|From: Glenn Petersen||8/8/2021 5:17:07 PM|
|Uber, Lyft Prices at Records Even as Drivers Return|
Data show average fares were at a record in July despite improvement in pandemic-driven shortage of drivers
By Preetika Rana
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 7, 2021 8:00 am ET
Drivers are returning to Uber Technologies Inc. UBER 2.81% and Lyft Inc. LYFT 0.04% after the companies spent big on incentives to address a pandemic-driven labor shortage. That shift isn’t bringing down fares from record highs, new data show.
The average Uber and Lyft fare in the U.S. rose month-to-month from February through July, touching new highs every time, according to data from Rakuten Intelligence, a market-research firm that based its analysis on e-receipts from more than one million consumers. While the average fare in July edged up slightly from June, it meant consumers paid over 50% more for a ride last month compared with January 2020, before the pandemic.
That’s the most Americans have paid for Uber and Lyft rides in at least three years, according to Rakuten.
The sky-high prices, which the companies say are driven by the continuing labor shortage, come despite a recent influx of drivers. Uber said Wednesday that 30% more drivers signed up in July compared with the month before. Lyft said Tuesday that 50% more drivers signed up in the three-month period that ended in June compared with the preceding three months.
“The data is clear: Driver supply has not kept pace with the surge of demand from riders, throwing the ride-share market out of balance,” a Lyft spokeswoman said, adding that the company would continue to invest in driver incentives to ease the shortage.
Soaring prices haven’t crimped bookings, reflecting consumers’ tolerance for high prices after widespread lockdowns kept many at home last year. Uber and Lyft’s ride business rebounded in the second quarter from the lows of last year, and data from Edison Trends show that consumer spending on ride-hailing remained elevated for the week ended July 19 compared with the same week a year earlier.
The Covid-19 Delta variant “might hurt everything again, but this time things will bounce back a lot faster,” said Brad Erickson, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets who covers both companies. “Bookings aren’t going to go down 90%. It’s not going to be anywhere close to the magnitude of last year,” he said.
Neither company has publicly disclosed how ride prices have fared nationwide in recent months. Nor have they said how many more drivers are needed to meet demand. But Uber said this week that prices were returning to pre-Covid levels in cities or states that had ended unemployment benefits. That shift pushed more drivers to work for Uber in cities like Miami, Atlanta and Houston, alleviating the continuing labor crunch and tempering high prices, executives said.
In New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles—Uber’s top domestic markets—“demand continues to outplay supply, and prices and wait times remain above our comfort levels,” Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi told analysts Wednesday after the company reported quarterly results.
An Uber spokesman reiterated that the situation varies city-by-city. In some, he said, prices are inching closer to pre-pandemic levels, while they continue to remain high in others.
Early signs point to the driver shortage and high prices abating at the end of the current quarter next month, as Lyft continues to offer bonuses to drivers and as other states phase out unemployment benefits. Uber said 90% of the 90,000 inactive drivers it surveyed in June indicated they planned to return by September.
Uber and Lyft’s elevated spending on driver incentives, combined with the uncertainty around the looming Delta variant, sent their stocks tumbling earlier in the week even though they beat analysts’ second-quarter demand projections. Both stocks recovered from their lows this past week.
In the extreme scenario that demand tapers off and drivers shun ride-share all over again, “it will make a lot of this investment the companies have just done irrelevant,” said RBC’s Mr. Erickson. Uber and Lyft have the muscle to pump in the money again, but it’ll translate to “a lot of lost dollars.”
Lyft said its third-quarter revenue would take a hit as it planned to spend more on driver incentives, after spending $572 million on them through the second quarter. “We are maintaining elevated supply investments to help lower prices,” Lyft Chief Financial Officer Brian Roberts told analysts on Tuesday. Mr. Roberts said he didn’t think prices would remain this high in the long run.
Uber spent more on incentives than analysts had expected in the second quarter. The company said it doesn’t plan to spend significantly more on them in the current quarter because it has been acquiring drivers in recent weeks despite pulling back on incentives.
As Uber and Lyft eye long-term profits, analysts say consumers should expect to pay more per ride compared with the discounted rates before the pandemic. But analysts also don’t think prices will stay at their current heights.
Drivers’ earnings are at an all-time high, thanks to the continuing bonuses. Uber said its drivers are making more than $40 an hour in its busiest markets. But a near-term challenge is retaining them once the incentives go away.
Derrick Stanfield Kivoi, who runs a small digital marketing business in Miami and has driven for Uber on the side for several years, took to driving again this year after a year-long hiatus because the incentives were too good to turn down. Uber offered him $100 for three consecutive rides, he said, and then followed with a $250 bonus for 40 rides completed during the weekday.
The bonuses tapered off in recent weeks—Uber’s $250 bonus dropped to $50—and Mr. Kivoi turned off the app earlier this week. “As soon as the incentives stop, I’m stopping,” he said.
Uber and Lyft are trying to address the shifting dynamics of gig labor. Uber announced free online language classes for drivers late last month. It also started showing drivers what passengers paid for a ride overall, instead of showing them only the fare portion.
