Ava Valentine averages $1200 a week driving for Uber and Lyft; Comic-Con last week might’ve slowed down her bankroll.
“There was a lot of short fares downtown that took up a lot of time,” she said, “and eventually I wised up and simply turned the apps off when I got downtown.”
By turning off the app, which is said to be a common practice for share drivers, they disappear from the grid and don’t have to hear their devices pinging with potential pick-ups. Because Harbor Drive was shut down between Park Boulevard and 1st Avenue during the days of Comic-Con (July 18-22), Gaslamp District was bumper-to-bumper at times. Accessing the venue from Caesar Chavez Parkway off the I-5 was the better option .
If the app is open, “we get a ping or request with a quick preview of where the passenger is,” Valentine said, “anywhere from a few blocks to a few miles away, and a passenger’s rating. We have a limited time which is about a minute but it feels like a lot less to accept or decline.”
Valentine is a 32-year-old Prius driver and a platinum status driver for Lyft which means she averages 600 rides in three month’s time.
“The spike is almost always good for drivers; that means there is most likely a higher paying fare, however, minimum distance fares (around a three-mile range) only pay about $3,” she said. “If a driver picks up a passenger during Comic-Con traffic, it was 15-20 minutes to move about a mile or two. The driver only receives $6-$8 or so with no tip. With that kind of time spent driving, the driver makes less than a minimum wage job, considering the fuel expense and wear and tear on their vehicle.”
Count drives full-time and exclusively for Lyft; he rents one of their vehicles.
“I did not notice much stacking up of the [Comic-Con] rides,” he said. “In other words I did not see what I usually see when it is supposed to be extremely busy. When I am en route with a rider, I should hear the app say ‘another passenger has been added to your cue’ meaning someone close by to my destination wants a ride out and it didn’t happen at all on Thursday or Friday.”
Count added that Los Angeles-based Lyft drivers came down for the week and “f’d up San Diego’s [share-ride] ecosystem.”
Behind the convention center, by the Embarcadero Marina Park South, there was a Lyft Lounge where con-goers could charge their phones, eat and get a drink while waiting for their driver.
“[The lounge] is great because we don’t have to go searching for our passengers,” said Jessie B., “they are where they say they are.”
Jessie, 38, is a Mission Valley resident that’s been driving with Lyft for a year. She noticed a “200 percent increase in rides” during Comic-Con.
“I picked up a whole family dressed in Jurassic Park attire from Seaport Village and dropped them on J Street and 6th Avenue,” she said. “I had another passenger who wore a large black skirt and two large ponytails. I’m not too familiar with [anime and cosplay] but her costume was amazing. I picked up her and her boyfriend in North Park and dropped them off at the Omni hotel.”
On Saturday Valentine picked up a passenger dressed as Dark Magician Girl from Yu-Gi-Oh! and another that cosplayed as Wonder Woman from the Golden Age era of comic books; she was tipped a $20 bill on top of her fare.
One of the Lyft drivers from Los Angeles that pissed off Count blamed his slow Comic-Con week on the “abundant” amount of share scooters and share bikes available downtown.
“Yeah, [Bird and Lime] are taking money from us,” Count said, “I would just like to see them [riders] all get tickets. That would be a big fat burn on them.”
Teri, an Uber driver from Allied Gardens, doesn’t agree with Count.
“I have pointed out to some people going short distances that they could probably save money by taking a share bike rather than Uber,” she said. “Lol, I’m shooting myself in the foot here.”
Teri, 56, has been Ubering since she lost her job in 2015. During the con, she picked up two girls cosplaying as a combined cat and dog. She picked up a group that produced a film called Safe with Me. “They were all so excited and raved about the film and how it was shot here in San Diego and in the desert a la Ansel Adams style,” she said.
“This was probably the slowest Thursday and Friday I’ve ever worked,” said Sheri, a Lyft driver.
“It was too slow and the rides were too short with no money and no tips. I sat on the brakes for 20 minutes to take them 0.5 miles and they could have walked in seven minutes; [plus] there were too many drivers out.”