Well it’s here. The Super Bowl has come. A historically busy day for cabs and TNC drivers as those who love football (and those who just like parties) migrate out of their winter homes to barbecue and drink beer. This year, it happens to be taking place in my current home city of San Francisco (sort of).
Big events can be a tough nut to crack. Whether it be a major concert, game, or festival, oftentimes it becomes difficult to locate passengers in a crowded area as thousands of people drunkenly attempt to locate their drivers. It doesn’t help that many passengers will request from the middle of a stadium and count on you to find them through the power of magic. Add in all of the traffic from the other drivers trying to get in and out of the event and throw in some meter maids for good measure, and big events can be a big headache. But they can also be high margin profit machines when done properly.
So whether you’re in SF or not, here are some tips to help you take advantage of the biggest rideshare events of the year.
Promo Hours = Possible Saturation of Drivers
We really don’t know what Super Bowl Uber driving (and Lyft) will look like for rideshare drivers until the TNCs release the promotions they will be running during the event to lure drivers onto the road. This is a major indicator of driver supply. Often, promotions like these will surround large events and festivals.
Events and Road Closures in San Francisco: What to Know for Super Bowl Uber Driving
This week there happens to be something called “Super Bowl City” in downtown SF. It involves many road closures near Embarcadero and Market street around the Financial District and SOMA. This means rush hour will generate a lot of traffic around that area as people leave their jobs with limited access to transit and tough traffic conditions.
Here is the link to SFMTA’s announcement of road closures. They are expected to last for three weeks between January 23rd and February 12th and will revolve around the “Super Bowl City” and the “Moscone Center NFL Experience”.
I advise avoiding Montgomery, Battery, Folsom, and Embarcadero at all costs. These streets are likely to land you in an hour’s worth of traffic. Especially at rush hour. I’m planning on going down there and walking around to check things out myself. A scouting mission. You might want to do the same if you live in SF.
It’s smart to check when major events there will coincide with rush hour as the combination is sure to shut down the entire quarter of the city with traffic and thus generate a lot of surge/prime time. The key will be figuring out a bullet-proof way to navigate via alleys and shortcuts to get in and out of the area without getting stuck in a tar pit of traffic. In my own self-interest of driving I won’t share that with you but I’m sure you can figure it out on your own 😉
Events + Rush Hour
This is when you should expect to see prolonged periods of surge pricing. Figure out what events correlate with the normal traffic patterns of the city and then plan ahead to be in the right place at the right time. Call your passengers to coordinate your exit strategy and explain to them what your plans are to avoid traffic. I usually go “meet me at corner X, which will allow us to turn onto Street Y and get out of this mess quickly.” People like to be part of a clever plan. Make it fun.
Uber Secures Rights for Uber Lot at Levi’s Stadium
In the past, Uber and Lyft have been banned from picking up and dropping off at games because of “traffic” or something like that. This time around, Uber threw $500k at the NFL to be a sponsor. In return, there will be an Uber lot about a 15 minute walk north of the stadium. The Uber lot is said to have amenities for passengers while they wait for their ride with Uber representatives who will direct the flow of traffic.
I haven’t been able to confirm yet, but it is speculated that Uber requests will only be able to originate from that lot. This may mean Uber employs a first-in/first-out system similar to the airport. This can work in favor of drivers depending on how full the lot gets and how much time it takes for a passenger to get to the actual lot, which looks like it involves a decent walk for passengers.
Some say this will keep Lyft “on the sidelines” but I don’t think it will make that much of a difference as drivers will likely just drop off their passengers all over the blocks surrounding the stadium. It may help with pickups, but I suspect there will be a massive line of UberX cars trying to get rides from the lot. I also don’t know what is to stop a Lyft driver from just simply posing as an Uber driver to pick up from the Uber area.
Expect for rides to originate from many places a few hours before the game. There may be some light surge or prime time before the game, with some minor heavy zones around hotels and common areas where people commute to the game or the population parties before the game. This means rides will originate from a wider area instead of concentrated zones so the demand is more spread out. This is standard fare for all big events.
