Uber & Lyft Drivers Flock to New Rideshare Startup ‘Arcade City’ After Rate Cuts
Volume of driver signups crashes server; Arcade City app launches February 14th; Uber called a “rolling sweatshop”
PORTSMOUTH, NH — More than 600 Uber and Lyft drivers signed up for new ridesharing startup Arcade City this week in the aftermath of dramatic rate cuts by the two rideshare companies.
“Drivers are angry and rightfully so,” said Arcade City founder Christopher David. “Their take-home pay was just slashed up to 40% by some nerds in San Francisco who don’t even drive. Arcade City is here to do things differently.”
Arcade City is a ridesharing mobile app releasing officially for Android and iOS on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. Riders can schedule rides in advance or at the tap of a button on a “pay what you think is fair” basis.
Arcade City had a successful soft launch on New Years Eve in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. More than 100 passengers were transported safely in donation-based rides by ten drivers, most of them current or former Uber drivers.
“Our goal for January was to sign up 100 drivers by the end of the month to help us test the app,” said David. “Since the rate cuts we’ve been signing up 100 drivers every single day and the signup rate keeps increasing. It’s overwhelming.”
On Friday the Arcade City website crashed under heavy demand of driver signups, forcing server upgrades. More than 30 drivers are now being trained as regional leaders to recruit drivers and riders, with most of the U.S. covered, including Hawaii and as far away as Australia.
“The Achilles’ heel of Uber and Lyft is their centralized management of pricing. This week’s uproar by drivers — and their willingness to join an alternative — shows the failure of that approach,” said David. “You cannot build a sustainable long-term relationship with drivers if you take away their ability to set their own pricing. Arcade City will decentralize those decisions to the level of the driver and their customers.”
David is a former Uber driver and founder of the Free Uber activism campaign centered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In November he was arrested by Portsmouth police on felony wiretapping charges for posting a YouTube video [included below] recorded while driving illegally for Uber in Portsmouth. Last week the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor after a police review found it was misclassified as a felony, but David continues to face up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Arcade City will launch globally on February 14th.
“Uber has said repeatedly that it likes to ‘experiment’ with fares. In reality, they are experimenting with livelihoods. They are experimenting with the ability of some people to put food on their table and to pay their rent/mortgage. That is unacceptable. Lyft just doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to them either. Arcade City does. I am joining Arcade City because I want to see the rideshare industry truly be about drivers and passengers, not executives hellbent on forcing workers into servitude just to discard them when they have no need for them.” –Mason J., Raleigh, NC
“Uber is a rolling sweatshop – and they make us provide the shop! Lyft is better, but heading down that terrible path with growing speed! Arcade City is built on driver experience and geared toward a fair and worthwhile model. With all these drivers from other services we can avoid the pitfalls of Uber and the like. I have a 4.9 rating from 7 months with Uber, 14 months with Lyft and i am ready for an alternative with a conscience!” –Keith Hale, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
“I’m excited to work with Arcade City. They will allow customers to tip through the app, unlike Uber. With Uber they cut our fares by over 40% and they didn’t even give us a warning.” —Philip Heath, Maui, HI
“On Uber’s platform I’m rated as a 4.9. At first I loved it, but their recruiting efforts have caused supersaturation in the market place. There’s just too many drivers here in Denver. In response they cut rates so low that they hurt the driver’s bottom line. It’s hard to make any money with Uber anymore. Having a rideshare service founded by drivers is awesome! We have a direct say in how we do business. Arcade City is providing the means to change the industry.” —Aaron B., Denver, CO
“Arcade City is not about pleasing Wall Street like other ridesharing companies. It provides a platform that empowers both the driver and passenger from a foundation of trust that creates the ultimate transportation experience.” —Michael G. Johnson, Atlanta, GA
“In a market that was ripe for ride share advertising, Uber never seemed to pay attention to the driver’s suggestions and essentially left building the customer base to us. They seemed more interested in over-saturating the market with drivers, and then they cut all of our rates. I’m ecstatic to help build the Arcade City service. One that cares about everyone’s success, not just the pockets of shareholders.” —Jake, 4.83 Uber rating, Wichita, KS
“Rideshare drivers everywhere need to look towards Arcade City. Uber’s blatant disregard for and disrespect of its drivers is beyond reprehensible. It borders on criminal. Arcade City is designed to empower drivers. They are aware that it is the drivers who are the front line and the ambassadors of the company. Drivers deserve to feel appreciated by the company they choose to give their dedication! Join the Arcade City Revolution and be part of a kinder, gentler rideshare experience.” —Scott Goldstein, Philadelphia, PA
Chris told the Portsmouth Herald, “it’s still ludicrous that recording a conversation on a public sidewalk could land me in jail at all… Under that same logic, thousands if not millions of videos on YouTube represent potential misdemeanors. Why single me out? I think we all know why.”
