Some Uber drivers made more money than usual during the Super Bowl, but it wasn't the jackpot many expected.
MPR News sampled Uber surge pricing every 15 minutes in five areas: downtown Minneapolis, U.S. Bank Stadium, uptown, the Mall of America, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Uber increases prices by a "surge multiplier" during times of high demand. We tracked those surge multipliers. The highest surge we found was 3.9x regular prices, at 4:30 a.m. Monday in downtown Minneapolis.
"The early part of [Super Bowl] week was horrible," driver Michael Thorne of Apple Valley said. Driver Dan Wolter of Burnsville also expected more demand Monday through Wednesday. "It was like a bomb of demand was dropped on the metro area [Thursday]," Wolter said.
Low "surge multipliers" during Super Bowl week William Lager & Solvejg Wastvedt | MPR News graphic
Even over the weekend, the surges weren't as big as the pre-Super Bowl hype. "Everybody was kind of under the impression we were all going to pay off our houses with Uber income... It wasn't that way at all," Wolter said.
But Wolter said he made more than he would on a typical weekend. Thorne said he also saw an income boost Saturday. Thorne said Saturday's increase balanced out the lower demand from earlier in the week, resulting in an average week's income.
In the hours leading up to the Super Bowl, surge pricing all but disappeared from downtown Minneapolis.
From about noon on Sunday until just before kickoff, surge multipliers disappeared from all locations we sampled except uptown. It was a steep drop from surges earlier in the day, and the lull disappeared Sunday night and Monday morning.
An Uber spokesperson declined to answer questions from MPR News about what factors determine surge pricing. Uber did say surge multipliers depend on demand for rides at the requesting rider's location.
We don't know how much weight Uber gives the supply of drivers in calculating surge multipliers. We also don't know if Uber changes the surge multiplier in any ways that have nothing to do with demand. Drivers and riders simply see the surge multiplier and not the calculation behind it, so Uber surge is kind of a black box.
Uber said ridership more than doubled in the Twin Cities on Super Bowl Sunday compared to the previous week.
In a news release, Uber said Twin Cities trips increased by 143 percent compared to the previous Sunday. A quarter of Twin Cities riders on Sunday traveled to or from U.S. Bank Stadium, according to the release.
Data collection adapted from Northwestern University Computational Journalism Lab.
Sunday morning "surge multipliers" from Saturday night continued through around Sunday noon. The areas around the stadium and Nicollet Mall had the highest "surges". (Data collection adapted from Northwestern University Computational Journalism Lab.) William Lager, Solvejg Wastvedt, & Bill Wareham | MPR News graphic