Night of the Living Taxi: The Epic Rideshare Fail of NYE 2015


In San Francisco, New Year’s Eve was the night of the taxi.

Flywheel, the taxi-hailing app, was offering $10 rides (up to $50) from 8PM to 3AM. Luxor Cab was giving away free rides (up to $35) from bars and restaurants to residences during 10PM and 4AM. For once, passengers had plenty of options. The muni was free all night. Bart ran until 3AM. So riders who normally take Uber and Lyft would have to be seriously committed to rideshare not to take advantage of those deals.

From everything I saw on the road and read about on Facebook groups and Twitter (I had plenty of time to kill online), Flywheel’s gambit paid off. As I cruised all over town, mostly alone, wasting over a quarter tank of gas in the process, I rarely saw an empty cab. From the Marina to Hayes Valley, from the Mission to the Richmond, I laughed and cried at all those taxis jam-packed with fresh young faces. The kind of folks you usually see in Ubers and Lyfts. I may have even recognized a few. They certainly weren’t getting in my car. I had the worst Wednesday night ever! $60 for over five hours of driving. That is was New Year’s Eve seemed incidental.

nye_lyft_driver_promotionI drove exclusively for Lyft only because I’d reached my Uber breaking point a few weeks ago and owe them $200 for cracking the iPhone 4 they issued me when signing up, back when Uber didn’t allow drivers to use the app on their personal phones, charging us $10 a week in rental fees instead. If I wasn’t already going to bail on Uber, they made the decision easy for me.

So Lyft it was. And Lyft it was not.

It didn’t matter though. Business was just as dead for Uber. Despite claims that this New Year’s Eve was going to be the biggest yet and some bigwigs expecting them to pull in $100 million, the local driver groups on Facebook were inundated with pissed off drivers. Because there was no surge!

Some commenters speculated there were too many drivers on the road. But during events like Outside Lands, when the streets are filled with Uber/Lyfts, there are plenty of rides to go around.

Besides busy taxis, I saw large groups of revelers at bus stops and crowds of people walking the streets too. Especially in the Mission. Could it be that I’m not the only one fed up with Uber’s crap and opted instead to take cabs, the bus, Bart or even just walk?

Besides the near constant backlash against Uber for their unfair business practices, inadequate background checks, surge pricing and tone-deaf responses to the public’s concern, it didn’t help their reputation that a new rape case was just reported on New Year’s Eve. A Chicago driver who was using his wife’s Uber account allegedly abducted an unconscious female passenger and raped her in their home. According to the victim, afterwards he told her, “I made you happy.” This chilling case demonstrates, once again, that there is no accountability to Uber’s grossly lenient onboarding system. Anybody can use another driver’s account or cheat their way onto the system. So how are passengers safe? (I posed this question to Travis Kalanick on Twitter, but even if he did reply, we all know what his canned response would be.)

If you take all the negative aspects of Uber and wrap it into a ball, you’d have a meteorite that could easily wipe out the entire Bay Area. Offer $10 rides as alternative to that impending disaster and you get a surge free New Year’s Eve.

At least in San Francisco.

Of course, there were several reports on Twitter of high fares the day after New Year’s, but with all the brouhaha about Uber’s surge pricing in the media, people who complain about it now should be publicly shamed for being an #UberFool.

Just Another Uber Bait & Switch

After Uber announced that surge pricing was a foregone conclusionthe media followed suit, highlighting outrageously expensive rides in the past. People were looking at the possibility of 10X surge. To encourage their drivers, Lyft, who usually caps their Prime Time pricing at 200%, increased the limit to 500% for New Year’s Eve.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received multiple emails and texts from Uber and Lyft encouraging me to drive on the big night.


Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 5.34.30 PM

As they were emailing drivers with promises of riches for driving New Year’s Eve, they were sending out emails to riders warning them to avoid taking rides at certain times:


Whether or not they really wanted to create a clusterfuck of confusion, Uber screwed over their drivers with typical flair. Like a perfect representation of how pissed off drivers were, for most of the night, the Uber heat map never went past yellow:


At 7PM, as promised, Lyft initiated a 50% Prime Time in the eastern part of the city. But there were no rides in that area. After dropping off a couple at Bay and Mason, I drove through North Beach, the Marina, Pac Heights, Hayes Valley… all the way to 23rd and Geary, well out of the Prime Time range, before catching another ride.


All my rides were from the Sunset or Richmond. None were charged Prime Time. In fact, around 9:30 PM, the 50% Prime Time went away.

It didn’t come back in full force until after midnight. Uber started surging as well. It got up to an incredible 7x in the North Bay. There was some 3x and 4x in the city and one driver said they got a 200% PT from Lyft. Not much better than a normal rush hour or Saturday Night.

I cut my losses and gave up at 11 pm to watch the fireworks with Irina from Potrero Hill. Later, I monitored the Facebook groups to get the details. I didn’t miss much.


Taxi’s Night to Shine

It’s obvious that Flywheel’s $10 rides worked like a charm. Over the next few days, I hope to see numerous reports about how FlyWheel gave Uber and Lyft a taste of their own medicine.

And good for them.

I was barely able to break even for the night, after expenses, and will no doubt have to pay late charges on my credit cards because I didn’t make enough money over the slow holiday period, but it was spectacular to witness taxis kicking rideshare to the curb.

They proved to the city of San Francisco, and maybe the world, that Uber’s value is only limited to their perceived dominance. If people have real options, and those options are cheaper, or at least not as deceptive, Uber will become the emperor with no clothes.

Now the question is, will Flywheel and the taxi companies be able to capitalize on their victory?

16 thoughts on “Night of the Living Taxi: The Epic Rideshare Fail of NYE 2015

  1. Pingback: No, Taxis Are Not Doomed, and Here’s Why | I Drive S.F.

  2. Brad

    Yep, it was a slow wierd night on Lyft. Very unexpected. Things picked up after 12:15, but even then, yeah, not much more than a typical Friday or Saturday night.


  3. EatadickUber

    Uber driver here in Chicago NW suburbs, I won’t work on New Years Eve, the day is just too important for me socially. I doubt its a big Uber/Lyft payout day. In fact the only day I actually made the said “18$” driving my Benz for Uber was on Thanksgiving. I made $190 in just 5.5 hrs. The following day wasnt too bad either (black Friday) but the writer is correct, most of the time its short $4 rides, and if their longer, the customer almost always calls and complains that “the driver took the long way”. Uber is a shit company, that has no respect for their money makers (drivers). I have only worked 3 weeks for Uber and I already fucking hate the Company. I had in to invest 3k in maintenance to make sure my car was safe for the grind of hard driving. The day I got my C230 sport back a rock hit the window driving a pax downtown. I asked Uber to cover it, since I was driving their client, and had to take Ubers route. They declined, and from that moment it was FUCK YOU UBER.
    I’m going to join a limo service, no point in trashing my Benz for $4 cheap ass Jew Uber Riders!!


  4. Pingback: The Taxi vs. Uber/Lyft Money Post | Behind the Wheel

  5. edward able

    I drove a cab on new years eve. yes, around 8pm, dispatchers announced problems with the flywheel app but I wasn’t using it anyway – haven’t used it since they began taking 10% of flywheel earnings from drivers.

    business was AWFUL until about 10pm, decent for a couple of hours, then BOOMING from midnight onwards.

    still, because of the VERY slow start, I actually made forty bucks less than the previous Saturday night. still made a goodly amount, but not anything approaching halloween, mostly because the weather was so good and the attitude of revelers so exemplary that most people walked – and LIKED it.

    flywheel is doomed to fail unless they reassess their business model and educate their clientele (who are mostly young and clueless). they THINK their clientele is “superior” but actually, they are about the worst fares in town. why? common knowledge 101 – best tippers are people who have worked for tips (hint – techies DON’T and HAVEN’T worked for tips).

    uber will be failing by this summer.

    it is true that both (and lyft/sidecar) jumped into a market which they knew little about because they saw a need. four years ago, on any friday or saturday night after 10pm, whether I was on polk, union, mission, valenicia, market, castro or anywhere with nightlife, there would 300 sets of hands and I had my choice.

    that changed and for awhile, uber (and then flywheel) customers felt smart looking at the sea of hands and knowing THEIR ride was on the way.

    but that is ancient history.

