When Uber technically launched its black-car service, Uber Black, Thursday, it was supposed to help end an all-too-familiar nightmare for St. Louisans: the taxi that never shows.
Instead, many riders who planned to use Uber found themselves out of luck this weekend -- the company's first weekend in St. Louis and the start of the NLCS -- when the Uber app showed no Uber Black cars were available.
Uber manager Sagar Shah called demand for rides "overwhelmingly high" in St. Louis, which was the largest U.S. city to be without Uber until last week.
"We've been working on this for almost a year now, so there was a lot of pent-up demand and a lot of people waiting for Uber," Shah says to Daily RFT. "That's one of the reasons demand was high."
Uber doesn't hire drivers directly. Instead, Uber liasons between riders and Metropolitan Taxicab Commission-approved companies that provide premium sedan services. Some of those sedans already had trips scheduled for the weekend since Uber's approval and launch came so rapidly, Shah says.
Uber has two options when it comes to meeting high demand from riders: partner with more limo companies to get more premium sedan cars and MTC-approved drivers into the Uber network, or launch UberX, the ride-sharing service where anyone with a driver's license could apply to be a driver.
Uber is already working on the first solution; the second is highly unlikely. Lyft, a ride-sharing, app-based company found itself embroiled in a lawsuit when it tried to launch in St. Louis, and there's no sign yet that city or taxi officials are eager to change the rules to allow for a peer-to-peer model.
"There's no such thing as an application for UberX right now," Shah says.
So bad news for all you looking for Uber rides: As long as the demand is high and local transport companies are slow to provide sedans for hire, you may be out of luck when it comes to ordering a ride.
At least you'll be in good company. Here are eleven people who couldn't get Uber rides this weekend because there were no available cars:She starts so excited, then ends so sad:
Hey @Uber_STL where are you? It says no cars available.— Maggie Gotszling (@MaggieG17) October 11, 2014
Glad you are here @Uber_STL but I tried multiple times today and there are no cars around.— KTOD (@KTOD) October 10, 2014
Uber picked an extremely busy St. Louis weekend for its launch.
@Uber Boy, it's a good thing I'm not drinking while my friends party. You claim to be live in STL but don't have a single car listed. Ever.— Jennifer (@buran) October 12, 2014
Where are all the cars?
@Uber launches black car in St Louis, but no cars available for a second night in a row...and it's the NLCS opener.— Tony LaMere (@tonylamere) October 11, 2014
Seriously, where are all the cars?
@Uber What's up with St. Louis? Launched a week ago and never any cars available.— Skeet Skeet Ulrich (@yourboyroach) October 11, 2014
But even when an Uber ride is hard to find, this guy still won't take a taxi.
@Uber_STL How many cars do you have so far? Tried several locations and no car available.— Maureen (@MomInStL) October 11, 2014
@Uber So no drivers lined up yet in STL? Can't get a ride. Bummer :(— Gardiner Allen (@aphexddb) October 11, 2014
@newyork10r several cars downtown right now! Super high demand this weekend, but more cars coming every day to get you a ride soon :)— Uber St. Louis (@Uber_STL) October 13, 2014
@MaggieG17 We're getting more drivers on the road every day to get you a ride soon. Keep checking and have an Uber great day!— Uber St. Louis (@Uber_STL) October 12, 2014
@mrbritton86 We've just recently launched, but don't you worry! We're workin' on it :)— Uber St. Louis (@Uber_STL) October 11, 2014
@liss_noll Be sure to check back in a few! We've just launched so demand is high but cars will open up so your can request, ride & enjoy!— Uber St. Louis (@Uber_STL) October 11, 2014
@KTOD We're in launch phase & working to grow! Just be sure to check the app often, as demand is high, and I assure it'll only get better :)— Uber St. Louis (@Uber_STL) October 11, 2014
@MomInStL Where are you located at? We're just a day into launch & working to ensure you can request an Uber reliable ride at any time.— Uber St. Louis (@Uber_STL) October 11, 2014