Uber drivers blast Jazz Fest pickup rules

Updated: May. 4, 2018 at 10:02 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Uber/Lyft drivers and their customers cry foul over Jazzfest rules that they say are not fair. While cab drivers can pick up fares a block away from the main gate, Uber/Lyft drivers can't get within four blocks - or face hefty fines.

Dozens streamed out of Jazzfest Friday night, many looking for an Uber.

"It's telling me to go to St. Bernard and N. Broad," said fest-goer J. Bart Kelly.

As they checked their app, a rude awakening.

"He's about six blocks away," said Kelly.

If you are looking for an Uber, the city's plan calls for them to locate at DeSaix, Broad or North Carrollton - up to six blocks away.

"We're looking for a cab now. It's closer to get a taxi," said fest-goer Chris Reese.

For drivers, the increased distance means less business and lower tips.

"Of course you have to drop your rides off, and they have to walk. You shouldn't have to do that," said Uber driver Kenneth Hayes.

Fellow Uber driver Cecil Coker added, "It's not fair. Everyone should be treated equal. We are doing the same service."

The restrictions appeared to be working. Uber drivers were rare on Gentilly Boulebard, due to the threat of citations. And the citations are no laughing matter. If an Uber of Lyft driver gets one, he or she could get slapped with a $165 ticket - and it could get worse. If an Uber driver gets multiple citations, they could lose their right to pick up fares.

"We're offering a service, and everyone should be dropping at the same point," said Coker.

Traditional cabbies, on the other hand, don't mind a bit.

"I think it's fair because the cabs have always been in this area," said cabbie Wilbert Washington.

"The first priority for the administration and Jazz Fest is to maintain public safety," said city spokesman Tyronne Walker. "There are thousands of cars, and we are trying to enforce a smart traffic plan."

But for now at least, Uber/Lyft and their customers must deal with a traffic plan that they say favors traditional cabs.

Uber drivers also complain that the restriction zones are larger than they were last year. City officials say they were designed with fest-goer safety in mind.

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