Using Uber on New Year’s Eve? Keep an eye on the clock to get the best price

Why fares could change minute by minute

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 11:30 pm

WASHINGTON – A lot of people would prefer not to drive during Tuesday night’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, but if you’re looking to use the online car service Uber, prepare to pay a bit more — or maybe a lot more.

It’s called “surge pricing,” which is exactly what it sounds like — fares go way up, sometimes up to six times the usual level. But Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick says in a video (via In the Capital) that users can get around surge pricing on Tuesday night by keeping an eye on the clock.

Kalanick says that Uber usage patterns during New Year’s Eve are remarkably uniform around the more than 60 cities they serve. His advice for a good price? Get where you’re going early and stay late — except for a pocket of low-demand times you may not expect. Tuesday marks Uber’s fourth New Year’s Eve.

Kalanick tells riders that before 8 p.m., “you’re pretty good.” From 8 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m., people headed out for celebrations will drive prices up to the level of a usual Friday or Saturday night.

But, perhaps surprisingly, between 10:30 p.m. and midnight, Kalanick says, “It’s like crickets out there.” People have gotten to where they’re going to be at midnight, and there are plenty of cars available, Kalanick says.

At the other end of the night, lots of people toast the arrival of midnight and then “get out of Dodge,” Kalanick says.

“It’s at 12:15 a.m. in cities around the world that demand just way outstrips anything supply can bring to the table,” he says.

If you’re out past 12:15 a.m. and you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to get home, wait until about 3 a.m., when demand goes back down.

Surge pricing has drawn some criticism from people who think it sounds a lot like price gouging, particularly when it happens during bad weather. Kalanick has said that the point of the practice is to make it worth Uber drivers’ while to be out on the roads when the impulse is to stay off.

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