“At the end of the day, they are a business enterprise,” he said.
Even if it does come down to driver supply and rider demand, don’t expect the problem to be solved anytime soon, said Joseph Schwieterman, director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.
Demand will only go up as more workers return to their offices and downtown conventions begin again, he said, and the ride-share driver shortage is likely to continue as the labor market remains tight and drivers are reluctant to return.
“This could linger on for the next year or so,” he said.
There were about 30,521 active ride-share drivers in June, a decline of about 55% from June 2019, city data shows.
Lyft said in a statement that it has added thousands of drivers in the past few weeks, with wait times down by more than 15% nationwide.
Uber is also seeking to draw back riders, and the company began a $250 million incentive program to boost driver earnings, said Robert Kellman, the company’s head of Midwest policy.
About 4,000 Chicago drivers have returned to the platform since that program launched in mid-April, but numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels, he said.
“As drivers come back, prices will go down,” he said. “So this price increase is temporary. But we understand that prices are higher than normal right now, and we’re doing everything we can to reduce them every day.”
Kellman dismissed theories that a rise in Uber’s prices are tied to the company seeking profits. The company would not have started a $250 million program if it were focused on making money, he said.