Ground transportation issues are leaving many U.S. travelers on the hook this summer as rental cars remain in short supply and an ongoing labor shortage has limited ride-sharing availability, driving up fares.
“It was a devastating punch,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a DePaul University professor who specializes in public policy, transportation and urban planning. “On the one hand, you have a tight job market, with federal unemployment benefits pushing many drivers away, and on the other, there’s been a massive contraction in car availability.”
In a statement, ride-sharing company Lyft confirmed that starting in early spring, demand for rides began to far exceed supply “as vaccines rolled out and people started moving again.” .
Although Lyft added that it has since implemented hiring incentives and perks, which have helped it attract thousands of new drivers in recent weeks and cut wait times for 15% nationwide, industry experts report that fares for Lyft, Uber and other ride-sharing options remain abnormally high. high in most markets.
According to recent data from research firm Rakuten Intelligence, carpooling costs in the United States for June have increased by 53% compared to the pre-pandemic period in January 2020.
“You only need to get burned once before you’re hesitant to rely on carpooling these days,” Schwie-terman said. “Nothing can ruin an evening faster than a mind-blowing $50 fare for just a few miles.”
As an alternative, Schwieterman said travelers have shown increasing willingness to experiment with peer-to-peer car-sharing companies like Turo and Getaround, which allow users to rent cars from private car owners.
In destinations where car rentals have proven either prohibitively expensive or nearly impossible to book, Lynn Farrell, president of Foremost Travel, a Chicago-based subsidiary of Tzell Travel, began suggesting customers try turo.
“We tell people that this is the Airbnb of car rentals, that we are not responsible for it and cannot control the quality, but we just try to give people as much information and as many options as possible,” says Farrell. “Because, let’s face it, if you’re going somewhere like Bozeman, Montana, or Hawaii, and you don’t have a car, it’s not a vacation. It completely changes the dynamic of your trip.”
According to Farrell, a recent quote for a week-long traditional car rental in Bozeman, a popular pandemic-era vacation destination for outdoor enthusiasts, was $4,700.
In Hawaii, where a particularly severe shortage of rental cars has made headlines, transportation costs have also skyrocketed. Farrell cited a recent trip by clients to Maui, where they were charged $190 each way for a round-trip taxi ride to a nearby Covid-19 testing site.
“What we do now between our agents is share information about hotels — like the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, for example — that have shuttles you can hop on and take around town and to restaurants,” Farrell said.
The Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort responded to transportation challenges by investing in a new shuttle and minivan for guests and bolstering its existing bike program, which has long allowed travelers to use the resort’s bikes free of charge to enjoy a bike path connecting the property to the nearby town of Kapa’a.
“Our bike program has always been popular; however, we saw a significant increase in bike reservations early in the second quarter,” said Chris Machorek, General Manager of Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach. “To meet growing demand, we’ve increased our inventory by adding 20 new adult bikes and five children’s bikes.”
Chauffeur-driven car services back in the mix
Meanwhile, other travelers are turning to ride-hailing services to avoid the unpredictability of skyrocketing ride-sharing fares.
According to an April survey of members of the National Limousine Association, 45% of respondents indicated that revenues in the first quarter of 2021 were up from the first quarter of 2020, and nearly 17% reported increases in revenues that could reach 50% or more.
“There has certainly been a movement back towards the chauffeur-driven car, because you can rely on experience,” said Robert Alexander, chairman of the group. “We do not have [a rideshare’s] ability to flip a switch and add, say, an extra $60 to a trip from downtown Manhattan to LaGuardia.
“Uber and Lyft have worked to make our industry look wildly expensive, but that’s not the case, and right now our services are cheaper than Uber or even Uber X.”
According to Alexander, the demand for chauffeur-driven car services has been so high that many operators have been unable to keep up. Much like the ride-sharing industry, the labor crisis in the United States has left the chauffeur-driven car industry understaffed.
“Over the past six months, demand has gone from a dripping faucet to a fire hose,” Alexander said. “The phones keep ringing and our companies are saying, ‘We can’t handle it’. They’re turning people away, which they’ve never had to do before.”