Uber said they've invested millions of dollars in trying to increase driver pay and get more of them on the road now that the pandemic is easing up.
At Bradley International Airport, passengers told us that trying to get picked up by Uber or Lyft has been harder and costlier than before the pandemic. Drivers say that post-pandemic, it's more expensive for them, too, and sometimes working may not even be worth their time.
"It's hit or miss. Some days, you make good money, some days you don't," said Dan, a rideshare driver.
For Dan, the last year or so of the six he's been driving with Uber and Lyft has been challenging, with some good days and some not so worthwhile.
"If there’s not rides, we’re not making money. But because there are fewer drivers, there’s actually been more demand as of recently," said Dan.
We caught up with him waiting for a fare in a lot near Bradley, but many passengers said that right now, there just aren't enough drivers on the road, leading to longer wait times and higher prices when compared to pre-pandemic trips.
Uber driver Steve has been driving with the company for about four years. He said between fewer passengers requesting rides, what can sometimes be a lopsided split between drivers and the company in each ride, and the rising cost of gas and car repairs, many drivers who got off the road during the pandemic are choosing to stay off.
"They can’t just sit there and wait and hope that somebody’s going to ask for a ride. There’s just not enough volume, not enough passengers traveling," said Steve.
Driver advocates say it's no surprise there are less drivers on the road after the pandemic. Rideshare Drivers United, a union representing drivers, is calling for a 10% cap on what the companies can take from driver fares, along with setting an hourly minimum wage.
Friends Dalton and Brett, who are in town from Missouri, said it took longer than normal to get a ride.
"It's longer than I've experienced with other places," said Brett Brazill. "This was more expensive than we were used to."
Drivers say that with costs on the rise and the fare split between themselves and the companies, it can be hard to come out on top.
"I try not to do too many shorter trips because it really doesn’t benefit us… especially if you have to drive 10 or 15 minutes to go pick somebody up and then they’re only going five minutes down the road," said Dan.
In April, Uber invested $250 million in what they call a driver stimulus which is meant to help raise driver pay and meet returning demand. The company wouldn't tell NBC Connecticut how many drivers are on the road compared to before COVID-19, but their quarterly earnings report says gross bookings grew year over year.
So just when might drivers and riders see a return to normal?
That remains unclear. But it won't come soon enough for some people looking to get around town with someone else behind the wheel.
"I understand the pandemic, people don't really want to drive and I get that," Brazill said. He hopes things will get better with time.
But in the meantime, some travelers we spoke with say they'll just stick it out until things improve.
"It doesn’t make a difference. I have to travel. It's better than taking a taxi," said Windsor resident Maurice Defalco Stuckey.