Above: Listen to a version of this story that aired on WUFT-FM.
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed practices among transportation service providers.
Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers are all struggling to maintain their safety while earning an income.
At the same time, Gainesville residents who rely on these methods of transportation are having difficulty getting a ride, especially with the return of thousands of students for the fall semester at the University of Florida.
As a result of COVID-19, there are fewer ride-hailing service providers on the road, which is causing a delay for users. Eric Rodriguez, a frequent Uber rider, said that prior to the pandemic, he could expect a driver to appear quickly.
“Before I would be able to call it the moment I got off my shift,” he said. “Now sometimes I have to call it maybe five or 10 minutes before.”
“No mask, no ride” is Uber’s warning and requirement for both riders and drivers. But Rodriguez said that he estimates one out of 10 drivers who have picked him up won’t wear a face mask.
Most drivers are concerned about safety, and some are taking added precautions by installing plastic shields in their cars.
Deighton Carter, an Uber driver in Gainesville, said his job has changed for the worse since the start of the pandemic.
Not only does the virus put his health at risk, but his earnings have also declined since the outbreak.
Being an Uber driver, Carter said, “is, at the moment, a lot less profitable because of COVID-19.”