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March 15, 2017

Morning after Winter Storm Stella, Philly Uber and Lyft prices skyrocket

Did you catch an Uber or Lyft early Wednesday morning after Winter Storm Stella dumped snow and ice on Philadelphia? It probably cost you an arm and a leg.

Following a tip from a reader on Twitter about insanely high costs for the ridesharing services Wednesday morning, PhillyVoice checked to see just how expensive prices had gotten in Stella's aftermath.

It didn't look pretty. For a single-passenger ride for UberX – the service's budget option that employs drivers who use their own cars – here's how much Uber was charging for rides to a number of Philly locations from our offices at 15th and Walnut streets at around 8:30 a.m.:

• $80.41 to get to Philadelphia International Airport

• $40.60 to get to Temple University

• $25.68 to get to Geno's Steaks

• $37.97 to get to the Wells Fargo Center

And Lyft? Not much better. One Twitter user said he paid $116 to get from Center City to PHL. Others reported on social media exorbitantly high prices with the app. 

Philadelphia resident Brennan Handerpants said she paid $53 to get to PHL from Point Breeze after declining to take a $60 trip from Lyft. Normally, that trip costs about $17, she said. 

As the morning progressed, prices dropped to more normal levels. At around 10 a.m., the same trip from Center City to the airport cost only $28. The same trip from Lyft cost around $18.

While most roads had been plowed as of Wednesday morning, excess snow had frozen overnight, causing headaches for drivers trying to dig their cars out of street parking spots.

Typically, Uber will increase its normal rates between 1.5 to 2 times higher when the number of people looking for a ride in a given area is greater than the number of drivers nearby, such as on weekend nights or during holidays.

A combination of less drivers going out and still not ideal driving conditions are likely the main causes of the surge pricing. Craig Ewer, a spokesperson for Uber in Philadelphia, provided the following statement when asked about the surge pricing:

"With upfront fares, you always know what you’re going to pay before you ride — no math and no surprises."

Lyft spokersperson Chelsea Harrison echoed a similar sentiment in an emailed statement, noting that riders are alerted of the increased cost of a ride before accepting when surge pricing is in effect. 

"When the ride requests from passengers greatly outnumber available drivers on the road, our system will automatically turn on Prime Time," Harrison said. "When Prime Time is in effect, passengers are alerted and required to confirm they accept the multiplier before requesting a ride."