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Downtown Seattle was gripped with a mass shooting on Wednesday evening that killed one and injured several near a McDonald’s. Amid this crisis, when people were likely desperate to get out of the situation, Uber and Lyft reportedly surged their prices.
Videos by those in and around the neighborhood show people on the street in a set of panic, scurrying into safety, and some deserted streets in the aftermath. The police are on the lookout for multiple shooters, according to WQAD8.
People shared their Uber and Lyft grievances on social media with screenshots showing high prices for short rides.
Hey @Uber & @lyft. Next time there is a crisis like the mass shooting that happened earlier in dtown Seattle. How about you don't surge your prices to the people who are trying to get home safe. 😤 IG:@j_lane#MassShooting #seattleshooting #Seattle pic.twitter.com/BDZPtKwMHV— Will Frometa (@_froto) January 23, 2020
@lyft I've been a loyal customer for years. I'm deleting my app tonight -- I'd rather walk home from the airport than support a company that would do this. Shame on you. #seattleshooting https://t.co/oxnPhd6Sze— Catherine (@catherineshakes) January 23, 2020
“My son and his gf were in downtown #Seattle tonight trying to escape w/ their life but you decide to profit off of tragedy,” tweeted Jennifer W-Fields. She did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Some showed prices as high as $65 or $80 for an Uber Pool or Lyft Share, which are the most cost-efficient ride-hailing options on the platforms.
i would like a crumb of context as to how much your usual fare is to judge how much more than usual it increased? i'll still be deleting lyft because of this, and they'll no longer be receiving my business. #seattleshooting #lyft #whatthefrick https://t.co/nDhCt8sbUf— MotherBurrito (@Mother_Burrito) January 23, 2020
According to a 2018 report in the Stranger, a Seattle bi-weekly, Uber often charges $1.35 per mile. According to that calculation, the distance from 4th Avenue in Seattle to W Bellueve, as seen in Wiltshire’s tweet, which is 11.2 miles, would cost about $15.2. That’s one-fourth the price reported on the Uber app Wednesday.
One person even suggested that a crisis situation like this should’ve encouraged Uber to provide free rides instead.
Ride-hailing apps can automatically surge during high-demand hours.
Others on Twitter noted that Uber drivers arriving at the scene would be putting their lives at risk for operating in an area with an ongoing situation.
Maybe all of you unhinged lunatics who are waxing indignant about "surge" pricing by #Uber and #Lyft after the Seattle shooting(s) should run downtown in your personal cars and give all those people free rides home. Morons. #seattleshooting— Turd Ferguson (@TurdFer78982404) January 23, 2020
YEAH THOSE DRIVERS SHOULD PUT THEMSELVES AT RISK FOR FREE— Dr LadyGator EDM (@drrollergator) January 23, 2020
Nice. You want Uber drivers to risk their lives when a shooter is on the loose. Did it ever occur to you that Uber is actually allowing their drivers to decline rides in the middle of the crime scene, meaning even fewer drivers are available.— L'emmy Go (@scooter664) January 23, 2020
An Uber spokesperson told the Daily Dot that the company “capped surge just after 6 when we became aware of the incident (for the area about a mile radius from where the incident occurred).”
According to its emergency policies, Uber refunds users who may have been charged during a surge in a crisis situation. It isn’t clear what measures Uber is taking to ensure users are aware of this policy, and Uber did not respond to a follow-up inquiry about this.
Update 3:31pm CT, Jan. 23: In a statement to the Daily Dot on Thursday afternoon, Lyft said surge pricing is “automatically enabled” during increased demand but, after news of the shooting, ride prices were capped.
“The shooting in Seattle is tragic, and our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” Lyft’s statement said. “We plan to reimburse or credit users in the surrounding area who were affected by this increased pricing.”
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque