Written by Daragh Maher, CNN
What’s for dinner? Uber and Lyft drivers are being told to call a cab when it’s not. That’s because Uber drivers are spending their nights waiting for Uber’s #7 hashtag to trigger a surge in driver hours as a number of U.S. cities continue their resistance against the ride-hailing company.
The wildly popular hashtag #7Up @ Uber is what Uber drivers use to match the black car cap in certain cities around the world. For now, the cap is lifted and drivers are unable to pick up fares the first week of every month in New York, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and San Jose, California. That means people unfamiliar with Toronto’s rules can now catch a black car in the city in a way they couldn’t before.
Uber drivers are literally stuck in the Uber loop
However, rules vary so widely between jurisdictions. The cap in Los Angeles has already been lifted — but the black car drivers have to stay on the road and wait their allotted hour of driving time. A black car cap in New York City remains unaltered. Uber driver Frances Cameron says this is affecting her bottom line.
Cameron is the director of the Ottawa Taxi Workers Alliance which is involved in the ride-hailing regulation battle in Canada. She says she used to be a bar patron and a college basketball player — and did a lot of bartending on the weekends. She says this has translated into a 50% to 60% decrease in income as a result of the black car cap.
“I did more of the bootwheels back in 2008,” she says. “I did 1,800, 1,700 orders each weekend. Now it’s been so reduced, it’s like 20 orders.”
For the record, Bootwheels are standard Uber fare of $7 USD with $1 of cover.
Uber has spent millions of dollars defending itself against driver claims of discrimination and misrepresentation, and these trials also focus on whether drivers are protected under anti-discrimination laws.
But according to Cameron, many of her colleagues simply don’t have the working hours to keep up with the cap. As more and more taxi and limo drivers make the move to Uber, the black car cap falls.
“People who’ve been with Uber for a few months are really not exposed to the cap.”
The black car cap happens to apply to luxury black cars, but Cameron explains that in her experience these are “luxury at the other end of the spectrum” for Uber.
Uber says black car drivers must adhere to the same real-time surge pricing policies as UberX and Lyft drivers in Canada, but in some jurisdictions, black car cars are less expensive than UberX.
The Group Holding Dealers Association of Canada says black car riders will see some change.
“People will feel free to move around the city for their daily activities,” says Max Benson, general manager of the association. “We won’t know how much as a function of the variable costs of those activities. You can’t forecast that.”
Black car drivers will also need to comply with the black car cap.
The Group Holding Dealers Association of Canada, a trade association representing licensed black car and limousine drivers in Canada. Credit: Group Holding Dealers Association of Canada
Meanwhile, Uber tells CNN their drivers are not bound by the black car cap and don’t use the #7 hashtag to control them.
“While black car drivers are already permitted to offer UberX in all locales, as outlined in our guidelines, Uber drivers use the #7 hashtag to match local prices,” Uber Canada wrote in an e-mailed statement.
Dinah Spark, co-founder of Canadian ride-hailing community Erly says she’s been tracking the ride-hailing space and just got started driving through her new startup, Erly Drive.