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Uber, Lyft dragged for surging prices during mass shooting (updated)

Users in Seattle are furious.


Samira Sadeque

Layer 8

Posted on Jan 23, 2020   Updated on May 19, 2021, 5:10 pm CDT

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.



“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.




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.



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.”


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*First Published: Jan 23, 2020, 11:06 am CST