Will drivers be Uber busy giving Lyfts? Not so far

Jesse Seward of Minneapolis drives for Uber.
Jesse Seward of Minneapolis drives for Uber. He said Super Bowl business hasn't been great yet, but he expects it will pick up. He's in his car in St. Paul on Jan. 31, 2018.
Martin Moylan | MPR News

The tens of thousands of visitors coming to the Twin Cities for the Super Bowl and related events will need rides. Lots of them. Uber and Lyft and their Twin Cities drivers have been betting the Super Bowl will be great for business.

"The money is going to be good," said driver Jesse Seward of Minneapolis.

This weekend, Seward believes he'll have a lot of company in his 2016 Honda Civic.

"Tomorrow, I think it's going to pick up," he said Wednesday morning. "But honestly it hasn't been that much busier yet."

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Seward is not the only Uber or Lyft driver hoping for a ride rally over the next few days. Michael Thorne of Apple Valley is in that camp. He drives for cash when he's not working as a comedian.

"I'm thinking that it will be easier to do over the next four days. I'm banking on that," he said. "But the first part of the week has been lackluster to say the least."

Thorne believes business is down because locals are avoiding downtown Minneapolis and maybe other spots they expect will be busy because of the Super Bowl.

"I think anyone who can work from home, is, and therefore the normal rush is just not happening," he said.

There are also a lot more Uber and Lyft drivers on local roads. Both companies launched efforts to recruit drivers in advance of the Super Bowl. The companies won't say how many drivers they have, but assure there are thousands of them.

Driver Dan Wolter of Burnsville said he has noticed competition is growing.

"I don't want to say that it's not going to be extremely hectic for Uber and Lyft drivers. But right now it just looks like there's a lot of supply, a lot of cars out there," he said.

Tuesday night, Wolter said he noticed 100 Uber and Lyft drivers waiting to get riders at the airport. That's two to three times normal, he said.

Still, he's hopeful about landing customers this weekend. "The market is good. It created the supply. Now, we'll see if there's the demand. I'm optimistic. But we'll see," he said.

More cars in supply should reduce the likelihood of so-called surge pricing for Uber and Lyft. Drivers say when demand is tight, fares can increase three- four-fold or more.

MPR News tracked Uber surge pricing in downtown Minneapolis Monday and Tuesday nights and noted a maximum surge of 70 percent over the usual price Monday and 140 percent above yesterday.

"Surge multipliers" have been light during Super Bowl week.
"Surge multipliers" have been light during Super Bowl week. Multipliers reaching higher than 8 happened at other events. Nothing beyond a 2.4 was recorded in downtown Minneapolis on Monday or Tuesday. (This graphic created with help from Northwestern University's Computational Journalism Lab.)
William Lager & Solvejg Wastvedt | MPR News graphic

Uber Midwest General Manager Brian Moloney would not offer a forecast for what could happen with surge pricing. But he had some advice for riders.

"The important thing to know, if you are requesting in those busiest areas, right after the game, right downtown or the busiest times late Saturday night, riders should just pay attention, look at the farewhen it comes through," Moloney said.

And then decide if the ride is worth the price. Or call a cab. Maybe hop a ride with a pal who has a limo ride. There'll be a lot of limos and luxury transport vehicles in town. For people who can afford them.

Total Transport of St. Paul brought in dozens of high-end sedans and SUVs for the game and reports that its 140 vehicle fleet is sold out. Amy Mauzy, marketing manager for the company said prices are 40 percent higher than usual. A Mercedes for a day-long rental costs $1,200. That includes the driver and tip.

"(It's) just supply and demand," she said.