Merchant Innovation

Uber, Lyft Capitalize On D.C.’s Metro Nightmare

Car-less residents of Washington, D.C., recently received some awful news: The Metro would be shut down all day Wednesday (March 16) for emergency safety checks following this week’s cable fire. As the entire district let out a collective groan, though, two companies sprang into characteristic opportunism.

According to Fortune, it didn’t take long for both Uber and Lyft to spring into action in response to D.C.’s Metro shutdown. Uber said that it would be placing an upper limit on surge pricing at 3.9 times base fares, in addition to a $25 credit for any unlucky commuters turning to the service for the first time. Not to be left out, Lyft is also handing out $20 vouchers for first-time riders.

The shutdown, announced late Tuesday (March 15) afternoon, was put in place to give safety inspectors time to check about 600 underground cables that transfer power from the third rail to trains and are spread across the transit network’s 118 miles of track, WIRED explained. The estimated 700,000 daily Metro commuters weren’t exactly given ample time to figure out alternate routes, and Uber and Lyft are clearly hoping this lack of lead-time pushes desperate travelers into the open doors of their drivers’ cars.

“ETAs may be higher than normal but we’re doing everything we can to ensure there are plenty of drivers on the road,” a Lyft spokesperson told Washington Business Journal.

In addition to price adjustments, Uber is also maximizing its share of wheels on the road by extending the service area of its UberPOOL ride-share feature to cover the entire Washington, D.C. metro area instead of just downtown neighborhoods. Both Uber and Lyft have shown a willingness to supplement public transit systems by acting as gap-filling measures to and from terminal train stations, but D.C.’s commuter nightmare could be a chance for them to show municipal authorities, and consumers themselves, that they can handle the influx of riders on their own.


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