Most interested in JFK and LGA, but I'd love to know in general. Very curious.
How long do Uber/Taxi drivers have to wait at airport waiting lots and their queues?
The Guru Take
Airport Driver Queues: Anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours. Depends on when, size of airport, supply, etc.
This is one of those things that drivers are intimate with but passengers have no idea about. People get picked up and have no idea that the driver has been waiting all this time to finally pick you up! You should smile and give your driver a big hug.
The wait time can vary greatly, say anywhere from 4 mintes to a few hours. If I were to give a "typical" figure, the wait is usually about 15 to 30 minutes when things are working smoothly. That seems like a lot of time to some, but trips orignating from airports are usually longer and can have good payouts. Drivers typically favor airport rides, of course, when the wait time isn't too long.
Unfortunately, the wait time can reach multiple hours. New York airports are notorious for long lines that can be 2+ hours.
The law of supply-and-demand come into effect when it comes to queue size and wait time. When there are lots of passengers getting off flights, that would shrink the queue quickly. When there are fewer drivers on the road and targeting airports, the queue would be shorter. For drivers, it's all about gauging the situation carefully.
The basics: For those readers who are not familiar with the concept, taxi and rideshare drivers must go into a waiting lot when arriving at an airport for pickup. It's generally a FIFO (first-in first-out) format, and only when every other driver has picked up a passenger, your turn arrives. There's generally a centralized location away from the actual pickup areas where the drivers wait.
The modern app-based services like Uber and Lyft rideshares have implemented a way to display the length of the queue (i.e. number of cars ahead) on the app in real-time. Uber even used to display the number of minutes (though it was known to be greatly inaccurate). At some airports, there is no longer a physical waiting lot, as drivers can freely drive around to wait for their turn.
This is what the screen looks like:
Have you ever seen one of those pics that have a sea of cars? Have you ever wondered where they take those? It's usually at airport lots. It's quite a sight to see.
Here're two from LGA. Very sad.
At Boston Logan, the TYPICAL wait used to be about 3 hours. We used to wait that for real. In a 12 hour shift, if you do airports only, you can do maybe 3. Make $40~50 on each trip (if lucky), and then you come out with $150.
This has actually improved recently, maybe since about 2015. They now target about an hour on normal business hours.
Last time I took a cab out of Chicago Ohare I found out that the driver charges 1.5 times the meter for out of airport rides. This compensates them a little more for time spent in queue.
That's right. Trips from O'Hare to *outside of the city* is charged 1.5x. That was a bold move they did. There was a huge uprising around that policy. People were up and arms about getting off right before the city limits and calling another cab. LOL.
What did they do to improve it? Streamlined it? sounds like a great improvement.
Actually, it isn't that noble. They just started capping the # of cabbies that can wait. LOL.
THREE HOURS IN QUEUE??? What the heck do drivers do?!!!
I've done that in the past. Maybe not 3 hours but 2+ hours at Boston Logan. You read a book, chat with fellow drivers, play chess, nap, talk on the phone, stretch, eat, sleep again, etc. etc.
Oh, I didn't mean that literally, man. I am just amazed that you'd wait that long for your fare.
As an ignorant customer, I had no idea of this. How long are the queue anyways? So if you show up and enter the FIFO line, how many cars are usually ahead of you?
There's usually at least 10~20 even on very light days. Typicall, say 30~50?
The line can be as long as 100 or more though. Those are times you give up. Here's a pic from Miami Airport (MIA).
See, you have to understand that the line moves fast when big flights come in. So there may be 10~15 in front of you ,but when a big plane arrives, those can go in 10 minutes. Then between the flights, you have no activities.
If it's moving in a healthy fashion and also at big airports, maybe 1 car would go every 1~2 minutes on average? So do the math from there.
I never wait in the lot .It is better to leave and catch a ride because who knows where and who if you decide to wait. Those lots remind me of waiting to go into the slaughter house.
Uber used to display the number of minutes, and it used to be super inaccurate. I'd see 15 minutes and I would wait 30 minutes. If it says 30 minutes, that's 1.5 hour. I am not even joking. The way it did the math was really weird too. You'd think it's estimating on some simple math, like, "1 minutes per car in front of you", but it wasn't. It would recalculate your position like GPS would do for your remaining driving time.