In September 2020, a number of Lyft drivers received an email notifying them about a new feature called “priority mode.” According to the rideshare company, the feature would provide drivers with a handful of priority hours per week where they’d get more rides than drivers who did not use the feature. The catch, however, is that the drivers had to agree to a ten percent pay cut.
Some drivers who tried the feature spoke about their experience with CNET. Earla Phillips, one of Lyft’s earliest drivers in Toronto, gave the feature a try. She noticed she got a few rides in those priority hours but didn’t notice much of a difference otherwise. What she did notice, however, was that when she turned priority mode off, she saw a significant decline in rides.
Priority mode appears to be Lyft’s latest attempt to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lyft’s rides were down 75% year-over-year in mid-April and 50% year-over-year in November. According to a Lyft spokesperson, “We launched Priority Mode at the beginning of the pandemic to help drivers stabilize their earnings and give then another option around how to make the best use of their time. It’s one of the many ways we are continually working to improve the platform so drivers can reach their personal goals.”
The rideshare company claims the new feature also helps Lyft drivers compete with Uber by keeping more drivers available to pick up rides. Since many drivers use both apps, priority mode could entice drivers to choose Lyft.
Complaints about priority mode have been scattered all over online drivers’ forums. Commenters noted feeling like Lyft is taking advantage of its drivers. One Lyft driver started a Change.org petition called “Safe Lyft Drivers,” asking the company to get rid of priority mode.
Lyft, however, claims to have received positive feedback for priority mode. Currently, the feature is available in Toronto, Austin, and Miami. The Lyft spokesperson put CNET in touch with a driver who has made priority mode work for them. According to Oscar Silva, a part-time Lyft driver in Miami, “I like priority mode to the extent that it’s an additional tool in my toolbox, but I don’t want to be in priority mode 100% of the time. The real kick would be putting me on priority mode and not changing the rate.”
At this time, it’s unclear if Lyft plans to expand the priority mode feature nationwide. For more information on the latest rideshare industry news, click here.