Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gasparilla: to Uber or not to Uber?

TAMPA — As Tampa Bay's biggest party weekend approaches, wannabe pirates are finalizing their plans, including how to get home from Saturday's Gasparilla festivities.

Sure, there are cabs, buses and designated drivers. And then there is Uber, the rideshare company that came to Tampa more than a year and a half ago and has caused all sorts of drama.

On the plus side, it's cheap. Usually. Fares are 65 cents a mile while cabs are set at $2.40 a mile. Riders can use an app on their phone to page a nearby driver and watch on the map as the car approaches — which means no waiting around for 20 minutes wondering when your ride is going to arrive.

Captain Morgan is partnering with Uber this weekend, offering $20 ride vouchers for Gasparilla attendees 21-years-old and over. Just enter the promo code 'pirateresponsibly' in the Uber app by 2 p.m. Saturday for a chance to be one of 1,000 winners. The discount is redeemable for rides taken before Monday.

But here's the catch: that $20 might not be worth that much if Uber's infamous surge pricing goes into effect. The supply-and-demand pricing model can lead to fares as much as 10 times the normal rate during popular events when requests for rides outnumber drivers available.

One Tampa resident learned that the hard way when a 3.4 mile ride after a Florida State University game cost her almost $100. There are countless stories similar to this nationwide — such as the Virginia woman who paid $640.94 to take a 30-minute ride to Reagan National Airport during the recent blizzard.

Normally, without surge pricing, a 2.5 mile ride from Bayshore Boulevard to W Swann Avenue and N Dale Mabry Highway would cost $5 to $6, according to Uber's online price calculator. But if surge pricing is in effect, that 10-minute ride could skyrocket to $50. And that's just for a ride within South Tampa.

It's not just the increased amount of inebriated party-goers seeking safe rides that could up the cost Saturday. Local drivers, outraged by Uber's decision to drop rates to 65 cents, plan to protest during the Gasparilla by not driving. Which means supply will be even lower than usual.

"Operation Cruise Gasparilla" will entail all involved rideshare drivers logging off the app for one hour. During that time, they'll drive slowly through populated streets such as Kennedy Boulevard with signs on their cars such as "prepare for 10X surge tonight," "Uber is looting customers today" and "Ahoy! Uber is stealing your booty."

All this takes place within a local climate where regulators have been trying to bring Uber and other rideshare companies into compliance, arguing that the companies don't provide adequate insurance, background checks or vehicle inspections. The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles, has tried issuing tickets and filing lawsuits, but hasn't had much luck.

For now, the PTC and Uber are in a cease-fire -— though the PTC still maintains that driving for Uber is illegal — in hopes that legislators in Tallahassee will pass a bill that legalizes ridesharing while also assuaging regulators' concerns.

Until then, the rideshare company will continue to operate in Tampa as per normal — surge pricing and all.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.

Gasparilla: to Uber or not to Uber? 01/29/16 [Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2016 1:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)

    Golf

    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.