Lyft said last month it was exploring a partnership to trim one of drivers’ biggest expenses, which could involve sizable discounts on gas or insurance or help with buying vehicles.
Write to Preetika Rana at firstname.lastname@example.org
Uber, Lyft Prices at Records Even as Drivers Return - WSJ
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|From: Glenn Petersen||8/21/2021 10:47:18 AM|
|California Ballot Measure That Classifies Uber, Lyft Drivers as Independent Ruled Unconstitutional|
Proposition 22, which passed in November, was the most expensive such measure in the state’s history
By Preetika Rana
Wall Street Journal
Updated Aug. 20, 2021 11:58 pm ET
A California judge said the November ballot measure that allowed Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. LYFT -1.92% and DoorDash Inc. DASH 1.11% to continue treating their drivers as independent contractors is unenforceable and unconstitutional.
The companies, which spent more than $200 million to pass Proposition 22 in November, said they would appeal the ruling.
Read the Decision
The companies don’t need to immediately change their way of doing business, but Friday’s ruling adds a wrinkle in their efforts to preserve their independent-worker models and serves as a setback in their yearslong fight against the California law at the heart of the ruling.
Uber and other companies are in a global tug of war with regulators over whether and how to grant more benefits like paid sick leave and health insurance to workers in the so-called gig economy, where apps distribute individual tasks to a pool of people who are generally regarded as independent contractors.
California sued the companies last year, saying they were in violation of the state’s so-called gig law because none of them reclassified their drivers as employees after the statute went into effect in 2020. A high-stakes legal battle ensued, culminating in Proposition 22, in which the companies asked state voters to exempt them from the law.
Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart Inc. promised workers flexibility, alongside some benefits, if the ballot measure passed. Opponents of the measure said those benefits fall short of those awarded to full-time employees. Still, California voters passed the measure with an overwhelming majority.
Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said in Friday’s ruling that Proposition 22 limits the state legislature’s authority and its ability to pass future legislation, which is unconstitutional.
“We believe the judge made a serious error by ignoring a century’s worth of case law requiring the courts to guard the voters’ right of initiative,” said Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the companies’ Proposition 22 campaign. “This outrageous decision is an affront to the overwhelming majority of California voters.”
Friday’s ruling came after a group of ride-share drivers and labor unions challenged the constitutionality of the ballot measure in February.
“Today’s ruling by Judge Roesch striking down Proposition 22 couldn’t be clearer: The gig industry-funded ballot initiative was unconstitutional and is therefore unenforceable,” said Bob Schoonover, the president of SEIU California State Council, one of the labor unions involved in the lawsuit. The companies “tried to boost their profits by undermining democracy and the state constitution,” he added.
Proposition 22 was the most expensive ballot measure in the history of California. It allowed the ride-hailing and delivery companies to avoid complying with a law that could have reshaped their business models and battered their business in the most populous U.S. state. But the effort to win popular support did lead the companies to guarantee new protections.
The companies now offer health insurance for drivers who work 15 hours or more a week, occupational-accident insurance coverage and 30 cents for every mile driven, among other protections.
The win in California set the tone for gig-worker regulation in the rest of the country. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart have joined forces for a Proposition 22-like ballot in Massachusetts next year.
Uber, which has a larger global footprint, has had to make concessions outside the U.S. It agreed to grant its U.K. drivers an employment status entitling them to vacation pay and pension contributions after exhausting its legal options in March.
California Ballot Measure That Classifies Uber, Lyft Drivers as Independent Ruled Unconstitutional - WSJ
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (212)||8/23/2021 6:29:39 PM|
Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said in Friday’s ruling that Proposition 22 limits the state legislature’s authority and its ability to pass future legislation, which is unconstitutional.That's the point of a lot of CA's propositions. Are all the others going to be struck down? Probably not.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||11/1/2021 3:46:29 AM|
|Uber and Lyft Thought Prices Would Normalize by Now. Here’s Why They Are Still High.|
Benefits for gig workers expired, but riders still pay more—and drivers still earn more—in a tight labor market
By Kim Mackrael and Preetika Rana
Photographs by Sebastián Hidalgo
The Wall Street Journal
Oct. 30, 2021 3:45 pm ET
Americans hailing an Uber or a Lyft ride still face elevated prices due to a shortage of drivers—the latest example of how a tight labor market is costing consumers more while also raising pay for workers.
Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. had expected most drivers to return to work after federal unemployment benefits expired nationwide in September. But that is happening only slowly. Fares have only marginally inched down from their summer highs.
That means drivers are earning more and riders are paying more than they were at the beginning of this year, before the widespread availability of vaccines accelerated the economic reopening from pandemic shutdowns. Uber and Lyft prices are directly tied to driver supply, according to the companies.
Uber and Lyft prices remain higher on average than before pandemic shutdowns.
Data show that fares dipped during the late spring and summer in states that opted out early from some or all enhanced and extended federal unemployment benefits, compared with states that didn’t, according to YipitData, which tracks emailed receipts.
But the nationwide average ride-share fare declined just 3% during the first three weeks of October compared with a record high for the month of July. U.S. riders on average have still paid 22% more for a ride so far in October compared with January, and 30% more than they did in October 2019.
