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Shortage of rideshare drivers & high prices causing headaches during festival season

The Coachella Valley is the place to be in festival season, with tens of thousands of people coming here just for Coachella and Stagecoach alone. It can spike demand for everything from vacation rentals to hotels to rideshares.   

And people are paying the price.

Friday night at the Nest, one of the valley's hot spots in Indian Wells. Co-owner Kevin Henry is playing to the crowd, at times this season, it's been a long night for him making sure everyone was able to get a ride.

"Sometimes til 3:00 in the morning waiting for an UBER, I've often had to take people home myself to Palm Springs or to the hotels," Henry said.

Now add surging prices to go along with those long waits.

"And it's $40 for a two-minute drive," a group of passengers told News Channel 3.

Throw in a mega-event like Coachella and $40 ends up looking like a bargain just a week later.

"They wanted like $120 to pick him up from Indio," Henry said about one ride.

One passenger's screenshot shows a ride within the city of Palm Springs at 3:16 in the afternoon on Saturday during weekend one of Coachella.

$119 for the 11 mile trip.

From Palm Springs down to Thermal at 4:54 in the afternoon, $159.90, almost $200 with tip.

Sergio Avedian is an Uber and Lyft driver and senior contributor at "The Rideshare Guy" an industry blog.

"What's the most shocking price tag you've ever heard of someone paying?" John White asked Avedian.

"In Palm Springs, I've heard of a 3-mile ride costing about $120 which comes to $40 a mile, which is astronomic right?"

"There's going to be a huge spike in demand, not just at the festival grounds, across the entire marketplace," says Ben Kemp, Manager of Mobility Solutions for Uber.

"We're open and transparent with riders that during the peak hours, they should be anticipating much higher than normal wait times. And it's expected that prices would be higher during those periods as well," Kemp said.

On top of the surge pricing, add a fuel surcharge, and an extra $20 if you're getting picked up or dropped off at the festival.

Avedian says gas prices are one big reason for a driver shortage.

"We did a survey at rideshare guy and 15 percent of the drivers have totally quit driving. 36 percent have cut down at least 50 percent," Avedian said.

Uber is trying to convince more drivers to come to the valley during festival weekends to help with demand.

"So there's a lot of different promotions that are going to be available to make it worthwhile for drivers outside that market to come into the area," Kemp said. "So, there is a supply-demand, basically equilibrium and in this case, there is no equilibrium. There is more demand than supply. So the algorithm automatically jacks up the prices on the passengers."

Back at the Nest, it can be frustrating.

Uber gave News Channel 3 an additional statement explaining the longer wait times and higher prices.

“As is custom for most major events, particularly those with a greater amount of congestion, dynamic pricing can go into effect during periods when demand for rides is at its highest. For Coachella, the combination of the event’s remote location along with thousands of music fans looking for rides within a tight time window, lead to increased rates during peak hours. This benefits riders by helping to attract more vehicles to the area, and for drivers within the local community, it makes for a great increased earning opportunity. “

- Uber Spokesperson


-Keep an eye on ETAs: As wait times can vary during peak demand, open the Uber app 20 minutes before you want to ride to gauge arrival times. This will help ensure you get where you want to go on time. 

-Wait It Out: We know prices can vary, especially when it’s busy. If you’re not in a rush, try waiting a few minutes to request your ride as prices can go down.

-Consider all options: Try a product you haven’t tried before. We offer a large range of rideshare options including Comfort, Uber Green, UberX, UberXL, Uber Black, UberBLack SUV and more. 

-Share the fare: Meeting up with a friend? Pick them up along the way by adding a stop or two and splitting the fare




Taxis can also be part of the solution. Their fares are regulated, so they can be less expensive at peak times if you can get one.

Article Topic Follows: In-Depth

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John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.

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