Finding Rideshare Passengers: Go Where Others Aren’t

Depending on the rideshare market you drive in, becoming an Uber or Lyft driver may seem like a no-brainer.

“I live in a major/semi-major city, I’ll have no problem finding passengers!” — Every new Uber and Lyft driver everywhere

When first starting out as an Uber or Lyft driver, you may feel tempted to blast up and down the city snagging as many fares as possible. While this approach may work in certain markets, it certainly isn’t the smartest or most efficient strategy in the long run. As shown in the image below, everyone else shares that lustful approach.

With this rideshare driving strategy, you’ll reduce your MPG, put significantly more wear and tear on your vehicle, and in a city like Sacramento, your payout won’t be as large.

The Untapped and UnderservedThe first step to earning more while driving less is to realize you are operating a business and you need specific goals and objectives. You have to force yourself to look beyond your competition and to capitalize on their shortcomings.

For rideshare drivers, that means seeking out the untapped and underserved, researching your market and creating a strategic driving business plan, and worrying less about the number of fares and focusing on quality trips.

Here’s a list of 10 places where there are typically no Uber or Lyft drivers hanging around and can increase the amount of quality trips and passengers you find.

Amtrak & Greyhound Stations

Most larger cities have an Amtrak and Greyhound station, or at the very least, one close by. Aside from airport rides, these are the next best fares that often lead to lucrative trips out of or into the city.

You should be checking the Amtrak and Greyhound schedules for a list of major trains arriving at your local station and keeping this stashed somewhere. There will be another post related to this, but for now, make note of arrivals and when you find yourself having a slow night for Uber and Lyft, pull it out and see if it’s worth heading over to the station.

County Jail

This may be a controversial or dangerous recommendation, but I stand by it. After all, everyone makes mistakes. Additionally, the same person could catch and Uber and Lyft ride down the street and many times, the driver would have no idea they just got out of jail.

Because you’re dealing with a county jail, your potential pool of customers just grew exponentially. For example, in Alameda County (Bay Area — Population 1.6 million), there were 543 DUIs in 2016. Alameda County is 821 square miles, so you can score significant fares. The best time to cruise these locations is Saturday and Sunday mornings since most people party Friday and Saturday night.

Malls or large shopping districts

Malls are always a great place to find Uber and Lyft passengers. The Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, Calif., has over 575,000 people within 10 miles and sits at the popular 580/680 interchange. Just 5 miles away in Livermore is the San Francisco Premium Outlets, the largest outlet in California and the 9th largest in the United States with 700,000 square feet of gross leasable area (GLA) and over 170 stores.

Extended events

Extended events can be a great source of income because they supply you with a steady stream of fares over an extended period of time and you know exactly when to be there. Events like the circus, theatrical plays, holiday specials, popular museum exhibits, and tons more.

In Sacramento, the Global Winter Wonderland at Cal Expo is one of the country’s largest holiday light shows in the country and ran from November 19 through January 8. What makes this one a good source of Uber and Lyft income is that it more predictable because it is off the downtown grid. While it has a massive parking lot ($$), it is often cheaper (and quicker!) for people to Uber or Lyft in and out.

Secondary venues

By secondary venues, I mean places that hold a ton of people that are not your cities main event destination. A lot of times these venues will hold events at the same time and, if you’re lucky enough, they’re close enough to one another and you get a surge that covers both areas. So while all the other drivers are picking up people from the basketball area, you’re a few blocks over picking up people spilling out from a convention center event.

Major hotels

There’s a reason every time you pull into a major hotel, you see a line of traditional cabs. Hotels are great for Uber and Lyft drivers because they often guaranteed to get you an airport run, they hold large events in their conference space, and some even have popular bars that people drink at even if they aren’t a hotel guest.

“Scary” neighborhoods

This may be another controversial one, but I believe if you have basic situational awareness, have lived or spent any amount of time in a major city, and plain common sense, you can make a ton of money.

Large swaths of the city can be deemed “bad” or one you shouldn’t go into it, but I don’t really buy it. For me, I don’t see it so much a risk as it is an opportunity to help others. These areas often have limited or broken public transit systems, leaving many people stuck walking long distances.

You can help a lot of people in these areas, especially if they are defined as a food desert, an urban area that doesn’t have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of these areas have an abundance of liquor and corner stores, but no major grocery chain or supermarket.

The USDA found that “Of all households in the United States, 2.3 million, or 2.2 percent, live more than a mile from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle. An additional 3.4 million households, or 3.2 percent of all households, live between one-half to 1 mile and do not have access to a vehicle.”

Naturally, you can get into some dicey situations if you are just sitting around in these neighborhoods waiting for fares. You don’t want someone to think you’re the police or that you’re casing their joint. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, start by collect fares in the day time and see how it goes. After you’ve got a lay of the land, try driving early evening or night and see what it’s like before diving in.

Suburban cities

It’s always good to get out of the city. If you case the surrounding suburbs, you can often get decent fares taking people in and out of the downtown area. A town like Livermore (mentioned above) can be a goldmine. It has over 85,000 relatively affluent residents and the majority of the bars are located on one main street, making Friday or Saturday nights a gold mine. What’s more, Livermore has the reputation (and stats to back it up) of being a place that, if you drink and get into your car, you will likely get a DUI.


Colleges and universities are a great place to pick up fares, especially if the university is a commuter school, like San Francisco State University. Young, tech-savvy students are more keen to take Uber or Lyft if they are in a rush to get to work or an appointment. Lunch and night time are typically the best times to find passengers and, as always, if it is raining.

Major company locations

Hit up these places during rush hour and you will find fares with ease. Research companies that are outside major cities and the more “techy” the company, the better.

For example, Intel in Folsom is about 25 miles outside of Sacramento. Many employees live in Foslom, but there are plenty of people who travel to Sacramento or the nearby wealthy town of El Dorado Hills.

If you’ve been on the fence about rideshare driving and this article was helpful, consider signing up to drive for Uber & Lyft using these referral links. I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments!

Finding Rideshare Passengers: Go Where Others Aren’t was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Publication date: 
06/23/2018 - 17:52

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