Drivers are returning—just more slowly than demand for rides. An Uber spokesman said that “there are now more drivers on Uber in the U.S. than at any point during the pandemic,” but acknowledged that in many cities there are still labor constraints that have kept the nationwide average price high.
“Now there’s so many people that want to go out and do things” that drivers haven’t kept pace with how quickly riders have returned, Lyft President John Zimmer said in September in a talk on Clubhouse, the audio-based social network. A Lyft spokeswoman said Saturday the company expects things will fully resolve, but couldn’t predict when.
Both companies report third-quarter results next week and are expected to address the labor shortage and prices.
The sting to consumer wallets raises questions about where the drivers have gone, and mirrors the trend rippling across the wider economy, in which a smaller labor force is contributing to wage and price inflation and causing Americans to wait longer for goods and services.
Federal unemployment benefits have ended, but ride-share drivers haven’t surged back, with many now working in grocery delivery or other industries. Chicago’s I-90 highway.
The fact that prices remain close to where they were in the summer indicates that “there is still a supply shortage, even if the severity of the shortage is better than it was,” said Peter Martin, a YipitData research analyst with expertise in the ride-share industry. Longer trips and fewer rider discounts also contribute to higher average prices, he said.
Harry Thomas, an Uber driver at night for 3½ years, switched to grocery delivery when Covid-19 lockdowns began in the spring of 2020. He returned briefly to ride-share driving this past summer, but now is back to delivery work, along with some freelance web and design projects. He also is applying for full-time jobs.
“Uber has tried to entice me to come back and drive for them, but I rather like daytime hours,” said Mr. Thomas, who lives in San Antonio. He said he is concerned about safety and the possibility he could be sued under Texas law for helping someone access an abortion, even though Uber and Lyft have said they would cover legal costs for any driver in that situation.
Unemployment benefits were extended to gig and self-employed workers for the first time during the pandemic, resulting in about 15 million claimants at the height of the federal program last year. Claimants likely included ride-share drivers, as well as people who had sole proprietorships or were paid as contractors. The number of people collecting those benefits declined gradually as the economy reopened and states began ending the programs this summer.
Benefits for gig workers and the self-employed expired in remaining states in early September, though some states have taken weeks to work through backlogs of claims.
Despite the end of those benefits, and the expiration of a weekly $300 federal unemployment benefit added to regular state payments, many U.S. employers across the economy are struggling to fill positions. U.S. job openings have trended at record highs in recent months, exceeding the number of unemployed Americans seeking work, according to the Labor Department. That shows the labor market is perhaps tighter than the 4.8% unemployment rate indicates and that workers have more options.
A Goldman Sachs analysis found that driver earnings fell during the late spring and summer in states that ended enhanced unemployment benefits early compared with states that didn’t, similar to the trend YipitData found with prices. Taken together, the data suggests the effects of the September expiration of benefits might eventually trickle down to the rest of the country—albeit slowly.
Economists say there are multiple reasons the labor force is constrained. Worries about becoming ill with Covid-19 and pandemic-related disruptions in school and child care are likely keeping some people on the sidelines. Others retired early or stepped away from the workforce temporarily, perhaps to wait for a better work opportunity or to become a full-time parent.
Jim McIntire said he makes more money as a Chicago ride-share driver now working three days a week versus last year working five or six days a week.
Meantime, openings in traditional jobs might have attracted some ride-share drivers.
“If you ever wanted a job in corporate America, it’s probably the easiest that it’s ever been,” said Brad Erickson, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets who covers Uber and Lyft.
Workers might also be migrating to other low-skill industries that have a lot of job openings. Many ride-share drivers turned to food and grocery delivery as demand for rides disappeared during the pandemic—and some are staying there. Nearly three-quarters of 4,000 DoorDash Inc. drivers surveyed in July said they didn’t want to share their vehicle, a staple of ride-hailing that won’t ever go away. Some drivers haven’t switched back to ride-share over concerns that demand might taper off again if the health crisis persists.
Jim McIntire, a 56-year-old Lyft driver in Chicago, said he chooses to drive because he likes the work and the money is good. He has been working three days a week and making more money than he did when he was working five or six days a week last year. “I have never, never made this much money” as a ride-share driver, he said, though he said he worries it might not last.
Uber and Lyft have poured millions of dollars into attracting drivers with bonuses. The companies are gradually pulling those incentives, particularly in areas where more drivers have returned.
Still, ending the labor shortage won’t bring prices back down to their pre-pandemic levels. Uber and Lyft are phasing out rider discounts to rein in costs and to show investors that they can grow without the dirt-cheap prices that were the hallmark of the past decade.
Write to Kim Mackrael at email@example.com and Preetika Rana at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the November 1, 2021, print edition as 'Ride-Share Fares Stay High.'
Uber and Lyft Thought Prices Would Normalize by Now. Here’s Why They Are Still High. - WSJ
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|From: Glenn Petersen||11/4/2021 5:27:20 PM|
|Uber revenue up 72% from last year, but Didi stake contributes to big loss|
PUBLISHED THU, NOV 4 20214:10 PM EDT
UPDATED MOMENTS AGO
Jessica Bursztynsky @JBURSZ
-- Uber reported third-quarter financial results Thursday, which included a first-ever adjusted EBITDA profit.
