Rideshare drivers in Tampa Bay took another hit on Friday when Lyft notified them that the company is following its competitor's lead and slashing fares.
"No driver likes a price change, so we try to make them only when we have to," said an email Lyft sent to its drivers. "With recent price changes from the competition, we need to take action to protect ridership and your long-term earnings."
The change — dropping fares from $1 a mile to 70 cents per mile — comes a week after Uber announced a similar price cut.
About 50 Uber drivers gathered Thursday in downtown Tampa to protest the cuts. Under the new fares, drivers will earn about 49 to 52 cents per mile — a rate they say doesn't even cover the maintenance and wear-and-tear on their vehicles. The current mileage deduction rate set by the government is 54 cents per mile.
Several Uber drivers had contemplated switching to primarily Lyft in order to adjust to the price cut, but Lyft's announcement leaves them without an alternative.
"People yesterday were going, 'Well, at least there's Lyft,'" said longtime driver Joshua Streeter, 41, who is on the Tampa Bay rideshare steering committee. "And now, all of a sudden, we don't even know what to do."
Streeter said he was almost immediately inundated with messages and phone calls from other drivers after the Lyft email went out. Though people are still reacting to the news and deciding what to do about further protests, Streeter said it's likely many will continue to drive primarily for Lyft, even with the price cut.
Unlike Uber, Lyft allows for tipping within the app. And even with the reduced rates, Lyft is still charging a higher rate than its competitor.
"Those who have to still work in this business are going with Lyft," Streeter said. " I guess, for now."
Lyft made similar cuts in 32 other cities Friday.