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Lyft, Uber to reimburse riders for surge prices during Seattle shooting

The scene of a downtown Seattle shooting at the end of January 2020. (Amy Clancy, KIRO 7)

In the wake of a shooting in downtown Seattle Wednesday evening, many Lyft and Uber users in the area began to notice something: With streets cordoned off, buses ground to a halt, and traffic building, large-scale surge pricing began to take hold.

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Some Lyft and Uber riders reported trips that typically cost anywhere between $20 and $30 surging to over $100 as they attempted to leave the downtown area.

“You wanna know what the appropriate reaction to a shooting in Seattle is? NOT [expletive] THIS,” one Twitter user exclaimed, alongside a screenshot of a $103.61 estimated rate for a ride from downtown to Wallingford.

Another rider labeled the sudden surge in rates “disgusting.”

Shortly after word got out, Uber and Lyft representatives say they implemented a cap on prime time pricing. Typically, surge pricing is automatically enabled during “periods of high demand.” Uber has taken flack in the past for being slow to cap prices during emergencies, including when riders reported surge rates for hours after a deadly terror attack in London in 2017.

Both companies have stated they will reimburse riders for any charges incurred Wednesday evening before the cap was in place.

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Uber outlines its surge pricing policies on the company’s website, noting that “when circumstances warrant it — such as major emergencies that impact public safety — our teams assess the situation and cap surging pricing in the area.”

In a statement issued to The Seattle Times, Uber says that it put its cap in place around 6 p.m., roughly an hour after Wednesday night’s shooting in downtown Seattle.

Seattle police are currently on the hunt for a pair of suspects linked to the shooting. They are also asking anyone with photo or video evidence to submit it here.

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