SF Has More Surge Pricing Than NYC…And Other Findings From a New Uber Study

A new study of Uber’s surge pricing found that it doesn’t lure Uber drivers to high-demand areas, although it does discourage many passengers from requesting rides.

As the Chronicle reports, the study, “Peeking Beneath the Hood of Uber,” looked at surge pricing in San Francisco and New York. Researchers collected data from December through May, but really focused on two weeks this past spring.

Here’s what they found:


  • Surge pricing compels many seasoned drivers to seek business in less active areas. 
  • San Francisco has more surges than New York.
  • San Francisco’s surges peak at double the normal rate during morning rush hour, from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m.
  • Triple surge pricing sometimes occurs in San Francisco around 2:00 a.m., when bars close.
  • Surges in San Francisco can reach as high as 4.1 times the normal rate, although 1.5 times or less is more typical.
  • Because surges are short-lived, passengers willing to wait five minutes will probably see rates drop.

As expected, Uber disputes the study’s findings and methodology. Keith Chen, a UCLA professor currently working with Uber, told the Chronicle, “[Researchers] missed a lot of what surge pricing does with respect to supply,” noting that drivers were actually more likely to seek high-demand areas.

Uber plans to update its app so drivers will know whether they can make it to a surge area in time to cash in.

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