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From a “lot” to a little: Uber’s efforts to reduce waiting lot usage

September 3, 2019 / US

Driving at airports should be safe, easy, and reliable. By improving the driver experience, we can enhance the rider journey and ensure smoother TNC operations at airports.

A seamless airport pickup experience requires a finely tuned balance of driver supply and passenger demand for rides. If supply and demand become unbalanced, riders experience long wait times or, worse, can’t get a ride.

The airport waiting lot is essential to ensuring that drivers are positioned to accept an airport pickup quickly and efficiently. Though TNC waiting lots are a critical component in providing timely rides to passengers, we’re working to make our product more efficient and to reduce the need for drivers to go to the waiting lot in the first place.

Using Rematch

Most airport pickups are made by drivers coming from the airport waiting lot. However, a more seamless experience can occur through the use of Rematch. This Uber product feature quickly matches a driver after dropoff with a new rider, rather than their heading to the lot or leaving the airport.

When activated at your airport, Rematch can reduce the need for drivers to stage on airport property and allow your passengers to get rides quicker. For airports with multiple levels, you can further optimize Rematch by adding extra pickup points on the departures level. Our team can provide recommendations to optimize the Rematch rate tailored specifically to your airport.

Rematch has been found to reduce reliance on the waiting lot, shorten rider wait times, and ease congestion by decreasing the number of vehicles in the terminal. 

Clarifying driver wait times

When choosing to take airport trips, drivers must weigh the time it takes to wait for a rider pickup with the higher fares they typically see on airport trips. Some drivers who go to the waiting lot may wait with no clear understanding of when to expect a pickup request. As a result, the number of vehicles waiting may at times exceed the waiting lot’s optimal capacity, creating congestion challenges and a frustrating experience for drivers as well as airport personnel. 

To help drivers identify the optimal times to come to the airport, Uber piloted a feature in the Driver app that now displays estimated wait time. Previously, drivers would see only their place in the queue. With this new feature based on a sophisticated demand prediction model, drivers can see the estimated time they can expect to wait for an airport pickup request if they were to enter the queue at that moment. Drivers can see this estimated time from anywhere in the city, so they’re able to make an informed decision on whether to go straight to the airport or first accept a trip headed there. 

This feature can reduce deadheading trips (passenger-less drivers going to the airport waiting lot) and discourages drivers from going to busy waiting lots. After tests with a small group of airports yielded positive results in driver sentiment and targeted metrics, we’re continuing to roll it out to more airports throughout 2019.

Incentivizing trips through QuickPass 

One major concern drivers have shared after queueing for a request in the waiting lot is getting a short trip that has low earning potential. To alleviate this concern, Uber has made improvements to our short-trip protection feature. Drivers can access this product feature, called QuickPass, by accepting short trips from the airport. 

When riders request a short-distance trip, which is measured based on the airport’s distance from major dropoff areas, drivers get a notification that they will receive a QuickPass if they accept. A QuickPass then allows drivers to jump to the front of the queue the next time they enter the waiting lot after completion of the short-distance trip.

We believe this is important to the airport operator, as it discourages drivers from canceling short trips, which can lead to long passenger wait times and longer driver dwell times in the waiting lot. 

Driving innovation in ridesharing

These efforts may not be as exciting as PIN dispatch, but they can make a big difference. Ensuring a positive driver experience is a collaborative effort between Uber and airports, and we look forward to continuing to find solutions together.