Harry Campbell, also known as The Rideshare Guy, said COVID-19 has negatively impacted services like Uber and Lyft. However, both companies have been essential for people like nurses, doctors, and grocery store workers who are on the frontlines every day.
“I have heard from a lot of drivers who are taking nurses to hospitals and taking grocery workers to Ralphs and just food delivery to people, and so I will say that one of the nice things about the fact that Uber and Lyft are still open is that some of these rides that are happening are very meaningful right now.”
When COVID-19 first hit Los Angeles, Campbell said ridership on Uber and Lyft went up.
“In the early days of the coronavirus, we saw that people... wanted to avoid public transportation and not stand in a crowded train with 50 to 100 other people,” he said. “And so we actually saw ridership on Uber and Lyft increase, so there was a lot more demand. Lyft actually released numbers that said they had their highest ridership and revenue numbers ever in one week.”
Campbell said those peak numbers only lasted about a week. Then ridership started going down fast.
“Once states like California started enacting ‘shelter at home’ and closing bars and restaurants, that was sort of the final nail in the coffin for rideshare,” Campbell said. “There weren’t people commuting to and from work and using Uber and Lyft, and there also weren’t people going out to bars and restaurants.”
Campbell said he ran a survey of his audience on his blog, The Rideshare Guy, and 80 percent of those who responded said that rideshare demand and earnings are down.
“Unfortunately those numbers are only getting worse,” Campbell said. “So sort of with every day, I think the demand for Uber and Lyft services have gone down.”
Campbell said drivers who are still accepting passengers are implementing precautions.
“I think the ones who are able to acquire little bottles of Purell and sanitizing wipes, where they offer it to their passengers or at least wiping down their car with wipes before, even during, or after the shift,” he said.
While Campbell said rideshare companies were “a little slow to react to coronavirus,” now the companies are offering a form of sick pay for anyone diagnosed with coronavirus. Uber is taking it one step further.
“As long as you have a doctor’s note that you’re in quarantine for 14 days, [Uber] will actually look through your historical earnings and pay you out,” Cambell said. “We just wrote an article on The Rideshare Guy about a driver who received a $2100 payment from Uber.”
However, drivers who can’t get a test are worried about working when they have some of the symptoms associated with coronavirus.
“The thing that drivers are now asking though is, 'What if I’m a little earlier in this stage? What if I can’t get a test for coronavirus? What if I’m feeling symptoms and I sort of want to do the right thing and stop driving and stay home?' I think that that’s where Uber and Lyft need to step up a little bit more.”
Some rideshare drivers are starting to work for food delivery companies.
“With food delivery, it is a lot safer because there is less human contact,” Cambell said. “Of course there’s still the chance for spreading, but in an ideal situation, you walk into a restaurant, the food is sitting there on the counter, you pick it up, you put it in your car, and you leave it on the doorstep.”
Campbell says there are positives and negatives that come with a disruption like COVID-19.
“Uber and Lyft came in with a revolutionary model and disrupted the taxi industry, but there are a number of things that taxis actually do well,” he said. “If you go over to [Los Angeles International Airport] and call an Uber or Lyft, when this whole coronavirus is over, the system is actually very similar to a… taxi stand, how it used to be.”
Campbell hopes that coronavirus will prompt rideshare companies to adapt and create the best model possible.
“I think it’s more about not necessarily disrupting in a new way as the only way, but taking the best elements of the old way, and taking the best elements of the new way, what can technology enable, and combine those,” he said.
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