The wiretapping statutes in New Hampshire are one of the worst parts of the state. NH is one of only a few states where all parties must consent to the recording, which prevents people from being held accountable for their actions. In many other states, people with undercover cameras can record their conversations in businesses or with government. Here, doing that will get you a possible jail sentence.
Christopher David of Free UBER, Courtesy Coin Telegraph
Monday’s Concord state house committee hearings included a late-afternoon hearing for the “UBER” bill, HB1697-FN and I was there to speak and record the hearing. The bill proposes state regulations for “Transporation Network Companies”, which is legal-speak for companies like UBER, that provide connections between people who want to share rides.
While the ideal “level playing field” is to have zero regulations for transportation across all of NH, we can’t expect these politicians to do that at this point. So, having one set of regulations for the entire state would be better than a patchwork of them across the different towns and cities, which would make compliance for companies like UBER very difficult. If that ends up happening, UBER may just decide jumping through various hoops for each town isn’t worth it, and pull out of NH entirely.
Whether UBER pulls out or not, the bill proposes a fee of $5,000 for any TNC be paid to the “Department of Safety”. This fee will definitely be a barrier to entry for new companies who want to compete with UBER. Not only that, but technology quickly outpaces government, as UBER has show, and Arcade City is going to continue to prove. As I point out in my testimony, the newly announced Arcade City is not going to be a corporate entity, so how is government going to get their precious fee from a computer program?
Of particular note in the video is the apparently dishonest testimony from David Weeks, the owner of Concord’s D&B Taxi. Weeks claims he took multiple experimental UBER rides in Manchester – one allegedly didn’t show up, the next driver couldn’t speak English, and the third driver had a bottle of beer between his legs.
David Weeks, Owner of D&B Taxis, Lies to Committee About UBER
On his fourth and final alleged UBER ride, he claims the driver, when asked, quoted a fare of $27 and asked for a tip or told him to get out! Even if Weeks were telling the truth about his first few rides, his fourth story drips of dishonesty. Now, I’m a newer UBER driver, but as far as I know, the driver isn’t presented with the amount the ride is worth in advance. We only decide to accept the ride based on their pickup location.
Second, though this alleged UBER driver in question could have been breaking the rules, the UBER training video makes it CLEAR that UBER does not require tipping. Yes, drivers can accept tips, but UBER riders are well-aware that tips are not required with UBER, so it would be stupid for an UBER driver to demand one.
Amusingly, in the beginning of his testimony, Weeks claims he doesn’t have an axe to grind! Anyone paying attention knows at the very least, that’s not the truth.
An amazing short film released today by local independent filmmaker Zach Cusson chronicles the Uber in Portsmouth saga, including the Free Uber campaign. Footage of one of our Free Uber rallies, with multiple Free State Project early movers, begins around ~9:00.
The film concludes on an optimistic note with a great synopsis by the narrator and some smack-talk by yours truly.
But for Christopher David, this goes beyond just a $25 fee and Uber. As technology continues to advance, he believes that the role of the government is going to become more and more obsolete. More peer to peer networks like Uber and AirBnB are going to continue to pop up, and we won’t need the government to regulate so many aspects of our lives. The heart of the issue is technology moving faster than the government.
“…that this is the future, that people should have the freedom to connect. And you government, you dinosaurs, you’re in the way. So evolve or die.”
