Minneapolis rideshare drivers navigate future as Uber, Lyft exit approaches 

A man rests his head on a car seat headrest
Rideshare driver Farhan Badel, 34, pilots his car through downtown Minneapolis on March 28. He has been driving for rideshare apps Uber and Lyft since 2018.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Uber and Lyft have promised to end service in Minneapolis on May 1 because of a dispute with the city over driver pay. The situation leaves drivers with uncertainty over how to make a living and what comes next.

One of those drivers is Farhan Badel, who has been driving for Uber and Lyft in Minneapolis since 2018.

Badel said more than half of his trips are to the airport, with other destinations like hotels, job sites and medical facilities scattered in between.

His work for Uber and Lyft helps him support his three children and wife and has allowed him the freedom to be able to choose his hours to better juggle life and work.

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A person holds a phone with Uber app pulled up
Rideshare driver Farhan Badel checks his account on Uber’s driver app during a shift in Minneapolis.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“I like meeting new people, this has really improved my people skills, you know, doing this for five years now, and the adventure of it is why I love doing this job,” Badel said.

An increase in gas prices and cost of living means the rideshare driver has to work longer hours to earn what he used to.

“It’s really tough,” Badel said on a recent day he worked four hours and made $54. “And a lot of times people forget that half of our time, we’re sitting in our cars, waiting for a ride,” he said.

Under the proposal approved by the Minneapolis City Council, and that it will reconsider, drivers would be paid 51 cents per minute and $1.40 a mile, as well as a minimum of $5 for each fare. The proposal calls for 80 percent of any fees for canceled rides be paid to drivers and exempt tips from minimum compensation. 

In a letter to city council president Elliott Payne Wednesday, Lyft’s Chief Policy Officer Jeremy Bird said the company would support rates of 89 cents per mile and $.487 per minute.

A closeup of Uber and Lyft stickers
Uber and Lyft stickers are prominently displayed on driver Farhan Badel’s Toyota Camry as he drives during a shift in Minneapolis.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Bird’s letter states “Lyft instituted an earnings commitment where drivers will make at least 70 percent of the weekly rider fares after external fees.” Bird said increasing driver pay at the level in the ordinance would lead to a loss in ridership due to higher costs.

Meanwhile as part of a lobbying campaign, Uber launched a website, bringridesback.com, which prompts riders to email Minnesota legislators to pressure them to keep the service in the Twin Cities metro.

If Uber and Lyft leave Minneapolis within weeks, Badel and other drivers may explore roads less traveled — driving for startup rideshare apps.

At his home office in Woodbury, Murid Amini has been working around the clock since early March developing MOOV, a rideshare app which he says has around 900 users signed up so far — around 600 are drivers.

“My goal is to have at least 1,000, but closer to 2,000 drivers ready to go by May 1,” Amini said.

An immigrant from Afghanistan, Amini has a background in software development and corporate strategy. He said the app will offer a similar experience to Uber and Lyft where riders can request a ride. The difference: Amini said drivers would earn a larger portion of the fare.

A man works at a desk
MOOV rideshare app founder Murid Amini works in his home office in Woodbury.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Amini doesn’t have a strong stance on reaching the minimum wage that some drivers are fighting for. He wants to find a middle ground for drivers to earn a livable wage and for riders to have affordable rates.

“My goal is to say, you can’t bully an entire metro area, and risk people’s livelihoods and their ability to commute just because you have an app. And it’s not super difficult to build an app,” he said.

Other rideshare companies are also looking for ways to fill the possible void, including HICH and The Drivers Cooperative, a driver-owned organization in New York, interested in signing up Minnesota drivers.

They’d need a transportation network company, or TNC license to operate. According to the city, TNC licensing costs $37,145 per year, plus a $10,615 wheelchair surcharge.

City officials say three companies have applied for TNC licenses so far, including MOOV. The approval process takes two to six weeks.

Amini says he’s talking to investors and the city to explore financial support for small start-up businesses like his.

A man's silhouette as he drives a car
Thirty-four-year-old rideshare driver Farhan Badel pilots his car through downtown Minneapolis. He has been driving for rideshare apps Uber and Lyft since 2018.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Farhan Badel has already signed up for a couple of other rideshare apps.

The 34-year-old immigrant from Somalia owns his car. Other drivers who rent, may find more roadblocks along the way. At least one rental car company, Hertz, is asking Uber and Lyft drivers to return their cars.

Badel said his experience working for a higher wage has made him more civic-minded.

“If I can use my voice for change, to help my other brother live an honest living, earn a minimum wage, provide food on a table, that’s the very minimum that I can do.”

According to state data, “the majority of Minnesota TNC drivers are male immigrants and predominantly Black or African American non-Hispanic workers with less than a four-year college degree; many live in low-income households (up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level) and, relative to all Minnesota workers, are disproportionately reliant on public assistance."

The Minneapolis City Council plans to reconsider the ordinance on April 11.

A man works at a desk, framed photos sit on a shelf above
MOOV rideshare app founder Murid Amini works in his home office in Woodbury.
Ben Hovland | MPR News