This morning, I’m headed to the orthopedist to find out the status of my ankle injury recovery. Because I broke my right ankle – my driving ankle – I must get to the orthopedist via an Uber. I also need to get to my day job via Uber, and usually that ride is $15 each way.
Last week, one of the few remaining taxi companies, Capitaland, folded. Only one cab company in the Capital District – Yellow Cab – still operates today. When Uber and Lyft entered the Albany market, the area had half a dozen cab companies. Now there’s only one.
And once Capitaland died … something mysterious happened with my Uber transports.
The rates ballooned.
Last Monday, for example, I had finished my day job and opened my Uber app to hail a rideshare. The quoted rate for a standard UberX – which was usually $15 to get home – was suddenly $40.
I tried to think if there was something going on in downtown Albany that might cause such a surge in pricing. I know that “surge pricing” can affect rideshare rates, which can be calculated from such variables as downtown concert activity, construction, or the availability of rideshare drivers. But $15 to $40 just to get out of Albany?
Okay. Must be an abnormality. I’ll just hobble up State Street to the bus stop, take CDTA bus 182, ride through Loudonville and Latham and Cohoes to get to Green Island an hour and a half later, and it’ll only cost $1.50. And I put the remaining $38.50 that I would have spent on Uber towards a rainy day loan.
Tuesday morning, rise and shine, let’s get ready for work, time to check for the Uber schedule – wait, $25 to get to work? When it was only $15 last week??
Again, hobbled down the street and across the block to Arch Street, got on the CDTA bus 182, rode through Cohoes and Latham and Loudonville to downtown Albany an hour and a half later. $1.50 into the bus coin box, $23.50 into the rainy day fund.
By Wednesday night, I tried a new tactic. At 5:00, I checked the Uber rates. $25 to get home. All right, I’ll wait 15 minutes and see if the price goes down. Fifteen minutes later, I checked Uber again. The rate to get home was now $35. Yikes.
So I’m thinking something’s going on here. And maybe, just maybe, this is the conspiracy theorist in me.
The cab companies in Albany weren’t the greatest liveries in the world, but they were an alternative to Uber and Lyft. But one by one, the cab companies in Albany died off. And with Uber and Lyft now becoming the only option left – outside of CDTA and Yellow Cab – is this a case of the rideshare companies killing off their competition and then controlling the marketplace all by themselves?
Believe me, as soon as I’m able to get my ankle back into driving shape, I’m returning to my own personal drive-share. That’s where I drive my car and share my money with NO ONE.
I mean, I could be totally over-reacting here. But for weeks, I’ve been paying one straight fee each time. And I understand Uber’s “Surge Pricing” model, but surge pricing for an entire week – coincidentally, the same week that Capitaland Taxi shuts its doors?
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …
This morning, I have to take Uber to my orthopedist, and then take Uber to the day job. My other option is to take three different CDTA’s to get to Ortho … and then another CDTA to get FROM Ortho to downtown Albany.
Using Uber today may be a necessary evil … but it’s definitely showing me that their surge pricing may be more “evil” than “necessary.”
And it just makes me want to get back to driving myself as soon as possible.