The technology used to create TNC's (Uber, Lyft etc.) is borrowed technology.  We can take the power back and turn the tables but we must first come together as one voice one united group.   

The opposing viewpoint is simple and silently embraced by Uber, if you don't wan to do the job, someone else will.  Perhaps there is an underlying theme that relates to the bigger issue of a "wealth gap".

While all of the attempts for drivers to organize and unite have good intentions, they clearly have a lack of direction, organization, and most importantly success.   Uber is a business of nearly 150 cities, and upwards of 200,000 drivers worldwide.  200 drivers protesting at the headquarters, and being greeted with donuts and coffee, has a negligible affect.   A "verified" e-mail list of drivers, of ANY transportation service, is questionable in it's directive.   What is obvious though, is there is an effort of the people to advocate for change.  If there is one thing congruent in this advocacy, it's that rideshare providers aren't only drivers - they are People! 

UberPeople.NET is an independently created lunchroom style forum, where anyone can anonymously come and share their opinion and experience ridesharing.   There is no leader, and the organization is a simple categorical web-site to facilitate productive discussion.   


Uber vs Lyft
June 17th, 2014

"Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people." - David Sarnoff, Pioneer of American Commercial Radio and TV

The two major players in rideshare in 2014 are Uber and Lyft.   Let us consider the differences in these two companies as both a driver, and a passenger.

There is perception.   Look at any Uber advertisement; you will see a sleak, suave, new age, hipster type.   The car pictured will be the closest thing possible to a Tesla.   When you see Lyft being promoted, it's pink mustaches, balloons, and guy/girl next door type.  You feel like perhaps you are at a family party where the kids are running and jumping over the sprinkler.   The car looks like a soccer-mom mobile.  Although these two companies have distinct images, they compete directly with each other - sometimes viciously.

Uber Advertisement


Lyft Advertisement


Uber has been offering a promotion for Lyft drivers to try the Uber platform.    If you are a current Lyft driver, and you signup to drive for Uber, you will get a $500 bonus once completing your first ride.   If you happen to be a Lyft mentor, a driver more established in the Lyft community, the bonus is doubled to $1,000.   In addition, the Uber driver who refers the Lyft driver gets the same $500/$1000 bonus.   Lyft responded by placing trucks with advertisements in SF that made the same $500 offer to try their platform.  


The result; a lot of drivers are opting to use both platforms.   A driver can have both platforms running, get a ping for one, and shut down the other until after the drop-off.  By "doubling down" a driver doubles their chances of getting a ride request.  That means more fares, and less time waiting for a request.  

Some drivers around the web have made observations of the difference in passengers.  Lyft riders are more apt to sit in the front seat and be more conversational.   There is a fine line between the expectation of conversation in the car from both the driver, and the passengers perspective.   It is more frequent that groups of Lyft riders will include the driver in communication, whereas an Uber driver might seem to be sitting on another planet in the driver seat.    Of course these are generalizations and trends, and Uber passengers can be engaging with drivers as well.

The fist bumps and the pink mustaches (Lyft).   A lot of drivers and even passengers are not keen on the mustache.   For drivers, the attention can be dangerous with both authorities, and disgruntled cab drivers on the road.   Some passengers also don't feel comfortable rolling up to the hip party in town with a furry stache on the grill of their ride.   Interestingly though, reports around the country say that although Lyft is expanding rapidly, the number of staches being seen around town is diminishing.   More and more drivers are opting not to use the mustache when driving for Lyft.  Breaking this barrier has more Uber drivers willing to try Lyft, knowing that they don't have to be so easily identified as doing so.   In fact, now when you drive for Lyft, they don't even send you the stache until you complete 30 rides. 

A lot of passengers when asked, what they like better about Uber then Lyft, will say the "professional" feel.   Uber has generally higher requirements for a drivers vehicle to be accepted onto the platform.   Where the age of a Lyft car can be 2001 or newer - Uber is 2006 or newer.   This can contribute to the more professional feel of riding in Uber: newer = cleaner = suave!  Some passengers don't want to be bothered with the more usual conversation of a Lyft ride.   Some drivers describe the Uber passengers as more condescending.

One glaring difference between the two rideshare companies is Lyfts feature at the end of the ride to allow the passenger to tip.   While Uber controversially states 'tips are included', Lyft provides a simple button option to reward a driver for good service.   Another financial incentive for driving Lyft right now is that they have forgone taking comission.   Lyft doesn't take any commission from tips, but right now they aren't taking any commission from the fare whatsoever.   Lyft is even adding a $1 spring bonus on every ride for the driver, a bit of an extra tip from Lyft themselves.

Another point of difference seems to be the conversion of taxi drivers to Ubers platform but not so much Lyft.    Whether Lyft has some requirements that make it harder for the average taxi driver to join is unclear.   Perhaps it is the threat of the stache that keeps them away.  It has been in the news recently that some Uber drivers backgrounds were a bit sketchy.   Lyft even came out this past week and said an Uber driver couldn't pass their background check.  