I’m one of New Hampshire’s newest UBER drivers, or “partners” as UBER refers to us. I’ve been a fan of UBER’s innovation and open challenging of the status quo of transportation for a long time, and we’ve covered their various conflicts with state and city regulators on my talk radio program, Free Talk Live.
The actual coverage extends north of Concord and as far west as Peteborough and Hillsborough.
On New Year’s Eve I logged in to the UBER partner app in the Concord area and was able to help a bunch of somewhat intoxicated, very nice people get home safely! Plus, we had some very interesting conversations. I’ve only given six rides for UBER thus far, but my clients have all been under forty years old. I asked some tonight what made them use UBER in Concord, given that it’s not even officially operating there (click to see UBER’s currently inaccurate coverage map), and their responses were that they knew it worked in other big cities and wanted to try it rather than deal with the apparently awful cabs. There were plenty of unprompted complaints about terrible cab experiences my passengers have had in New Hampshire.
For one passenger tonight, it was his first time taking an UBER. He said it was the best possible UBER first time experience – wow, what a compliment! The guy tipped me, too (not required with UBER, but still appreciated!) During our conversation we were talking about the crackdown in Portsmouth on Free UBER (which he’d not heard about), and he was totally onboard with freedom, at least in the area of transportation. He even commented about how competition makes everything better. (more…)
That’s the headline of today’s Union-Leader article about the Arcade City / Free Uber effort last night to provide free rides in Portsmouth to whomever needed one.
No commentary needed. The article speaks for itself.
PORTSMOUTH – A stranded Massachusetts woman said police in Portsmouth laughed and drove away on New Year’s Eve when she asked them for a ride back to her hotel.
Alicia Sargent, of Somerville, Mass., told “Free Uber” founder Christopher David about the alleged incident in a recorded interview. David stopped and asked Sargent and her partner if they needed a lift when he saw them on the side of the road leaving Portsmouth’s downtown early Friday morning. They were approximately a mile away from their hotel.
“I came to Portsmouth to have New Year’s Eve, and I was looking up online to see kind of the safe ways to to get around town and one of those safe ways was the police patrol said that they were out, and they were helping people get around town, and unfortunately when we went, and we saw a police officer, and we asked them for a ride home, literally, they looked at us and they laughed and then they said, ‘Good luck with that,’ gave us a thumbs up and kept driving,” Sargent said.
When asked, Sargent said she did not want to pay an Uber surge charge, and did not know the names of any local taxi companies.
Portsmouth police posted two press releases this week on Facebook, and shared them on Twitter, which said there would be extra officers out Thursday night and early Friday morning to protect the public, and that there would be free transportation for those attending First Night.
On Dec. 28, police said a free bus runs between each performance venue, and a free parking shuttle brings First Night participants from the Connect Community Church public parking lot on Market Street to the High Hanover Parking Garage.
A shift commander at Portsmouth Police Department did not want to comment on the alleged incident Friday morning, referring media inquiries to acting Deputy Chief Frank Warchol, who was off for the day.
David, who was not driving for Uber when he picked up Sargent, said he was in Portsmouth with nine other ride-share drivers. They were using the new mobile app David created, called Arcade City. It is a tip, or donation-based, version of Uber.
Warchol said on Wednesday that if ride-share drivers accepted any money from passengers on First Night they would be violating of the city’s transportation services ordinance. Under the ordinance, taxi and ride-share drivers must register with the city. So far, only two Uber drivers have registered.
“I did not instruct our drivers to refuse cash tips, because that would be insane,” David said on Friday morning. “Our drivers provided a much needed service last night, rescuing stranded partygoers who couldn’t find a cab or an Uber. They deserved every penny and more.”
David stopped driving for Uber after his attorney advised him to. He was arrested in November on felony wiretapping charges for posting a YouTube video of a Portsmouth bouncer and taxi driver calling the police on him while picking up an Uber customer outside Daniel Street Tavern. Since then, he has been advocating for Uber drivers, and coded Arcade City.
He plans to officially launch the app at the end of this month.
Read the original Arcade City press release with full details from last night here.