Uber, Lyft Not Shutting Down During Coming Blizzard

Here's what you need to know to use the car services this weekend.

Promotional photos from the press kits of Uber (left) and Lyft

Promotional photos from the press kits of Uber (left) and Lyft

If you’re going to be in Philadelphia this weekend, your options for getting around are slim. SEPTA is barely running as of 4 a.m. Saturday, and we expect that the remaining transit services won’t make it through Winter Storm Jonas unscathed. Plus, the city just announced that its bike-sharing service IndeGo will be unavailable — though, really, you’d have to be kind of out of your mind. But if you’re an Uber or Lyft customer, you may be in luck. Drivers for both services are expected to be working throughout the weekend.

“Uber is committed to getting riders safely and reliably to where they need to be, and we’re keeping a close eye on the Winter Storm,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll be staying in touch with driver-partners with updates on storm conditions and road closures, and will offer safety tips as well. And, for riders, we encourage them to check social media and the Uber app for updates.”

Uber doesn’t tell drivers when to work or when not to work, so it’s up to the individual drivers to decide whether to get on the road this weekend. To incentivize drivers to do so, Uber’s surge pricing will certainly go into effect.

If you’re an Uber neophyte, a quick explanation: The minimum fare for the Uber SUV service is $25, so even if you take it a short trip — say from City Hall to the Kimmel Center — you’re looking at a charge of $25. When Uber surge pricing goes into effect, rates increase by a surge factor, which is variable. Before you confirm a ride, you are given an opportunity to review the surge rate and accept or decline the ride.

It’s not infrequent to see a rush hour surge factor of 2.0, meaning the price doubles. We’ve seen surge factors hit 4 on Saturday nights, so the price quadruples. In other words, if the surge hits 4 during a blizzard and you take that SUV from City Hall to the Kimmel Center, you’re looking at $100. Egad!

Fortunately, Uber also offers a less expensive service that includes a lot of SUVs, and an SUV is what you’ll be wanting to get around in during this mess, we’re guessing. It’s called UberXL (as in extra large), and the minimum fare on that is only $7.25. So let’s say the surge is 4 and you get an UberXL — your minimum fare shoots up to $29. Still a lot to go down the street, but better than $100.

Not long ago, Uber instituted a policy that prevents the company from making the surge rate too high during a state of emergency, which has been officially declared in Pennsylvania and locally in Philadelphia. When we spoke with Uber on Friday afternoon, they were still trying to figure out what that surge cap would be.

Meanwhile, Uber competitor Lyft has said that it, too, will continue to offer service this weekend and that its prices will not increase. The trouble with Lyft is, every time I try to get one in Philadelphia, the service is busy.

As for regular old taxis, we’re sure some of those will be running as well. Note that cab drivers are not allowed to spike their fares or demand cash or a flat payment, so if you get into a cab that tries to do so, note the cab number (it starts with a P) and then file a complaint.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.