10 Things I Hate About U(ber) – #5 Oversaturation

10 ThingsThe 90s were a great decade for high school cult classic films. I was actually in college by the time 10 Things I Hate About You came out, nevertheless, it immediately ranked up there with CluelessCan’t Hardly Wait and Never Been Kissed as one of my top faves! In this modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kat Stratford (played by Julia Stiles) writes a sonnet poem for Patrick Verona (played by the late Heath Ledger) listing all of the things she loves to hate about their bittersweet puppy love romance, which unfolds when he shows up at Padua High. Though I haven’t watched the movie in ages, the title got me to thinking about all of the things I love to hate about driving Uber! It’s incredibly easy to tell people about all the things I totally love (the autonomy, getting paid once a week, freedom to roam around the five boroughs and meet interesting people), but the last three months have given me the type of insight and firsthand knowledge that CERTAINLY makes a girl frustrated at times. 

So, the next few Uberlicious posts will be a part of series I’ll call:
10 Things I Hate About U(ber)!

#5 Oversaturation

New York TrafficSo, the last I checked, there were an estimated +35,000 drivers on the Uber platform in NYC. Factor in the hundreds of drivers who are likely signing up as we speak after seeing/hearing one of Uber’s campaign ads promising large earnings, the numbers are increasing by the week. Each of us are independent contractors in what is known as the “gig economy”, as opposed to employees of Uber Technologies, and therefore give up the safety net of a traditional nine-to-five for the preference of working on our own terms. In recent months, there have been ongoing legal battles between contractors and companies like Uber, Instacart and Postmates on whether the people who sign up to work independently using these apps should be considered employees of the companies that created the applications. The main issue is the lack of protection or rights for said workers in the way employees of the companies receive. Basically, advocates are demanding that these companies to take responsibility in a way that is beneficial for the masses of drivers who sign up to implement their services.

Though this is the case, these legal battles have done little to thwart the number of people who wonder if Uber is right for them and start the long process to picking up their own passengers. I first contemplated driving for Uber back in April of 2015, but it wasn’t until September, after a drawn out process, that I actually completed my first fare (for which Uber paid $500). At that point, I hadn’t put much thought into the impact of adding my car to the streets of NYC, an already overpopulated city of +8.4 million residents – 43% of whom own cars (which is a lower ownership percentage than the average American city). What I also didn’t consider is that, at this point, Uber has more cars on the road than Yellow Taxis, which means, at any given moment, getting a fare can be competitive for drivers.

Now, I’m not one to study the numbers unless really compelled, but I have developed a real interest in what is being published in relation to my own insights as a driver. While the money seemed to be rolling in pretty consistently along with the passengers throughout the fall months, it wasn’t until early December that I started questioning for myself if there were too many drivers on the road. Whereas I could earn between $100-150 easily in a few hours (aiming to make the same $500 in a week I got for that initial ride incentive), it now was apparent that the hours would drag on and on without even approaching my goal for that day. With Uber’s successful campaigning to get drivers to sign up, I certainly could tell a difference from week to week in how often I would receive passengers, and how much time would pass in between rides. One conclusion I came to after a few conversations with friends was that during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, you have a lot of people in industries that take time off from work. Professionals in education, college students, and those in entertainment come to mind as people who’d want to sign up to drive for extra cash during the holidays. Then there’s always people like myself who do it part-time, regardless of season, mixed in with drivers putting in upwards of twelve hours a day, six days a week. THEN, here in NYC, you have UberTaxi, where a passenger can choose to call a Yellow Taxi using the app over a regular UberX. So many cars, so few passengers…even in a city of 8 million! Or so it seems depending on when you’re on the road. 

Adding to this theory of an increase of drivers over the course of the holiday due to slowdown in other industries, there’s also the reality of the high turnover rate for rideshare drivers. But, the question remains: While some often quit driving for the rideshare app after six months or so, what does that mean when new drivers are constantly signing up and competing in the same oversaturated market? Factor in how Uber recently dropped their fares for the second time in two years, which has drivers across the country up in arms and organizing with protests demanding fairer agreements, and this also plays into the flux of drivers on the road each day.


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