How is Uber fixing the long lines at the Wells Fargo Center for delegates and media?

Guaranteed tripled surge pricing when the speeches end, and a lottery that will net one driver $2,500.

Getting delegates, volunteers and reporters out of the Wells Fargo Center Monday night was a disaster, and attendees reported waiting an hour or more to hitch a ride with Uber, even though the ride-hailing company had partnered with the Democratic National Convention. But the wait time in the Uber lot at the WFC felt a little better Tuesday night. While some DNC attendees still complained that it took longer than usual to hail an Uber — which can happen when you’re shuffling 50,000 people out of an arena — others said something clearly changed between Monday and Tuesday.

Uber upped staffing in their special parking lots at the Wells Fargo Center, added an overflow lot so more drivers can fit inside the security perimeter, and chaned the traffic patterns, Uber also told drivers of a special perk Tuesday: Guaranteed surge pricing at three times the normal rate. That’s one way to recruit more drivers to South Philly.

Credit: Provided by an Uber driver

What this means, according to drivers who received the guaranteed surge pricing message, is that Uber is promising drivers that they will make three times the normal rate between 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. in the area of the Wells Fargo Center and that’s in addition to any other organic surging. That can work out to be more than $20 an hour.

The guarantee from Uber comes in addition to a lottery put into place Monday night in which the first 500 drivers in line to pick people up at the Wells Fargo Center were put into a drawing to win $2,500.

The promise of higher fares is a welcome change for drivers. Uber has an exclusive lane for drivers to congregate at the designated ride-share lot about a 10-minute walk from the Wells Fargo Center — much to the chagrin of local taxi and Lyft drivers — but UberX drivers have to go through a lengthy process just to pick up riders. They have to pick up a security pass, enter the security perimeter, wait in line in their cars outside a tent to be selected to drive a customer, then return the security pass and take the customer on their way.

Uber also sent this message to riders who used Uber Monday night following the first night of the Convention:

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The company’s promised to continue evaluating its services at the DNC as it works with what it’s saying is “a record-breaking number of trips completed and more drivers on the road in Philadelphia than ever before.”

“As we move into day 3 of the convention,” Uber spokesman Craig Ewer said in a statement, “we’re continuing to encourage more drivers to get on the road, working to make the process even more efficient and looking forward to serving convention-goers once again this evening.”

The use of Uber was legalized just before the DNC came to town after state legislators slipped language into the state budget that made ride-sharing services legal in Philadelphia through Sept. 30. A week before that happened, the Philadelphia Parking Authority vowed it had reached an agreement with Uber to allow the ride-sharing company to operate in Philadelphia without further penalty. But prior to that, Uber was technically operating illegally in the city. It had an experimental license to operate everywhere in Pennsylvania except Philadelphia where the PPA regulates taxis, not the state Public Utilities Commission.

State legislators have said they expect to pass a bill fully legalizing UberX and Lyft before the legalization in Philadelphia expires at the end of September.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.