National News

After a Midtown Blast, Ride-Hailing Prices Spike, Briefly

Posted December 11, 2017 8:00 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — As the supply of subways and buses vanished around Times Square during the Monday morning rush, the demand for cabs increased. The result: fare increases from Uber and Lyft, whose algorithms automatically adjust price based on the volume of requests.

Reaction from riders was swift. Ride-hailing app companies, they said, were profiteering off a terror attack. The companies quickly reversed course.

“Within minutes of seeing reports of an incident, we disabled dynamic pricing in the area,” said Alix Anfang, an Uber spokeswoman. “In addition, we are proactively refunding riders for dynamic pricing on affected trips in the area.”

Any drivers who were paid extra will get to keep their earnings, Uber said.

A Lyft spokesman, Scott Coriell, said, “For passengers who did incur higher prices as a result of Prime Time in the Port Authority area, we plan to proactively reimburse them.”

Neither company said how many customers were affected. Anfang said she did not know how much prices increased in the moments after the explosion.

Unlike yellow cabs, whose fares are set by the city and do not fluctuate, ride-hailing apps are allowed to charge effectively what the market will bear. They say that what is called “surge pricing” ensures that supply keeps in step with demand, as higher fares draw more drivers to an area.