-- The company reported a net loss of $2.4 billion for the quarter. That was largely attributed to a drop in the value of its investment holdings, particularly in Didi.
-- Uber said active U.S. mobility drivers were up nearly 60% year-over-year in the third quarter.
Uber reported its third-quarter results after the bell on Thursday. After an initial dip, shares were up around 2% in after-hours trading.
Here’s how Uber did, compared with expectations of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv:
Loss per share: $1.28 vs. 33 cents expected
Revenue: $4.8 billion vs. $4.4 billion expected
Uber reported a net loss of $2.4 billion for the quarter mostly because of a drop in the value of its investment holdings, particularly in Didi. The company said its stakes in Zomato, Aurora and Joby helped offset some of that loss. Uber posted a net loss of $1.09 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Uber reported its first adjusted EBITDA profit, meeting its end-of-year target. (EBITDA refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.) The company posted an adjusted EBITDA profit of $8 million, up from an adjusted EBITDA loss of $507 million in the second quarter.
Uber’s Eats segment has continued to hold up despite pandemic restrictions easing in places across the world. The delivery business had bolstered the company to withstand Covid headwinds when people began ordering more at home during the pandemic.
Here’s how Uber’s largest business segments performed in the third quarter of 2021:
Mobility (gross bookings): $9.9 billion, up 67% year over year
Delivery (gross bookings): $12.8 billion, up 50% year over year
Delivery revenue has continued to outperform its core ride-hailing business at $2.24 billion, compared with $2.2 billion, though that gap is narrowing. Freight revenue brought in $402 million. In an update to shareholders, the company said that its number of delivery merchants grew to more than 780,000.
The company has struggled with supply and demand imbalances because of the pandemic, leading to surge pricing and increased wait times.
Uber showed signs of pandemic recovery in the U.S. The company’s active U.S. mobility drivers were up nearly 60% year-over-year in the third quarter, and improved through October with 10 consecutive weeks of driver growth since the end of August.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on the company’s earnings call that incidents of surge pricing have fallen nearly half, while wait times are on average less than five minutes.
“We’re comfortable that the bulk of our recruitment spending is behind us,” he added.
In another sign of the recovery, Uber said trips to and from airports grew 35% quarter-over-quarter and 203% year-over-year.
Uber reported 1.64 billion trips on the platform during the quarter, up 9% from the past quarter and 39% year over year. Monthly active platform consumers reached 109 million, up 8% from the prior quarter. Drivers and couriers earned an aggregate $8.6 billion during the quarter.
The company said it anticipates gross bookings between $25 billion and $26 billion in the fourth quarter. It also expects adjusted EBITDA of $25 million to $75 million.
Uber’s largest American competitor, Lyft, also reported financial results this week. Lyft beat Wall Street guidance on both the top and bottom lines and said drivers are coming back, though it missed active riders estimates.
Uber earnings Q3 2021 (cnbc.com)
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|From: Glenn Petersen||2/8/2022 5:24:07 PM|
|Lyft posts revenue beat but falls short on riders|
PUBLISHED TUE, FEB 8 20224:06 PM EST
UPDATED 26 MIN AGO
Jessica Bursztynsky @JBURSZ
-- Lyft reported fourth-quarter earnings after-the-bell on Tuesday.
-- Lyft reported 18.73 million active riders in the last quarter of 2021. It’s lower than the prior quarter and misses analyst expectations.
-- Lyft reported a net loss for the quarter of $258.6 million versus a net loss of $458.2 million in the same period of 2020.
Lyft reported fourth-quarter results after the bell on Tuesday. It beat estimates on adjusted earnings per share and revenue but said it had fewer active riders than in the prior quarter. Shares were down more than 6% in after hours trading.
Here are the key numbers:
Earnings per share: 9 cents, adjusted, vs 8 cents expected in a Refinitiv survey of analysts
Revenue: $970 million vs $940.1 million expected by Refinitiv
Active riders: 18.73 million vs 20.2 million expected, per StreetAccount
Revenue per active rider: $51.79 vs $46.54 expected, according to StreetAccount
Lyft reported 18.73 million active riders in the last quarter of 2021, up nearly 50% year-over-year but short of StreetAccount analyst expectations of 20.2 million riders for the quarter. It’s a decline from the third quarter when Lyft said it had 18.94 million active riders and not quite back to pre-pandemic levels. Lyft reported 22.9 million active riders in the fourth quarter of 2019, for example.
Lyft is expecting the omicron surge of the Covid-19 pandemic to weigh on first quarter results in 2022. It expects Q1 revenue between $800 million and $850 million. Analysts expected guidance of $989.9 million, per StreetAccount.
The company didn’t provide guidance on active rider projections. Analysts expect the company to report 21.7 million active riders in the first quarter of 2022, according to StreetAccount guidance.
“Despite short-term headwinds from omicron, we remain optimistic about full-year 2022,” Lyft’s new CFO Elaine Paul said in a statement.
