Mar 31, 2021 - News
Why it feels impossible to get an Uber in Des Moines
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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