It is worth considering when you are adding 20,000 drivers a month like Uber, a few bad apples are bound to slip through the cracks.   Hard facts on Ubers background check policy hasn't been clearly made available.


Best bet for a driver, if they can, drive both UberX and Lyft.    See which one they prefer, and for those looking to up their earning potential - double down! 

For passengers, its a personal choice.   Go with all the free offers and referral incentives you can.   If you want to ride around with your newly appointed friend, and with a feel of community, then go for Lyft.   If you see yourself in the backseat being chauffeured to your destination, perhaps Uber is more for you.   The truth of the safety of the two services has yet to be compared enough thus far.

UberPeople.Net tip for drivers:   Triple down your earnings by accidentally leaving the competitors promo card in the backseat when giving rides.   Exposing users to the competition and putting a few more bucks or credit in your pockets.


Income, Salary, Wages, of an Uber Driver
June 2nd, 2014

Welcome reader, to the UberPeople.NET blog. An inside newsource to the workings of an Uber driver.

Last week an article published in The Washington Post reported that Uber claims the following as median earnings

"working at least 40 hours a week in New York City is $90,766 a year. In San Francisco, the median wage for an UberX driver working at least 40 hours a week is $74,191."



Let's have a look at the true earnings of an Uber driver, based off of reports here at the uber drivers forum - UberPeople.NET, and other sources around the web. When we look at wages for a contracting postition, like driving UberX, the cost of operating the vehicle is paramount. A layman might think, "hey you have a hybrid - it's only $5 in gas for 50 miles - that's only 10 cents a mile." However there are other vehicle costs to be considered: 

  • Depreciation
  • Maintenance
  • Repairs
  • Insurance
  • Registration
  • Cleaning

According to consumer reports

"The Prius topped Consumer Reports' Best New-Car Value analysis, released today, which ranks more than 200 vehicles on performance, reliability and costs. A low estimated five-year cost of 47 cents per mile pushed the Prius to the top of the list.". 

A LOW estimated cost per mile! According to UberPeople.NET's spreadsheet of Uber prices throughout the 58 Uber markets in The United States (http://uberpeople.net/index.php?pages/Pricing/) - the average per mile charge for an UberX is $1.57. After Uber takes their 20% cut that leaves $1.25 per mile for the driver. It is in the estimation from the reports on this forum that the car will put on as many miles or more without a passenger as with one. Not only will a driver have to put on miles enroute to pickup a passenger, but often a driver will need to manuever throughout the city to increase chances of receiving a new request for a ride.

With an average gross earning of $1.25 per mile, and an average car cost of 92 cents (47 x 2 miles driven for 1 earned).  That leaves the driver with $.32 cents per mile.   Suddenly the $1.57 national average Uber cost per mile doesn't seem so glamorous.   

A report today in PCMAG (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458816,00.asp) states that Uber reports the driver working 40 hours a week will drive approximately 40,000 miles in the year.   Luckily when putting that many miles on the car, the cost isn't quite 47 cents a mile.   But it's safe to assume that car costs for a full-time driver can be upwards of $10k a year.   If you are going to put 40k miles, even on a prius, it's going to cost $4k in gas alone.   

 Per hour

Uber sends out a weekly report to it's drivers that includes some statistics of the local market.   One interesting statistic is the "Top Drivers Earnings Per Hour".    For the week ending 6/1/14 in NYC, Uberx TOP DRIVERS earned $41/hour.  That's gross fares before commission.   $41/hour at 80% is $32.80/hour an hour before any costs.   $32.80 an hour at 40 hours a week, even 52 weeks a year, is $68,224 annually.   Wait a second!  $90,766 at 52 weeks a year, 40 hours is $43/hour.    Are they not including their own 20% cut in the costs?!   The report from Uber to The Washington Post was "median drivers", but these smaller figures are actually the "top drivers".


Uber NYC is a unique market where drivers comply with city regulations and are required to have special licensing even to drive Uber (more cost).   That isn't the case yet in most cities across the US.   As a result, pricing for UberX NYC is over double other major markets.

Market               Minute   Mile     Minimum
Chicago              $0.24        $1.00   $4.20       
New York       $0.75       $3.00   $12.00       
San Francisco    $0.30        $1.50   $6.00            

So take our figure of TOP DRIVERS earning $68k a year in NYC BEFORE costs.   One can surmise that in other major markets, TOP UberX drivers earn half or less of the $68k a year BEFORE costs.

While the flexibility of driving for Uber is hard to beat.   We find that on the forum the average take home pay of an UberX driver is between $10-$15 an hour depending mostly on what shifts the driver is willing to work, what market they are in, and what kind of car they drive.   

Check out our 'money' section for real reports from drivers themselves. 

P.S.  Some drivers opt for commerical auto policies, as their personal insurance will not cover them when they drive their car for UberX.   Cost estimates for these policies are $400-$500 a month.   Currently there is a grey area as to what and when Ubers commercial insurance will cover in the case of an accident.