Ridesharing has been ballooning at Miami International Airport for years, almost doubling last year from 2016.
But after the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out travel, the bottom fell out. So far in 2020, there have been only a measly 1,166,272 pickups and dropoffs at MIA — down roughly 57% from 2019.
Despite the sharp decline, Uber public affairs manager Javier Correoso believes demand for ridesharing at MIA will increase as Miami-Dade continues its reopening process.
“We have seen an increase in demand on the Uber platform in South Florida as the economy has slowly re-opened throughout the last few months,” he explained. “As the airport continues to expand its flight capacity in the coming months and passengers begin traveling, we expect an increase in ridesharing demand at MIA.”
Both ridesharing and public transit have taken a hit across the country.
In August, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reported a 50-85% decrease in top U.S. markets during the second quarter, as well as a 35% year-over-year decrease in top European markets. However, Uber’s food delivery business, which is smaller and less profitable, saw a 115% increase in bookings, as users saw the benefit of ordering food from home to avoid exposure to the virus.
Lyft reported a nationwide decline of 53% in rides between July 2019 and July 2020, although they have since recovered slightly since then.
At MIA, Uber, Lyft and taxis saw a combined total of 1,949,490 pickups in 2016. That grew to 3,618,022 pick-ups and drop-offs in 2019 before plummeting to 1,166,272 so far this year.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact,” said Correoso. “The months of March and April tend to be high demand for the Uber platform, given the number of events that attract visitors from all parts of the world.”
“I think that was a time where all ridership took a hit,” said Alice Bravo, director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works.
Metrorail boardings at MIA saw a 63.9% reduction between August 2019 and August 2020, plummeting from 43,067 to 15,550. The total combined ridership for Metrorail, Metromover and Metrobus shows a 48.2% decrease during the same period of time.
“Even when businesses were closed down, we still had people riding the public transportation system,” Bravo said. “At the end of the day, having a good public transit system is giving people access to opportunity.”
Studies have also shown rideshare services to be essential to residents from low-income communities, who may rely on applications like Uber and Lyft to get by in counties where public transit is sparse — like Miami-Dade.
“As we navigate COVID-19 in Miami, it is clear that Lyft helps connect individuals with essential needs and services,” wrote Lyft Communications Manager Fatima Reyes in an emailed statement.
The company has paused shared rides in all markets including Miami to help flatten the curve, launching a new lower-cost ride mode called “Wait & Save” for those who previously depended on the affordability of shared rides. Uber has taken similar steps to reduce contagion such as limiting capacity and requiring photos of drivers and passengers wearing masks. Correoso added that Uber has provided 1.4 million masks to drivers in Florida.
Some experts expect the numbers to continue the climb that started in recent months.
“Rides to and from the airport[s] are rebounding strongly,” wrote Lyft’s Reyes, citing a company earnings call from August 12 in which Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green reported a 350% increase in weekly airport rides nationwide between April and late June.
Uber’s Correoso is optimistic.
“As riders begin to move within South Florida once again, users will feel safe using the Uber platform, and demand will slowly return,” he says.