uber toronto

Here's why it's been taking so dang long to get an Uber in Toronto lately

It's not just you (or your secret passenger rating): People all over Toronto have been complaining in recent weeks of longer-than-usual wait times for pickups through ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber.

Estimated wait times for addresses that, a few months ago, would have been about 3 minutes are coming in regularly at more than 15 — and not only during rush hour and surge times.

It's not a major grievance, all things considered, but people are definitely taking notice and having more trouble planning their journeys. Anyone living in condo buildings with slow elevators can attest to the importance of accuracy for estimated pick ups.

So what gives? Is this Omicron's fault? Is it snow? Is it holiday madness?

According to Uber, it's not just one thing, but a combination of factors including the City of Toronto's recent pause on licensing for new drivers.

City council voted in November to stop issuing new licenses to ride share drivers until an approved, mandatory road training program is in place.

Uber told blogTO that the pausing of licensing is contributing to higher wait times and higher prices across the City of Toronto, calling it "deeply concerning" that hundreds of thousands of Torontonians may have reduced access to safe and reliable rides home during the holidays.

With reduced TTC services amid the pandemic, demand for rides has risen as supply has gone down; fewer transit vehicles running per hour plus snowy weather that deters people from cycling equals longer wait times and higher prices.

And because Uber fares are based almost entirely on supply and demand, when more people use the app to request rides than there are drivers in an any given area, temporary price increases (read: surge pricing) can happen.

Toronto is no stranger to surge — we've seen our fair share of ridiculous price hikes during heavy storms, special events and TTC fails — but we're not quite used to surge prices on top of long wait times and frequent multiple driver cancellations.

Neither Uber nor Lyft could provide data about average wait times and how they've changed lately, nor could the companies say specifically how many drivers they've gained or lost since Toronto's new rules came into effect.

"As vaccines rolled out and people started moving again, we began to see the demand for rides outpace the number of available drivers," said a Lyft spokesperson.

"We've added thousands of drivers to the platform and expect rider wait times and prices to improve moving forward. For drivers, it continues to be a great time to drive, with drivers in top markets earning significantly more than they were pre-pandemic."

So... if you're already a licensed ride share driver, it's never been a better time to make money. Customers, on the other hand, will have to get used to spending more on transportation apps. That, or call up a local taxi company — some of them have apps too now, you know.

Lead photo by

Paul Hanaoka

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