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4 tips for using Uber on NYE

Omar Bárcena/Flickr/Creative Commons
This file photo was taken from a New Year's Eve celebration in 2014 at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.

If you're a sensible Los Angeles resident planning on ringing in 2016 with a drink (or two), you're probably already thinking about transportation.

There are plenty of choices available that you can read about here, but few are easier than the apps on your phone: Uber and Lyft. We asked local rideshare drivers about their experiences last year. Here's what they had to say.

Surging will happen 

As ridesharing companies explain it, prices spike when demand for rides exceeds the number of available drivers. Uber calls it surge pricing, while Lyft calls it Prime Time. Joseph Dewolf of the California App-Based Drivers Association, a group of rideshare drivers that counts over a thousand members in SoCal, said that the total fare could end up two to four times the regular fee. Uber recommends catching a ride early or right after midnight. 

Here's a tweet of an Uber receipt from Newport Beach last year:

A cautionary tale

From San Luis Obispo:

Another pricey ride

But you can wait it out 

Many rideshare drivers in Los Angeles told us that there were generally more drivers on New Year’s Eve last year than riders. According to Dewolf, people start hailing cabs between midnight to 2 a.m. because they're afraid of the surcharge. But researchers at Northeastern University found that surge prices commonly only last less than 10 minutes. 

Uber spokesperson Michael Amodeo said: “Once demand falls or supply increases, prices quickly return to normal.” 

A Santa Monica resident who drove for Uber last New Year’s Eve tweets under the handle @LAUberGal. She documented her night on Twitter. 

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User @UberComic tweeted:

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A handful of Eastsiders at the KPCC office said they dashed after the clock struck midnight last year to avoid surging. And it worked! 

Tipping is OK

Lyft users can tip through the app. But as a policy, Uber doesn’t have that feature (to the frustration of some of the drivers). It’s been the subject of debate and part of the pleadings in a class lawsuit action in San Francisco, according to Dewolf. (As KPCC’s Meghan McCarty reported in October, not tipping could lead to low ratings for the passengers.) He says this is especially true when the rides are surging.

“For holidays, if there's a surge, customers generally don't tip because they feel that they're paying the premium price anyway,” said Dewolf. “Sometimes on a holiday if the customer's feeling particularly sorry for the driver or the driver has done an extremely good job under some very hard circumstances, they get a little bit.”

But please, keep it together

Many drivers expect no tips and intoxicated passengers on a night like New Year's Eve. That being said, they really hope riders don't puke in their cars. "Once that customer vomits in the car, that's pretty much it for the driver for the rest of the night because they can't clean it up well enough to be able to accept another passenger without the fear of getting a bad rating," said Dewolf. Lyft can charge up to $250 in damage fee, while Uber will charge between $50 and $200

Are you going to use Uber or Lyft this New Year's Eve? Did you use it last year? What was your experience? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.