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8 min read

    8 min read
    RSG contributor Jay Cradeur breaks down what Lyft’s new “priority driving times” program means for drivers. 

     

    Lyft announced the launch of ‘priority driving times’, a new feature for drivers in Seattle. I’ll explain if this will help or hurt Lyft driver pay. If Lyft deems this pilot successful, you can expect them to roll it out to other markets by the end of the year.

     

    The way it works is that drivers will be given certain times throughout the week that are your specific ‘priority driving times’ – which means when a passenger goes online and requests a ride during your priority driving time, you are more likely to be chosen for that ride than non-priority drivers.

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    For now, every driver in the Seattle market will be a part of this program and Lyft will determine your pre-assigned priority driving times. 

    Quick info:

    • Drivers will now be notified of ‘priority driving times’ – when you’re more likely to get a ride request
    • Drivers’ priority times will differ each week
    • You can’t request a specific driving time, although you can drive whenever you want – you just might not get a ride request
    • Sign up for gig jobs, like delivery, in order to stay busy when it’s not your priority driving time
    • Subscribe to The Rideshare Guy newsletter so you get breaking news!

    Lyft didn’t say how they will assign times, so the bad is that you can’t pick your times, but the good is that this should limit the supply of drivers and keep a market having ‘too many drivers’ online at the same time.

    So how might this work out in real life? Let’s say one of your priority drive times is from 4-8 pm on Friday nights. If someone requests a ride on Friday at 5 pm, chances are higher that you will be assigned this ride. 

    How much higher? Lyft didn’t say and it’s part of their black box algorithm, unfortunately, so you’ll have to take their word for it.

    If, however, you’re driving on a Wednesday morning, not within any priority driving time for you, and someone requests a ride, chances are lower than normal that you’ll be assigned that ride. But it’s important to note that you can still go online/get a ride during non-priority times, you’ll just see fewer ride requests.

    Lyft’s new priority driving times program is currently in the Seattle-area only but as always, if Lyft deems this pilot successful, you can expect them to roll it out to other markets by the end of the year.

    Why is Lyft Assigning Priority Driving Times?

    Lyft said they launched this program in response to COVID-19. As our Coronavirus survey showed, there’s a lot less demand right now and with this program, Lyft is encouraging drivers to drive during specific ‘high volume’ times in order to match demand with supply.

    From the image below, you can see an example of what the new priority driving times might look like. When you login, you’ll see your driving week and then can click per day to see when your priority driving times are. 

    lyft priority driving times

    Your eligible priority times will be unique to you so while these times may look pretty good, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get these times and they could even change from week to week.

    This feature is effectively trying to make sure there are never ‘too many drivers’ on the road but I foresee a few potential issues. If drivers can’t select their priority times, how will Lyft ensure that drivers are getting the times they want? There has to be some feedback mechanism that allows drivers to select times (or request times) otherwise I don’t see how Lyft’s algorithm will know when and where drivers want to drive.

    Lyft’s is also not so subtly encouraging drivers to drive at certain times when demand is higher, and discouraging drivers from getting on when there is less demand. They are doing this to compensate you, the driver, more or less depending on your choices. And even though this makes sense financially for all parties, as we’ve seen in New York City, drivers don’t like being locked out.

    This is a strategy to manage the ebb and flow of driver time. If you receive a priority driving time from Lyft on Wednesday from 5 am to 11 am, chances are high that you’ll be conditioned to get up and drive those hours even if they weren’t previous hours you would have chosen.

    Conversely, if Lyft realizes that Thursdays from 4 to 8 pm aren’t that busy (or may become saturated with drivers), they won’t offer you a priority driving time of 4-8 pm on Thursdays. 

    If you still decide to drive during those times, you won’t be rewarded with as many (or any!) rides, depending on passenger demand. 

    Our Take on the New Priority Driving Times

    I’m not a fan of this feature since it seems like another way that Lyft is trying to control driver behavior.  

    This effectively removes the competitive advantage that smarter drivers have earned over time. I mean, it’s really what this whole site is about and why we’re re-launching the Maximum Ridesharing Profits course (check it out, I’m a co-instructor!) – better drivers earn more! We know where to drive and when to drive in order to maximize our revenue.

    This feature removes that professional advantage by paying a driver more (via more ride requests) to be in one area at a specific time, and penalizing a driver if you are in a different area at a different time.  

    This also shows absolutely no respect for a driver’s weekly schedule. I used to drive the same time and the same days each week. I could count on things being the same and would only adjust my schedule if I could figure out a way to make more money or take advantage of a bonus.  

    Now, you are beholden to Lyft’s weekly proclamation to tell you when you should be driving to make the most money, according to Lyft. 

    Finally, there is no accountability on Lyft’s part. How are drivers to know they are getting more rides by following Lyft’s dictate? You don’t. As is often the case, Lyft (and Uber) aren’t putting their money where their mouth is. They’re saying we’ll get more rides but there’s no proof.

    The bottom line is that if this feature is in your market, your hands are a bit tied and you have to seriously consider changing your driving habits each and every week to maximize your revenue.  

    As if it is not tough enough out there for drivers to negotiate the biggest pandemic of our lifetimes, ferrying around passengers with no certainty they are not contagious – now we have this to deal with as well.

    Can you tell I don’t like this one bit? The one silver lining is that this is a pilot program and it’s only in one city. I imagine Lyft will get a lot of similar feedback from drivers and adapt accordingly. If this program is to stick around, I’d like to see Lyft give drivers more agency over selecting priority driving times and rewarding the top drivers – whether that’s a high rating or a high trip count.

    FAQs for Lyft’s Priority Driving Times Program

    1) What Happens If I Go Online When It’s Not My Priority Driving Time?

    Priority drivers are more likely to get ride requests than non-priority drivers during the eligibility periods. You can still go online during your non-priority driving times, but you may see fewer requests. 

    2) What Should I Do if I Want to Drive But it’s Not My Priority Driving Time?

    Drive for delivery on non-peak hours – not assigned a priority drive time but still want to be out on the road? During these times, it’s important you sign up for delivery! The best food delivery companies we recommend are hiring like crazy right now: DoorDash, Instacart and Uber Eats.  

    Employ a driving strategy! Here are our best rideshare driver strategies.

    Also, make sure you’re signed up to drive for Uber too! You can drive for Uber and Lyft at the same time.

    3) Will I Have the Same Priority Driving Times Every Week?

    Not necessarily, so make sure to check the app every Friday.

    4) What If I Don’t Like to Drive During My Priority Times?

    You won’t be able to request a change to your priority times, but if you don’t drive during those times, Lyft may notice and change your priority driving hours.

    5) When Will This Roll Out to My City?

    According to Lyft, this is a limited pilot program and “depending on market conditions, we may roll out priority driving times to other areas.”

    6) Is This a Permanent Change or Will This Be Removed After COVID-19 is Over?

    According to Lyft, they will evaluate the program based on driver feedback. However, given the news that Uber is trying something similar with city center, we wouldn’t be surprised if Lyft kept this on and rolled it out to more cities.

    Readers, what do you think of Lyft’s new priority driving times? Would you be in favor of this?

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    -The RSG Team

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur, a graduate of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, is a full-time driver with over 26,000 rides. Jay has a driver-focused podcast: Rideshare Dojo with Jay Cradeur. When Jay isn’t writing articles or making videos, he is traveling the world. You can see what Jay is up to at www.nomadjay.com.