Lyft revenue jumped 12% quarter-over-quarter to $969.9 million. That’s up 70% year-over-year thanks to easy comparables due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It also noted record revenue per active rider of $51.79, which is up 14% year-over-year.
Lyft reported a net loss for the quarter of $258.6 million versus a net loss of $458.2 million in the same period of 2020. The company said its loss included $164.2 million of stock-based compensation and related payroll tax expenses.
Lyft again posted an adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) profit of $74.7 million. In the prior quarter, Lyft reported adjusted EBITDA of $67.3 million.
The company has struggled with driver supply and demand imbalances throughout the pandemic, leading to higher costs or long wait times.
Lyft CEO Logan Green said during its call with investors that its drivers have started to come back. Active drivers hit a new pandemic high, Paul said on the call. At the same time, ride ETAs improved by roughly 30% across all of its operating markets.
Another key marker of recovery, Lyft said airport rides more than doubled in the quarter compared to last year.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Lyft earnings Q4 2021 (cnbc.com)
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|From: Glenn Petersen||2/9/2022 5:44:52 PM|
|Uber beats on revenue, says core business is bouncing back after omicron surge|
PUBLISHED WED, FEB 9 20224:06 PM EST
UPDATED 21 MIN AGO
Jessica Bursztynsky @JBURSZ
-- Uber reported fourth-quarter earnings after the -bell on Wednesday.
-- The company beat analyst estimates on revenue for the quarter and said it’s starting to bounce back from headwinds caused by the omicron coronavirus surge.
Uber reported fourth-quarter earnings after-the-bell on Wednesday. The company beat analyst estimates on revenue for the quarter and said it’s starting to bounce back from headwinds caused by the omicron coronavirus surge.
The company’s stock was up more than 6% in after hours trading.
Here are the key numbers:
Earnings per share: 44 cents, which is not comparable to estimates.
Revenue: $5.78 billion vs $5.34 billion, according to a Refinitiv survey of analysts.
The company reported a net income of $892 million, which includes a $1.4 billion net benefit, pre-tax, related to its equity investments.
Its adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was $86 million. That’s up $540 million from the same quarter a year ago.
Here’s how Uber’s largest business segments performed in the fourth quarter of 2021:
Mobility (gross bookings): $11.3 billion, up 67% year-over-year
Delivery (gross bookings): $13.4 billion, up 34% year-over-year
The company’s delivery segment, which includes its Uber Eats business, has continued to hold up as food delivery becomes a part of regular life. In an update to shareholders, the company said that its number of delivery merchants grew to more than 825,000. Delivery revenue of $2.42 billion outperformed the $2.28 billion generated by its core ride-hailing business. Freight revenue was up 245% year-over-year to $1.08 billion.
In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the omicron coronavirus variant weighed on its business, but numbers are quickly recovering.
“While the Omicron variant began to impact our business in late December, Mobility is already starting to bounce back, with Gross Bookings up 25% month-on-month in the most recent week,” Khosrowshahi said.
During the company’s earnings call, Khosrowshahi later said the company has maintained a strong driver supply even with the pandemic surge, leading to shorter wait times and fewer surge pricing instances.
Uber reported 1.77 billion trips on the platform during the quarter, up 8% from the prior quarter and 23% from 2020. Monthly active platform consumers reached 118 million, also up 8% in the quarter. Drivers and couriers earned an aggregate $9.5 billion in the quarter.
Another marker of pandemic recovery, airport gross bookings represented 13% of its mobility gross bookings. That marks a 24% increase over the third quarter and nearly 200% from the same period a year ago.
For its first quarter of 2022, Uber said it is projecting gross bookings of $25 billion to $26 billion. It anticipates adjusted EBITDA of $100 million to $130 million.
Uber’s largest American competitor Lyft reported their fourth-quarter financials Tuesday. The company beat estimates on adjusted earnings per share and revenue but said it had fewer active riders than in the prior quarter. It also warned that omicron was weighing on its first-quarter results.
Uber earnings Q4 2021 (cnbc.com)
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|From: Glenn Petersen||2/20/2022 4:39:33 AM|
|UBER AND LYFT ARE TAKING ON HEALTHCARE, AND DRIVERS ARE JUST ALONG FOR THE RIDE|
Experts worry that rideshare drivers aren’t prepared
By Nicole Wetsman
Feb 17, 2022, 10:00am EST
Within the first week that Austin Correll was driving for Lyft in the fall of 2021, he was sent to pick up passengers at an address that turned out to be for a hospital. When he pulled up to the curb, he found an elderly woman in a wheelchair and another other with a walker, waiting for him — flanked by four or five nurses.
He got out and talked to the nurses, who told him that the woman in the wheelchair had just had heart surgery and needed to go to assisted living. The woman with the walker was her daughter, and she also appeared to have some health problems, Correll says.
Correll, who said he started working for Lyft for a few months while he waited for the results of his bar exam, doesn’t have any medical training. He told The Verge he immediately felt unprepared for the responsibility of transporting these two women, who were supposed to go to a motel around two hours away. When the nurses then told him that, on arrival at the motel, he should call an ambulance to help move the passengers into their room, he grew even more uneasy.
