On August 24, 2020, Lyft launched priority mode in Miami, Austin and Toronto. This new feature is meant to keep drivers busier and therefore earning more per hour.
When the pandemic hit and driver earnings dropped significantly, Lyft decided to launch priority mode as a test to help drivers in the areas where it was available. Now, they’ve tweaked the program based on feedback and suggestions from drivers in those areas.
The hope is that this will expand to other markets in the future, but for now it will only be available in Miami, Austin and Toronto.
Priority Mode: How Does it Work?
So, what is priority mode? It gives drivers priority access to ride requests. How it works is that it will be available to different drivers at different times. If it is available to you, you have the option to turn it on to start receiving requests faster than drivers who do not have it available during that time.
You’ll have access to a few priority hours each week and if it’s not available when you’re ready to go online, check back later. The priority hours do not carry over from one week to the next, so it’s a use them or lose them situation.
It’ll help decrease the time between ride requests, allowing you to get those ride requests over other drivers who don’t have priority turned on or available at the time. This should help you maximize your time on the road.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that your rates will be lower for each ride you take in priority mode, but you’ll get more rides, so you should earn more overall. You can check your driver app to see your priority rates after it launches on August 24—remember, it’s only currently launching in Miami, Austin and Toronto.
You will have a limited number of priority hours you can use in one week and this will reset each Monday at 5am in your local time. Once you turn it on, you can keep it on all day or until your hours run out, or turn it off at any time.
This new priority mode will not be available at airports and therefore will not affect the queue. It is also only available to drivers who accept all ride types on the driver app in preferences. The priority rates will only apply to standard rides, but you may still receive requests for Lyft XL, Lux, Lux Black, or Lux Black XL.
To start off, this feature will only be available to a limited number of drivers in the available markets—Miami, Austin and Toronto—but Lyft is working toward making it available to all drivers in those areas, and then also expanding to other markets.
How Will Lyft’s Priority Mode Help Drivers Earn More?
Even though the priority mode rate card is lower than your regular rate card, you should receive requests faster and complete more rides in a shorter amount of time – therefore earning more.
After your first few hours of priority mode, Lyft will email you a summary of your earnings compared to what non-priority drivers earned during the same time in your market to show how much more you’re earning over the average non-priority driver.
You can use it with destination mode on, but it kind of defeats the purpose. You’ll be limiting how many ride requests you’ll be getting simply because you’ll only be paired with riders along your way to your destination. It would be more efficient to not use priority mode combined with destination mode.
Update on Lyft Priority Mode: Driver Response
Now that Lyft Priority Mode has been in place for a few months, how are drivers responding to it? In short: it’s not going well.
In the past, most changes to pay structure were billed as “good” for the driver despite lowering rates across the board time and time again. It feels the same now with Priority Mode. As one of our readers commented on our original article announcing Priority Mode:
“Priority driving is a SCAM! It is yet another SCAM by LYFT to pay less to drivers. It SUCKS!!!! Suddenly a $10 fare that should be $20 is $7.50…. “
And that is the attitude most drivers are taking when it comes to Priority Mode.
On UberPeople.net, there was one poster who mentioned, “They are not stealing from you guys when it comes to priority mode. It’s your choice to opt-in or not. Some drivers are willing to drive for less than peanuts in order to get rides. And you will always have those people.”
That’s a good point, but many drivers still feel like it’s a slap in the face to offer something like Priority Mode while cutting pay for those who do opt-in.
When talking about Lyft, another poster on UberPeople mentioned: “Yeah, they basically said, it’s your choice if you want a pay cut, you pick…and those dummies picked a pay cut. Go figure.”
One Reddit poster mentioned they have a better idea for Lyft to implement:
“Hey Lyft how about if I’m available and closer, I get the ride, if someone else is they do? Now they’re pitting drivers against each other to see who’ll do the ride for the least amount? They’ve already dropped the minimum amount to $4 from $5, what’s priority $3.50, $3? Can’t imagine the riders are paying less, so Lyft again is cutting their drivers throat to take a greater cut of the fare! Way to drive away your workforce Lyft!”
As far as minimum pay is concerned, this varies by region, but one Reddit user stated, “Our minimum is $2.62, and they haven’t even introduced priority mode yet. I sincerely hope this all backfires on them. I’m sure it won’t, but it’s a happy thought at least…”
With a minimum per ride earnings of $2.62 and Priority Mode paying even less than that, it’s no wonder drivers are upset.
Is There an Upside to Lyft Priority Mode?
Honestly, I have no idea. Lyft obviously thinks it’s a good idea, but one thing to keep in mind is it’s still being tested out, which is why it’s in limited markets at the moment.
But, in all my research I did for this article, I did not come across a single driver who had anything positive to say about Priority Mode. In the mind of the drivers, this is a bad deal with no actual upside for them.
This Redditor used Priority Mode and this was their experience:
“It sucks, took me twice the hours and twice the rides to get my rental paid off last week. It seemed ok at first throughout the week until I looked at the breakdown towards the end of the week. Another scam brought to you by Lyft. 👎 .. it also gave me tons of far pickups which was s***.”
With the lower pay, it took this driver longer to pay off the rental they use through the Lyft lease program. It sounds like in Priority Mode, they also received more pickups that were a long distance away from them, taking longer to make money instead of less time like Lyft claims in their information given out about Priority Mode.
A Race to the Bottom for Drivers
The bottom line is drivers are against Priority Mode. The phrase I came across most often is “it’s a race to the bottom”.
Lyft needs to open their eyes and see this feedback from drivers and make a positive change. They might think this is what drivers want, but there is a clear message being sent on the internet about how terrible drivers think Priority Mode really is.
Head back to the drawing boards, Lyft.
Drivers, what do you think about Lyft’s new Priority Mode? Would you like to see it come to your market?
-Paula @ RSG