    NOW you can walk out of any bar or restaurant in town and hail a cab within 30 seconds.

    the stupidos are now those standing on the corner looking at their phone while 20 couples walk out after them and hail a cab in 30 seconds, even at 2am closing time.

    there is still (exactly) enough business for cabs – I make almost exactly the same money but I now pick up the first raised hand I see (no more picking and choosing).

    no way would I EVER pay some app designer 10% of my hard earned money when I can find hails on the street. they have entered a market which no longer needs them.

    and pretty soon, uber users will be dateless wonders as the girl they are with wonders why THEY are standing there waiting while everyone else is on their way home.

    yes, there was a problem. yes, uber helped resolve it. but the 150 “part time cabs” (increasing by 30-50 each year) which muni wisely put on the street to work ONLY during peak periods helped solve that problem and will keep it from reoccurring, even after uber, lyft and flywheel are “remember them?” trivia.

    I have lost all respect for venture capitalists who are pouring money not their own down these ratholes.. how they could invest millions with people who do not know even the most basic truisms about the taxi business boggles the mind. a flywheel guy called me last week to encourage me to use their service. I said to him, “ok – you have been at this for three years so, tell me, if this is a seasonal business (and it is), which are the good months and which are the slow months?”

    he made a lame guess but really did not have a clue. no business which is app-smart but industry-clueless can ever hope to make back their investor capital. uber is just a pyramid scheme until investors wise up. flywheel COULD succeed (if they knew enough about the industry) but if they WERE succeeding, uber would have bought them by now.

    stay the course. the market is correcting itself and fly-by-night profiteers (off other people’s labor) will be back on their parent’s couches after the soon-to-be next dotcom bust.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. CG

    Welp, I used the Flywheel app 3x throughout the night and experienced no issues whatsoever. Got great, friendly drivers each time. A++ regulation! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Spartacus Mathias

    Ha ha good I hate like I have never hated anybody like this in my life every ” rideshare” driver I wish the feast of rats on you and your families



    Honestly its the experience(the connection with humans) Whoever brings this to the table takes the cake. Money can only go so far.


  9. Pingback: Сан-Франциско — такси наносят ответный удар - БлоGнот

  10. Jah

    Wow, this article sounds like you work for the Taxi Cabs! You should go drive a cab if you think they did such a great job! FYI, their app crashed during NYE so they also failed. I recommend getting your facts right and get some proof of what transportation was taken the most because it wasn’t the cabs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piltdownlad Post author

      And you sound like an Uber shill. Whatever. Do you have evidence of how extensive FlyWheel’s server outage was? From the research that I’ve done, it sounded like some users has issues (not enough to warrant any media coverage), and FlyWheel extended the $10 promotion through New Year’s day because of it. But that just proves my point. Demand was for cabs and not rideshare. The Bart trains were packed! I saw that firsthand as well. And the bus stops were crowded. I mention all this in the article. If you’re going to accuse me of not having all the facts, provide them. Otherwise you’re just a tool trying to defend a service that would just as soon take a shit on you.


  11. Pingback: Uber & Lyft Drivers Are The New Year’s Surge Price Whiners | Behind the Wheel

  12. Zak

    Well even though you may think the Flywheel app was working perfectly, it actually went down around 8 pm due to a massive influx of server traffic on the app. If you did see full cabs, they were either street hails or done through the Uber app in SF. Flywheel had a shot on NYE and they blew it, big time.


    1. piltdownlad Post author

      Link? I searched for info on the outage, which I saw mentioned on Twitter last night, but couldn’t find a reliable source. In any case, the people weren’t getting into rideshare cars.



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