Uber Drivers Protest Gasparilla in Wake of Rate Cuts

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Uber drivers cruised down North Dale Mabry and turned off their apps during the afternoon hours of Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

Downtown Tampa was flooded with inebriated pirates celebrating the 101st Gasparilla Pirate Festival on Saturday. Almost all of them relied on Uber services to take them to where X marked the spot, the following bar on the map.

While Uber drivers searched Bayshore Boulevard picking up dressed up pirates, a separate group of Uber drivers gathered for a different cause.

Nearly 30 Uber drivers gathered on North Dale Mabry to protest the recent changes made to driving rates. Uber recently cut 20 percent off prices for Tampa drivers in an effort to reduce the “slump” they suffered in January, according to their website.

Messages such as “UberFail” and “Lower fare=higher surge” inscribed on their cars showed that these drivers were trying to send a message.

Uber originally started at $1.80 in the Tampa Bay area and has since dropped to 65 cents per mile. Brian Decker, 22, has been a six month Uber driver and said that drivers are not satisfied with the rate cuts and feel as if Uber is reaping the benefits.

“We chose Gasparilla to send this message because it’s one of the most important days for Uber drivers in Tampa,” Decker said. “Uber has constantly been cutting down the rate and leaving drivers with almost no reason to drive.”

The protest started at 2:30 p.m. which was expected to be Uber’s highest time of demand with increased prices. Uber recorded rates of 6.9 times the average rate during the afternoon of last years Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

Despite last years increased rates, drivers complained that this year’s rates were not nearly as close to what was expected.

“It’s pretty ridiculous quite honestly,” Decker said. “I wasn’t planning to drive today and I’ve seen that the surge is only around 1.5 and that’s not close to what Uber was saying.”

Despite certain Uber drivers not being satisfied with the expected surge rate, Gasparilla attendee Samantha Heffernan, 24,  said her price of travel was increased certainly from regular rates.

“I was told to enter a promo code that would take money off my Uber charge, but even with that I still had to pay 34 dollars,” Heffernan said. “The surge rate I saw was about 3.2 times the normal rate, so I’m pretty confident drivers made their money.”

Several companies such as Captain Morgan gave Uber users a promo code for which allowed users to get a ride for a discounted rate.

Uber has yet to address whether or not rates will increase for drivers, which according to Decker, will affect their numbers.

“Some people use this as their main job, others don’t. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is, 65 cents a mile is not going to work for anyone,” Decker said.

 

Tampa Theatre Hosts True West With a Twist at USF

University of South Florida alumni returned to their old stomping grounds on Sunday for the Tampa Repertory Theatre’s production of “True West,” a comedy about two brothers arguing over a screenplay that could change their lives.

Screenplay director Megan Lamasney was excited to come back to her alma mater and showcase her work.

“I was an undergrad here in the theater department and it was cool to come back to home base and see where it started,” Lamasney said. “It was great bringing some exciting work here.”

Although Lamasney was excited for the project, actor Jack Holloway was rather nervous when asked to perform. Rather than sticking to one role, Holloway had to alternate roles between both brothers in the screenplay.

“I was terrified when Megan called me and told me about doing the roles and then switching every night,” Holloway said. “I had never done that before in terms of switching roles, so I was a bit nervous.”

Being back in the Theatre Arts Rehearsal Building brought back several memories for Holloway.

“It was wonderful, but it is strange because a part of the play is about coming back home and it feels like I don’t have to act that,” Holloway said. “It’s honestly surreal because you’re acting in a place where you grew up.”

On the other side of the play is actor Dan Granke, who is a performing arts professor at USF. Granke admitted that getting to perform and being able to teach students was a unique experience.

“This is home for me, this is where I work and it very much feels like home,” Granke said. “I have so many students who haven’t seen me perform, and it feels great to show them rather than just tell them.”

Granke worked constantly with Holloway to perfect the art of switching the roles each night and staying in character. While difficult, Granke enjoyed the challenge and said it comes with good parts.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s a piece that has its hard moments, but it also has its comic moments. So getting to do both allowed you to feel like you’re not stuck to one role,” Granke said.

Granke moved to Tampa in 2013 to become a professor, meanwhile working with Holloway as an artistic director for the Tampa Shakespeare Festival.

“It was interesting because when I moved here three years ago, I was told that I have a doppelgänger,” Granke said. “We both love working together, Jack and I do comedy, stage combat and we’ve gotten close over the years.”

Aside from the great role and being able to perform in front of students, Granke said his first priority was and always is to entertain.

“I go out as an actor, I’m also a director and a fight director,” Granke said. He directs the combat onstage during scenes.“My goal is always to entertain people. I want to challenge people and just let people have a good time so they want to come back and see more.”

Granke holds theater performances close to his heart because in today’s age of digital streaming and technology, the art of live theater seems rare to him.

“Any time there’s a chance for live theater I think it’s great, and with everything becoming live streaming it’s kind of hard to appreciate it,” Granke said. “I just think theater is just one of those places where you can’t do it any other way.”

 

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Jack Holloway and Dan Granke alternated roles between Austin and Lee in the Tampa Reportory Theatre’s rendition of “True West”