A Houstonian complains that his 13-mile trip on Uber cost him $247.50 with surge pricing in effect. Yet, his own confused comments illustrate so lucidly how supply and demand work. In short, he couldn’t find a taxi after a football game finished, he was tired of walking, so he hired an Uber knowing surge pricing was in effect.
The trip went down like this: Livingston took an $18 Uber ride from Oak Forest to Rice Village and met some friends. From there, he went to the Texas Bowl to see Texas play Arkansas at NRG Stadium.
His group left before the game ended, around 11 p.m., and he and his friends planned to split a fare back to Oak Forest. It would normally be about a $45 ride, with the various fees and taxes.
I’ve been to football games at NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium. After games, it is an absolute madhouse. I don’t mean to be critical, but going to a football game, and expecting to take a taxi home is a really, really, really foolish idea. There are no cabs. Your have options. You can drive yourself, and pay $50 for parking. Even then, it took me over an hour to drive to my apartment 2 miles away. Or, you can take the light rail (which may involve a 30 minute wait. Or you walk to an off-stadium parking lot. I’ve done all of the above to varying degrees of success. But why would anyone think it is a good idea to get a taxi? There aren’t any for good reason! The roads are a mess.
As it turns out, he couldn’t get a taxi, because there weren’t any. And because he was tired, and didn’t feel like walking anymore, he called an Uber, and what do you know, it showed up!
“We walked to the Fiesta (grocery store) parking lot and found our Uber driver,” Livingston explained in an email. “He told us it would be at a higher rate because of the surge pricing … but we were tired of walking and looking for a ride so we accepted.”
Tuesday morning, Livingston posted his details on Twitter, chiding Uber for the big up-charge and wishing he’d just waited for a cab.
One point to stress about NRG stadium, is that it is HUGE. If you leave after the game, depending where you sit, it can take maybe 20 minutes just to walk down the ramps, and then another 20 minutes to cross the gargantuan parking lot. By the time you hit Kirby Drive (the main artery adjacent to the stadium), you may be walking for about 40 minutes. (Google Maps suggests a 1 mile walk from the stadium to Fiesta). I’m sure he was tired after a long game. And when you’re tired, and don’t feel like waiting for a cab anymore, you have an option. Pay more for Uber–which the driver warned about–or keep on walking.
Supply and demand is a wonderful thing. If surge pricing wasn’t in effect, there would not be any taxis, and this sports fan would have had to keep on walking.
I am preemptively cringing from all the drunkards who knowingly accept surge pricing on New Years Eve, and then bitch about it the morning after. If you don’t like Uber for whatever reason–a fetish for occupational licensing, a dislike for supply and demand, or a fear of your driver having inadequate coverage–do not use Uber. It’s really easy.
Update: Uber provided an infographic explaining when surge pricing will be in effect: