Uber and Lyft driver pay isn't keeping up with soaring fares, study says

You're paying more, but workers might not be reaping the rewards.

Nisian Hughes via Getty Images

You've probably noticed a steep increase in the ridesharing fares you pay, but your drivers haven't necessarily received the benefits. UCLA Labor Center researchers have published a study indicating that median Uber and Lyft fares increased by 50 percent between February 2019 and April 2022, but media driver pay only climbed 31 percent. The companies' profits reportedly jumped from nine percent to 20.7 percent over the three-year span.

The authors recommended that authorities cap the amount companies can take from passenger fare, with proportionate increases in pay and enforced minimum rates. They also call for increased transparency around both the rideshare commission and drivers' trip data. The study team further called for more detailed data, such as different ride types and surge pricing.

The companies object to the study's conclusions. In a statement to Engadget, Uber claims the researchers made errors and that its April 2022 take was 16.4 percent. Government fees are 18 percent, the company adds. Lyft, meanwhile, tells Engadget pay has been "consistently above" $1,100 per week since the start of 2021, and that commission caps would "dramatically" increase fares and hurt lower-income communities.

Study co-author Vivek Ramakrishnan tells Motherboard the group purposefully excluded government fees, however. The project is meant to show the growing profits, not the overall price increases. One study at Cornell University claimed drivers in Seattle made healthy wages of $23 per hour in 2019, but earlier Berkeley and Economic Policy Institute studies determined that workers made roughly $9 per hour after expenses.

The findings come just as the fight heats up over wages. A judge recently blocked a pay increase for New York City ridesharing drivers in January after Uber sued the city's Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) over an allegedly flawed methodology for calculating raises. That raise may still kick in following a March 1st hearing, but it's evident the companies aren't eager to adjust pay on authorities' terms.

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