The Orlando Sentinel tell of of some “tweaks” Uber is making to its system for the Magic King and The Walt Disney World Resort….
Passengers requesting rides at the world’s busiest theme park are no longer assigned drivers based solely on which ones are closest to them. Instead, Uber in late May began using a system called “first in first out,” which distributes requests to drivers based on which of them entered a designated zone first.
Uber made the switch to “reduce confusion, optimize driver earnings and make sure driver pickups are done in a safe and efficient manner,” spokesman Javi Correoso said. He said Uber will evaluate how things work at the Magic Kingdom before deciding whether to use it at other parts of Disney World.
It works like this: You order a ride from the Magic Kingdom on the Uber app. Your request goes to the driver who has waited the longest inside a zone around the transportation and ticket center. You get picked up in the passenger drop-off and pickup area.
Uber has used similar zones to corral drivers at busy airports, including Miami International and Palm Beach International. Drivers are in a virtual queue, unlike traditional lines of cabs awaiting fares.
“Locations where we have high demand, we’re always trying to improve the process,” Correoso said.
Driver Colin Ryan, who waited for a pickup last week, likes the change. He said the new way of doing business is more fair and relaxing, allowing drivers to simply wait for a ride.
“You’re not going to have to fight and play the little game” of roaming around trying to get close to a potential passenger, he said.
Joe Machado, who quit driving around the theme parks for Uber a few months ago, said picking people up was sometimes hectic, confusing and frustrating — especially when he waited for a ride and someone who pulled in later than him was assigned a passenger. “This new system … it’s very appealing to me,” he said. “It might make me do a little bit of Uber driving again.”
Machado said during the year and a half he drove for Uber, business in the tourist areas “was definitely picking up a lot.” Some people would order rides from their hotels to the theme parks rather than wait for Disney buses, he said.
Disney guests who have become ride-hailing converts include Mike Fridley of St. Louis. When Fridley visits Disney World with his wife and two kids, they take Disney’s Magical Express to the resort. Last year, they started making Uber trips from the theme parks to a local grocery store.
“It’s pretty informal and works really nice,” said Fridley, 46, a computer engineer.
Disney said it has made some other changes aimed at Uber drivers over the past year, including working with the company to designate specific pickup and drop-off areas.
Last fall, a Disney spokeswoman said, the resort lifted parking fees that drivers paid to pass through the theme park gates. Still, Correoso said some drivers were reporting even last month toll booth operators had required them to pay.
Disney and Uber didn’t provide numbers of customers using the service at the resort — though Correoso said Orlando usage “has grown significantly.” Catering to visitors with young children, Uber in February brought its family program to Orlando. It allows riders at the theme-park resorts and the airport to request vehicles with car seats.
Theme park experts said they don’t have a good handle on how popular services commonly known as “ride-sharing” have become at attractions. But they are a sensible option, especially as parking costs rise, said Scott Smith, a University of South Carolina assistant hospitality professor.
A recent drive from south International Drive to the Magic Kingdom cost $14.11. The return trip cost $19.80.
“There comes a point where it makes financial sense to … take an Uber in as opposed to a rental car,” Smith said. “You might make out better financially.”
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