“The biggest thing I was worried about was, what if there was a medical emergency? This isn’t somebody who got their arm broken, got a cast, and needed to get home,” Correll says. “These are two people with severe medical issues.”
When they got to the motel, Correll decided he didn’t want to call the ambulance. Instead, as carefully as possible, he helped both women out of his truck and into their hotel room. After the ride was over, he reached out to Lyft to ask how he got put in this situation. The company wasn’t much help, he says. Lyft did not respond to a request for comment on this specific situation.
Correll is now working as a lawyer. But if he had kept driving, he might have run into more situations like this one. That’s because, for the past few years, rideshare companies Lyft and Uber have been moving into the non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) business, offering their networks to healthcare organizations that need to schedule rides for patients. Correll isn’t sure if his ride was through a formal NEMT program, but it could have been: to protect patient privacy, drivers aren’t told if their rides are from healthcare partnerships or not.
NEMT is used as a way to help low-income patients and Medicaid recipients get to appointments they might otherwise miss because they lack access to transportation. The need for such services is significant: millions of people in the United States, mostly low income, miss doctors’ appointments each year because of transportation barriers, costing the health system billions of dollars. But while NEMT is often done through dedicated companies, rideshare groups are now interested in what’s estimated to be a $3 billion market.
Rideshare is a cheaper alternative for healthcare organizations, and some experts think it has the potential to fill gaps in what NEMT services are able to offer. But research so far hasn’t borne that out, and clinicians say they worry that Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t adequately trained to safely transport the types of passengers who typically use NEMT.
“It has the benefits of flexibility,” says Yochai Eisenberg, an assistant professor of disability and human development at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. “It can save money, and it’s less costly than a lot of the existing infrastructure. But the lower cost is taking away in some way from the quality that traditional transportation companies can provide.”
A HEALTHCARE GAP
Lyft was the first rideshare company to launch an NEMT program. In 2016, it started offering healthcare organizations the ability to book rides for patients through its platform. In April 2021, the company launched the Lyft Pass for Healthcare program, which lets organizations cover the cost of rides that patients book themselves. Uber launched its NEMT program in 2018.
Both companies have expanded their partnerships with the healthcare sector over the past few years. Uber and Lyft now have their systems built into some electronic health record platforms, so doctors can schedule directly through a patient’s medical record. They also have specialized programs available in some cities, called Lyft Assisted and Uber Assist, where drivers provide light physical assistance walking riders door to door rather than just taking passengers curb to curb. While Lyft and Uber consider their assisted services to be separate from their NEMT programs, there’s some overlap: healthcare organizations partnering with Lyft for NEMT can schedule Lyft Assisted rides for patients, and Uber’s NEMT program pulls from the general driver pool, which includes Uber Assist drivers.
Uber said in a public statement in January that it has over 3,000 healthcare customers and that it saw over 70 percent growth in bookings for its health services between late 2020 and late 2021. Lyft did not respond to a question about the number of bookings through its health program.
With these new programs and expanded services, Uber and Lyft seem to be attempting to position themselves as healthcare companies. Uber just hired its first chief medical officer, geriatrician Michael Cantor. Lyft’s new head of healthcare, Buck Poropatich, comes from a healthcare strategy and business background. He told The Verge in an interview that if someone asked him if he worked for a healthcare company, he’d say yes.
Lyft and Uber say that they want to augment and improve on today’s NEMT services, which are covered by state Medicaid programs and some Medicare programs. Typical NEMT rides are more expensive than rideshare, and they are usually handled by companies that employ drivers trained to transport people with medical conditions. Health rides through rideshare companies are done by contractors who drive for the technology platforms and who get limited training — if they decide to participate in physical assistance programs — or no training at all.
While less driver training is a downside, rideshare can be more flexible, says Krisda Chaiyachati, an assistant professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Traditional NEMT companies have to be booked in advance, and patients get a wide window where they can be picked up. Sometimes, these rides aren’t reliable.
“It wasn’t just that the rides didn’t show,” Chaiyachati says. Even if people made it to appointments on time, the doctor might run late, and a patient would miss their ride home.
These are problems rideshare companies say they can help solve. With Lyft or Uber, people can order rides on demand instead of having a pickup window, and they can call a ride back home even if their appointment runs late.
Rideshare programs have had some successes. Some individual health systems report good results switching to rideshare for their NEMT programs. They’ve found more on-time rides, shorter wait times, and high patient satisfaction. Notably, rideshare programs are also much cheaper and lead to cost savings for health systems and insurers (rides are subsidized by the companies, making for a cheaper product even as the business is unprofitable).
But the handful of more rigorously designed studies that look at the top-line problem facing NEMT — high rates of missed appointments — haven’t found as much benefit of rideshare. Chaiyachati ran a study in West Philadelphia in 2016 and 2017 that found people offered Lyft rides weren’t any more likely to make it to their appointments than people who weren’t given rides. Another study, published in 2020, found that Medicaid enrollees had similar ride experiences with rideshare and non-rideshare NEMTs, but that people who had more rideshare rides had a greater odds of failed pickups. (Lyft published a letter pushing back on that study, criticizing its methodology.)
