Rideshare drivers hoping for the best during viaduct closure

SEATTLE – By now you’ve likely heard of the options to help you navigate during the viaduct closure set to start on Friday. Among them are public transportation, coming in earlier or later to work, working from home if you can, or carpooling.

Bottom line: avoid the traffic mess if you can.

But for many commuters, ridesharing could be an option. However, there is concern from some riders that there may not be enough drivers to go around. Some drivers said they have a lot of regular routes that rely on SR-99 to service Belltown, downtown and sporting events, but now those routes are gone.

Others have expressed concern about not being able to pick up enough passengers and thus not make as much money.

And there are those like Lyft driver Tony Oh who said that he’s used to the gridlock already.

“I do expect a lot of traffic and a lot of congestion,” said Oh.

That’s the consensus as Oh visits a Lyft driver hub. Hubs are there to support drivers during routes. Anything from a quick cup of coffee, to tech and route support. Oh came by Lyft’s hub located just about a block from the viaduct off Western Ave.

“For me, it’s sort of a love-hate relationship. It just depends on which direction I’m heading. If I’m heading southbound, I hope there’s not an earthquake. If it’s northbound, it’s some of the best views ever,” he said.

We talked with Oh to get a gauge and see how the viaduct closure will affect the routes he takes to the amount of money he takes in. Oh works the rush hour times.

For him, being a Lyft driver is a full-time job to help support a wife and two kids. As for the question of whether this will affect his income, after all it is dependent on ridership, he said it remains a big question mark.

“It’s something that’s going to be hard to predict. It’s something that with any event even there’s always going to be traffic. And you just have to play it by the moment,” he said. “But for something like this, this is what rideshare was meant for.”

It just remains unclear what impact rideshare be during the closure. Both Lyft and Uber did not have any specific metrics on what’s expected. However, the viaduct closure was enough for both companies to send out advisory emails to drivers.

For Lyft, because their driver Hub is located near the viaduct itself, the company decided to open a temporary Hub near Sea-Tac Airport. Some of the steps they're advising drivers to do include calling their passengers to avoid confusion during pickup, consulting multiple maps to help navigate the best routes, and driving near transit centers. Lyft is offering $2.75 off shared rides, to-and-from transit centers.

“What I actually expect is more passengers utilizing the Lyft-share. That`s where you opt to share the ride with other passengers,” he said.

As for UBER their advisory email went out to drivers last Thursday, saying that their navigation system will be updated with the current information regarding closures. The company is also increasing the number of JUMP Bikes in downtown Seattle and waiving the $1 unlock fee through Feb. 15. They’re also offering the same $2.75 discount to transit stations.

SDOT did not have a comment on whether rideshare companies or rides will be impacted. They said in a statement that this traffic event will affect everyone driving vehicles, riding in vehicles and riding transit on city streets.

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