If you're not a white male, you can take some measures to ensure fair treatment.
Uber and Lyft might be slowly replacing taxis but when it comes to the issues that female and Black passengers faced with hailing cabs, ride sharing services regrettably seem to be carrying on the tradition of preferential treatment for male and White passengers.
A troubling new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that black riders of both UberX and Lyft services waited 16-28% longer than white riders. The study consisted of the examination of 1,500 rides in the Boston and Seattle metropolitan areas.
In Boston, men with African or African-American-sounding names had their rides canceled twice as often as white passengers.
The study also broke down the wait times and cancellation rates based on gender, finding that African-American women had a cancellation rate of 8.4% compared to a rate of 5.4% for white women.
Black riders, regardless of gender, found a staggering 15.7% of their rides canceled if they found themselves in less densely-populated areas.
Similar issues were found in comparing the experiences of white women to those of white men. Women were more likely to be overcharged as drivers started the meter early or waited to end the trip until long after they’d already dropped off their fare.
It was also found that drivers systematically took longer routes with female riders.
Though it may serve as little solace to the offended parties, it’s possible that a few particularly egregious offenders may be skewing the data reported. Says Stephen M. Zoepf from the Center for Automotive Research and co-author of the study, "It seems to be a few bad actors. A few drivers were taking routes that were five-times as long as they should be."
Almost uniformly, regardless of gender or race, drivers were more inclined to take longer trips when surge pricing was in effect, capitalizing on the higher fares.
A rep from Uber has responded to the study. Released to Bloomberg, the statement reads:
Discrimination has no place in society and no place on Uber. We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.
Ultimately, platforms such as Uber and Lyft have little control over the actions of their drivers, but in the interest of social responsibility, hopefully they’ll monitor their metrics as closely as this study did to create awareness of the racism that seems inherent in the services provided by their drivers.
The study suggests there are steps users can take to ensure fair treatment by keeping their race or identity from being a consideration. It’s suggested riders keep their names or photos off their profiles to the extents possible. The services could address the issue by offering flat-fare rides for short trips and penalizing drivers further for canceled trips, performing statistical analysis of driver habits to identify egregious offenders.