“On the one hand, this shows that [rideshare] is just as good as the traditional way” in terms of patient experience, says Eisenberg, an author on the 2020 study. “It’s saving time and money, it has flexibility, and the satisfaction remains the same. That’s OK — it doesn’t have to be better.”
But on the other hand, he notes, higher failed pickup rates are a concern. More research is needed to get a good understanding of the role rideshare can play in NEMT, Eisenberg says. It’s hard to do rigorous research, though, because the rideshare companies, like most technology companies, are reluctant to share their own data.
The studies done so far show that improving health access isn’t as simple as just using an algorithm to book people rides, Chaiyachati says. In his study, people said they missed appointments because they wanted to ride with a friend or family member who ended up not being available or because they didn’t think the appointment was important. Transportation, he says, is necessary for good care, but if rideshare companies want to solve healthcare problems, they have to offer more than the blunt instrument of an available car. The car needs to be accompanied by a more robust understanding of what people’s barriers to care are and a way to identify the subset of people where access to a more flexible and on-time ride is what’s needed to help them make it to their doctor’s appointments.
“If our goal was to reach towards equity and access, there are many other layers that need to be built into that,” Chaiyachati says.
Tim, who drives for Lyft in Baltimore, used to work for a company that specializes in driving people with disabilities. Before driving for that company, he was trained in how to assist people with disabilities, how to secure wheelchairs and scooters, and how to perform CPR, he told The Verge over Reddit chat.
Tim, who The Verge is referring to by his first name only because he still drives for Lyft, says he has concerns about Lyft’s healthcare programs, particularly the Lyft Assisted program, which lets drivers give rides to people who need light physical assistance after taking an online training course. At his previous company, he had in-depth training, knew that his passengers had medical issues, and had a support system in place that could come and help him out if a rider needed extra assistance.
That’s not always the case with rideshare services. And riders he drove through the disability company often needed more help than was initially indicated, Tim says. “Some are very frail and can’t handle a lot of bumpy roads. We constantly had to adjust our routes to accommodate,” he says.
Drivers who do not sign up for Lyft and Uber’s assisted programs can be sent NEMT rides without any training. Drivers who want to participate in the assisted programs are required to take tutorials created by the Open Doors Organization (ODO), a non-profit organization that aims to “teach businesses how to succeed in the disability market.” Uber’s program includes disability awareness training and information on how to stow assistive devices like walkers, says Katy O’Reilly, program manager at ODO. They don’t include medical or emergency information, she says: “I’d say it’s more just about customer service.”
Lyft’s tutorial provides more information, developed in partnership with occupational therapists, on how to safely walk with older or frail riders, O’Reilly says. It includes details about where the riders’ hands and feet should go while getting into a car and how to walk with someone who is blind, she says.
The Lyft Assist program is entirely online. Uber’s program used to have an in-person component, but O’Reilly says it “wasn’t really scalable,” and so now, everything is online. Drivers in Uber’s WAV program (for wheelchair-accessible vehicles) still go through in-person training to learn how to secure a wheelchair in a vehicle.
“You can’t just do something like that online,” O’Reilly says.
Experts who work in NEMT training don’t think an online tutorial would be sufficient to make sure drivers can safely handle people who need physical assistance. The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), which offers an NEMT driver training program with hands-on components, trains drivers on specific medical conditions, teaches them methods for securing wheelchairs, and other skills. Online tutorials or classroom training can provide some of that information, says Scott Bogren, the executive director of CTAA. “But we recommend as well that they do a demonstration with some of our trainers where they’re coached,” he says.
Eisenberg, the professor of disability and human development, says he would also want to see a hands-on component that involves working with people in need of assistance. “That’s the best practice,” he says.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Chaiyachati says he thinks online training could be enough, but only if drivers had resources available if they ended up in a situation that they didn’t feel would be safe for them or for the patient — like if there was a flight of stairs and a patient with a walker who they didn’t think they could safely assist. “I’m comfortable with that level of training as long as… they can call in the cavalry,” Chaiyachati says.
In an emailed statement to The Verge, Lyft’s Poropatich said that medical providers who partner with Lyft are responsible for making sure patients are able to use rideshare services. Lyft Assisted drivers do not lift riders in and out of cars or provide medical assistance, and Lyft Healthcare should not be used for people who have “medical needs,” he said. In an interview, he said Lyft aims to handle non-emergency transport for riders with fewer needs so that traditional medical transport groups could focus on rides “at the top of their license.”
Uber spokesperson Noah Edwardsen said in a statement that healthcare organizations select the transportation that meets individual patient needs.
But the experience of Correll, the lawyer who worked for Lyft, shows that if drivers are called for people with more extensive medical needs, there isn’t necessarily a high level of support or backstop. He didn’t have any information about how to handle two elderly and frail women as a standard Lyft driver. Even if he’d gone through the Assisted tutorial, he still wouldn’t have specific information about medical issues or be expected to handle their more extensive physical needs. But he says he didn’t have anywhere to turn, and he didn’t want to leave the women stranded.
