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Inauguration Day Is Testing the Limits of Uber, Airbnb and the Sharing Economy

Be nice to your Lyft driver.
January 20, 2017, 1:00pm

Washington DC is bracing for millions of visitors to flood the capitol on Inauguration weekend. Trump's ceremony and parade on Friday is expected to draw nearly a million (just ask him), and that doesn't include hundreds of thousands of people who are coming to protest and demonstrate against the incoming administration. The Women's March the following day is estimating at least 200,000 attendees.

WIth scores of visitors trying to make their way around the city, Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are preparing riders and drivers with information on how to get around amidst the millions. And since DC is notorious for shutting down roads and public transport, there are plenty of hurdles.


Lyft speaks directly to drivers in their Inauguration Day blog, detailing the schedule of events from Thursday's wreath laying ceremony in Arlington to the protests and demonstrations on the National Mall on Saturday. They're advising drivers to read up on road closures before they drive, and use designated staging areas, airport taxi queue style, with signs that say "Emergency Stand: Rideshare Location" where Lyft Ambassadors will be posted nearby to help confused riders. They'll be located at RFK Stadium's Lot 3, Capitol Riverfront, and the Kennedy Center.

Image: Lyft

Uber's Inauguration 2017 blog outlines road closures and maps out the security perimeter set up around the National Mall, where cars won't be able to enter beginning 48 hours prior to the ceremony and into Sunday in some spots. To hail a car, you'll be forced to walk outside of the perimeter.

Since visitors will be forced to do a lot of walking, they're vying for the closest crash-pad to Capitol Hill. As of publication, the average Airbnb room in DC for Friday night was around $400, but the bulk of rooms available are priced into the thousands per night, with only one percent of rooms available for booking. Next Friday night, the average is around $150.

Uber is playing down the sheer volume of people expected to visit the DMV for this weekend with an "every four years" vibe on their blog. Business as usual? Not quite — DC Inno reports that over 10,000 guests are expected to stay in Airbnbs alone, over seven times as many as Airbnb experienced during the 2013 Inauguration.

The Daily Caller reports that some Airbnb hosts may be using a hotelier tactic called "Compression Pricing," basically surge pricing for lodging on popular dates.

Of course, your ability to hail a car or book a last-minute room from your phone will depend on how much strain your cell carrier can take on its 4G LTE network. For a clue into how they're preparing, watch for the COWS.

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