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Data: Des Moines International Airport; Chart: Axios Visuals

If you feel like you had to wait an unusually long time for an Uber or Lyft in Des Moines, you're not alone.

In an unscientific experiment, Axios spent the last week trying to see if any drivers were available to take her from the Southside to the airport — just a 10-minute drive. The message back: No drivers available.

  • Local residents on Twitter said the same — or complained about the lack of UberEats drivers.

What gives? Uber didn't respond, and Lyft didn't answer questions directly but said it expects a surge in rides again in light of vaccinations.

Some theories:

  • Drivers are vulnerable both physically and fiscally because of the pandemic. As independent contractors, they've got no sick leave.
  • Our demand dropped: In January 2019, the airport saw nearly 7,000 rides. That's now closer to 1,500.
  • Add in negatives like low pay, a lack of tipping and rising gas prices and "risks outweigh rewards," according to Chuck Utech, a former Uber and Lyft driver in Des Moines.

Our thought bubble: Either schedule your rides for the next few months, or have a friend on speed dial.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Updated Mar 29, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Why Des Moines could become a regional rollerskating mecca

Katie Baird rollerskates in downtown Des Moines. Photo: Caleb Smith

Rollerskating has experienced a resurgence thanks to the pandemic and a 90s renaissance, and Des Moines is in a unique position to take it to the next level with the upcoming Lauridsen Skatepark.

Why it matters: One-of-a-kind attractions will draw needed tourists and money once the pandemic recovery starts in earnest.

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Updated May 14, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Axios' favorite places to eat in Des Moines

A fried chicken sandwich from Angry Goldfish in Des Moines. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Whether you're a lifelong Des Moines resident or a traveler stopping by, there are culinary treasures to discover across the metro's local restaurants.

The state of play: It's easy to poke fun at the "meat and mashed potatoes" of the Midwest (which, honestly, can be quite tasty) — but, don't discount our town's James Beard award-winning chefs, diverse array of immigrant-owned restaurants and just plain creative creations.

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Mar 29, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Des Moines schools joining new athletic conference aimed at equity

East High School hosted a boys track meet on March 27th on their new track and field. Photo courtesy of DMPS

Des Moines schools announced Monday it's leaving its current athletic conference to compete against other districts that more closely reflect its own racial and income demographics.

  • Why it matters: Low-income student athletes face hurdles like prohibitive costs, lack of transportation, coaching access and training time. But these factors aren't taken into account when seeding schools.