Misty Huffman has driven sporadically for Uber in El Paso over the past year, even as Covid-19 surged and many of the ride-hailing app’s regular customers stayed away. One recent Friday she opened the app and was surprised to see large numbers of people requesting rides at restaurants, bars, and other nightspots downtown. “The whole city was lit up, end to end,” she says.
Huffman made $1,000 that weekend, a better rate of pay than she gets from her day job as a respiratory therapist. The increase in riders was a factor, but more than a third of the money came directly from Uber in bonuses. “The incentives are crazy,” she says.
Ride-hailing collapsed a year ago when the pandemic set in. Volume for Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. dropped more than two-thirds in a single week last March, according to data from Bloomberg Second Measure LLC, which analyzes consumer spending. A gradual increase this year accelerated last month, as vaccination rates climbed and people returned to their normal activities. Lyft’s sales for the week ended March 29 were 80% higher than in the first week of the year, and Uber’s climbed 76% in the same period, according to Second Measure. “Demand is rising rapidly with every vaccination,” says Lyft President John Zimmer. “It’s almost like the reverse of the pandemic.”
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