Tech | September 3, 2021 6:05 am

Escaping a Wildfire? Hopefully You Have $1,500 for Your Lyft Ride.

The rideshare company is being accused of price gouging wildfire evacuees in Lake Tahoe

A Lyft driver in his car reading directions from his phone screen

While East Coasters are dealing with historic flooding and tornados, those on the West Coast have been battling catastrophic wildfires that are growing more dangerous by the day. Fleeing from apocalyptic climate scenarios isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially if public transportation is underwater or you’re without a vehicle. In this scenario, you might turn to a rideshare service to help get you to safety.

That’s what evacuees in South Lake Tahoe, where the Caldor Fire is rapidly burning, did, only to discover that Lyft was trying to charge them upwards of $1,500 for the trip.

According to SFGate, the fare for an “XL” vehicle from Heavenly Valley Lodge, a popular resort, to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport was between $1,300 and $1,500 on Tuesday, drawing criticisms and accusations of price gouging. “Typically, that ride is estimated to cost up to $200 for an ‘XL’ vehicle, according to Lyft’s own estimate prices,” said SFGate, adding that by noon prices had stabilized back to a normal $230.

“When ride requests outpace the number of drivers on the road, prime time pricing — elevated fares designed to get more drivers to high-demand areas — is automatically enabled,” a spokesperson from Lyft told the San Francisco-based publication. “When we realized how the evacuation order was affecting Lyft prices, we immediately implemented a cap and ultimately suspended prime time pricing.” 

Whether you want to give Lyft the benefit of the doubt here (which I do not), this isn’t the first time rideshare services have been accused of capitalizing on riders’ desperation during a disaster. As Vice called out, Lyft and Uber have a history of hiking fares during power outages, snowstorms and even a hostage crisis (really, guys?), and I’d argue surge prices on weekend nights when my drunk ass is just trying to get home safely is also a form of price gouging.

Unfortunately, whether you’re in the middle of a disaster or a late night on the town, rideshare services’ astronomical fares aren’t going down anytime soon, and neither are longer wait times, both due to high demand, driver shortages and unsustainable business models.