News & Politics

How to Avoid Uber’s Surge Pricing on New Year’s

Spoiler: You should probably just walk everywhere tonight.

Photograph via 360b via Shutterstock.

Most of us have already finished celebrating Christmas, but for Uber, tonight is the jolliest time of the year. Just like it does every New Year’s, Uber’s practice of “surge pricing”—in which the company multiplies its rates by a dynamic factor during periods of peak demand—will explode tonight. Trips that normally cost $15 could wind up costing in the low triple digits. Uber’s been doing this since it was established, but every year brings a fresh round of eye-popping receipts and outrageous complaints.

Not that the company isn’t giving advance notice. In a rare act of public service for the frequently misbehaving transportation company, Uber is being up front about the fact that New Year’s Eve is its Ragnarok. Uber raked in $10.7 million last New Year’s, including $919,000 in DC, according to a company document leaked earlier this year to Business Insider. After a year of aggressive growth that left it with a $40 billion valuation, it expects to have an even bigger kickoff to 2015.

“We expect this New Year’s Eve to be our busiest night ever,” the company states on its blog. It also published this wave chart predicting what times of the evening will have the greatest demand for cars-for-hire.

Chart via Uber.

In words, if an Uber order is an inevitable part of your night, be sure to head out unfashionably early and stay at your party obnoxiously late, lest you want to wake up with a massive credit-card statement. But even if you do get surged-price, try not to complain that much. As Marketplace pointed out Wednesday morning, surge pricing is “economics 101.”

There are, fortunately, plenty of methods of transportation with fixed costs. Metro and DC’s Circulator buses will be running two hours later than their usual midnight closing times. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s SoberRide will give cab rides home to anyone too inebriated to drive, up to a $30 value. The phone number for SoberRide is 800-200-8294. And Collective Action for Safe Spaces is running its RightRides program, offering a free lift to women and LGBT individuals.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.