San Francisco should have high volume as people transit to house parties and bars. The pre-game will usually have less surge or prime time since rides will originate from everywhere, and you can expect to have an army of drivers on the road already licking their chops after a frigid January.
It’s still good to come out early though because sometimes drivers won’t get the memo or wake up early enough to drive people to the events. This is especially true for Sunday mornings as a lot of drivers tend to drive all night on Saturday and be asleep on Sunday mornings while people need to get home after a night out. This occasionally leads to unexpected rises in demand. The pre-game crowd has the advantage of being excited but not yet drunk.
Wanna Crash the Big Event? Plan Ahead
Failing to plan is planning to fail. For big events and venues, your first time operating there will likely be your worst experience as you are likely to get stuck in a traffic jam or not know where people like to be picked up. So it is important to plan ahead by either scouting out the venue directly or looking online for areas to get in and out of quickly. The most obvious example is having your passengers meet you outside of the stadium.
- Find multiple pickup points at the venue: An area that you can get in and out of without sitting in traffic that the passenger will be able to easily identify. Restaurants, bright signs, landmarks, etc.
- Call as soon as you get the request: This is important because people often request and begin walking away from the event. Figure out where they are going and coordinate them to the best place for pickup.
- If it is obvious that you will not be able to locate the passenger or that it will be a lose-lose for both of you, don’t be afraid to cancel or ask them to cancel for a closer driver.
- Surge/prime time usually will last no more than 20 minutes at these sort of large events. Some events might allow you to squeeze in a maximum of 3 trips but most will top out at 2 trips. So keep your acceptance rate high going into the event. You might be lucky to get an hour’s worth out of the actual Super Bowl game.
- Have patience. Login when you know the time is right and don’t be tempted by low pricing. I have also noticed that games tend to start generating rides near the third quarter as people start leaving early. Sometimes you can get in, out and back in again if you are there at the beginning of the third quarter, and it is a medium ride.
- Mid to Outer Ring: Usually the zone of surge/prime time will spread out to a larger area around the event itself. It may be worth it to find a party or bar that is going to need rides on the mid to outer ring of where you suspect surge to be. As all of the drivers enjoy the traffic and hell of finding their passengers, you may be able to zip in and out of the peripheral surge zone.
Everyone and their mom will likely be sporting an Uber “U” or Glowstache on game day. However, there are also going to be a lot of drunk people with the munchies all throughout suburban areas. They can’t drive. They want more beer. That’s why delivery might actually be a good counter-strategy on game day since it is less likely to have supreme saturation and is almost guaranteed to have a boatload of volume. It also voids out dealing with lots of drunk people in your car.
Don’t Want to Deal With 50 Super Drunks in Your Car? Check Out Wonolo for Work.
Wonolo is an app for temporary jobs. Once you are onboarded you can select from daily or hourly jobs that companies need completed on-demand. This week there is massive demand for temporary odd jobs as businesses and organizations need to ramp up staffing for events around the game. Right now would be a good time to download Wonolo and take a peek at whats available.
A lot of drivers would rather not deal with 50 Super Drunks in their car this week. The boom-or-bust nature of big events means that you may find yourself driving these risky passengers around without the reward of Surge/PT. This means taking on the risk of bad passengers for $5 fares. So the way I see it, Wonolo would be a good hedge to guarantee that we profit from the game this week. It may also turnout to be the smart play in On-Demand while everyone else chases their tail in FiDi/SoMa for $5 fares.
After The Game
There will still be lots of party people after the game. Expect to see what amounts to an “extra” Saturday night around bars and party areas throughout midnight as parties peter out and people remember they have to be at work the next day. Just beware of the risk associated with driving drunk people who have been drinking all day.
So yeah, there are lots of opportunities to earn during Super Bowl 50 or large events in general if you plan ahead and strategize. Don’t trust fate to deliver easy rides and big fares to you. You are going to have to be smarter this time around.
Drivers, will you be ferrying drunk Uber passengers around on game day or do you have other plans? Like watching the Puppy Bowl during halftime?
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-Christian @ RSG