Poropatich said in an interview with The Verge that there aren’t different protocols for a medical emergency or concerning situation on an NEMT ride than for any other ride. For privacy reasons, drivers aren’t even told if it’s an NEMT ride or not, he says. Edwardsen also said that Uber drivers do not see any difference between ride requests from Uber Health customers and regular rides.
That on its own is a safety risk, Bogren says. NEMT drivers should know if a rider has a medical condition so that they know what to do if something goes wrong. Even something that seems low-risk and non-emergency, like driving a kidney patient to and from a dialysis appointment, can have risks. If a patient starts to bleed from the incision where the dialysis is being performed — as sometimes happens — Bogren says trained NEMT drivers know to reroute patients to the emergency room. “You’ve got to match up skill sets with passengers,” he says.
Bogren thinks there can be a role for rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber to help fill in gaps in the NEMT system, such as when patients are discharged from the hospital in the middle of the night and flexibility with rides might be helpful. And the companies’ technology could help some of the logistical problems in the NEMT space.
But if companies like Uber and Lyft want to be healthcare companies, they have to take on the burden of safety and care that healthcare requires. Bogren says his company has offered to work with Uber and Lyft, but they haven’t yet taken him up on that offer.
So, for now, the rideshare NEMT programs are left with mostly-untrained drivers who aren’t given a heads up that they might be on their way to someone with a medical problem when they accept a ride. Correll knows that there need to be transportation options for people without the resources to get themselves to appointments. But he thinks rideshare NEMT programs, as currently structured, are doing a disservice to vulnerable people who need support.
“There’s nothing about my experience and what I know about Lyft that makes me think that this is a safe thing for Lyft drivers or for patients,” he says.
Uber and Lyft are taking on healthcare, and drivers are just along for the ride - The Verge
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/2/2022 9:46:08 AM|
|Uber, the everything app|
March 2, 2022
Good morning! Uber’s ambitions of being the “Amazon of transportation” isn’t just about rides anymore. I’m David Pierce, and I haven’t watched “Super Pumped” yet. But I did just start “Ozark,” and I’m obsessed.
Uber’s big ambitions
-- Uber wants to be a super app. The company has never been particularly shy about those ambitions, for what it’s worth: Dara Khosrowshahi has been saying he wants to build “the Amazon of transportation” for a few years now, planning to be as ubiquitous for getting around as Amazon is for shopping.
Explore is the next phase of Uber’s super app plans.
-- It launched the feature yesterday as a new tab in the Uber app. You can use it to get quick rides to your typical destinations; personalized suggestions; and offers for stuff to do and eat, and more.
-- “Places an Uber can take you” is sort of the unifying theme here, but it’s a much broader play at being the app you open to see what’s going on around you.
Uber’s really not a rides company anymore. It hasn’t been for some time, actually. It now makes more money moving food and goods around through Uber Eats than it does shuttling people through the ride-hailing service. (Turns out everything’s easier when you’re transporting cheeseburgers instead of humans.)
-- Eats generated $13.4 billion in gross bookings and $2.42 billion in revenue for Uber in the last quarter of 2021, compared to $11.3 billion and 2.28 billion for ride-hailing.
-- Just like Amazon was known for being a bookseller long after that stopped being its core business, Uber will be synonymous with ride-hailing for much longer than it actually depends on that business.
-- And as Eats grows, Uber’s turning into a shopping destination of its own. Uber had a Valentine’s Day hub for last-minute purchases, sells Goop products through an integrated store and ships from grocery stores and flower shops all over.
-- Even Eats isn’t a broad enough brand anymore, which is why Uber had to run a whole Super Bowl ad about the things you can buy on Uber Eats that you don’t actually eat.
-- And you can see where this is headed: Uber’s already playing with Prime-style subscriptions, working on its own payment systems, getting into freight and more. Connecting stuff and people is a big job, and Uber's trying to bring as much of it in-house as possible.
What Uber really wants to win is local. It has always aspired to be a sort of connective tissue for cities: You can use the Uber app to get around via car or bus or train or scooter, or you can buy anything you want from your favorite local shop and have it all brought right to your house. When Khosrowshahi says “Amazon of transportation,” he doesn’t mean the company that offers you lots of taxis; he means the way that absolutely everything moves and the logistics powerhouse underneath.
But this won’t be easy. For one thing, stuff delivery is a hugely competitive and quickly commoditizing space, as DoorDash and GoPuff and Just Eat Takeaway and countless others try to get you a toothbrush and a bag of Fritos faster.
-- And there’s still a business model flaw here, as Uber tries to find a way to make money without price-gouging either the people who make the food and goods or the people who buy them. Uber’s business is booming, but it’s still not profitable. And plenty of restaurants and stores would rather not be involved.
-- Airbnb is an interesting comparison, too. It built a huge business out of helping people find a place to stay, then rolled out Experiences to give them stuff to do on the same platform. But Experiences never quite caught on the same way.
It’s really all about the home screen. Uber needs to be ubiquitous to win the delivery wars, so it’s trying to train users to open its app many times a day. That’s why Uber Eats isn’t a separate app anymore, and why Explore is built in as well. Uber wants to be a habit, not a utility. And that may have started with rides, but it ends with Explore.
— David Pierce ( email | twitter)
Uber, the everything app - Protocol
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