Siddhi Surana

Though Uber users in Connecticut are celebrating recent rate reductions, local Uber drivers have voiced grave concerns about the changes potentially lowering their already meager earnings.

The cuts, which went into effect Nov. 23, apply to the entire state except Hartford County, where Uber already lowered prices in mid-August. Matthew Powers, Uber’s Connecticut general manager, said the cost reductions represent one more step towards the company’s goal of becoming the most affordable, reliable and safe transportation option for consumers in Connecticut.

But New Haven drivers interviewed said the cuts do not have the economic well-being of local Uber drivers in mind. Many noted that because Ubers are already much cheaper than taxis, adding further cuts does more harm than good.

“Myself and the rest of the drivers, we’re struggling now,” said one driver who requested to remain anonymous for fear his account would be deactivated. “It’s just not right what they’re doing to us. While they’re making millions and millions of dollars, we’re making just a little bit.”

Uber uses a three-part pricing system — combining per-minute and per-mile components with a base fare — to calculate the total cost of a ride. The company’s recent rate reductions affected all three of these elements. The per-minute rate decreased from $1.50 to $1.10, the per-mile rate fell from $0.18 to $0.16 and the base fare dropped from $2.00 to $1.75.

Powers said the resounding success of the Hartford County rate cuts prompted the decision to reduce prices statewide. He said the decrease of the price per ride was more than compensated for by a sharp increase in the volume of rides.

“Drivers ended up being much busier than they were previously and more of their time was monetized,” Powers said, adding that drivers in Harford ended up making 35 percent more money.

Powers said New Haven Uber drivers are already serving more customers and earning more money. But he acknowledged that the spike in ride volume over the past couple of weeks may also be due to Thanksgiving travel, not the new reduced rates.

Still, New Haven drivers remain unconvinced that lower-priced rides will benefit them.

A second driver, who also requested anonymity to avoid losing his job, expressed frustration with how Uber treats its drivers. Though Uber calls its drivers “partners,” the driver interviewed said the relationship between drivers and Uber management is far from egalitarian. He said this fact is even truer now, given the cuts.

“They’re letting us drown,” the driver said. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
But Powers said drivers will benefit from the reductions in the long run, noting this is not the company’s first time operating with lower rates. California and Texas have also lowered their ride rates over the past year.

In spite of Powers’ assurances, William Scalzi, president of the West Haven-based taxi company Metro Taxi, said the reductions will be catastrophic for Uber drivers. Many, he said, are already thinking of leaving the company.

“We had drivers who left here to go to Uber when [the company] first came here,” he said. “Now those drivers are calling us on a continual basis because they want to come back.”

Uber began operating in Connecticut in 2014.