For most of Monday, the subway was the best way to get down to the Democratic National Convention.
Delegates reported taxi and uberX trips to the Wells Fargo Center from Center City lasting upwards of 45 minutes thanks to traffic-snarling protests. They had access to more than 400 free buses, reserved solely to shuttle convention-goers to and from convention sites, but painfully long lines and brutally oppressive heat led many to opt for alternative modes of transportation.
Democrats grumbled a bit about the lengthy trips as they emerged from taxicabs and uberX rides. But just a few yards away, those who opted for SEPTA reported easier trips.
“It was just faster this way,” said Anita Green, a delegate from Montana. “The buses were backed up. And the cabs were also backed up. So we decided to take the subway.”
But the Broad Street Line’s smooth ride came to a screeching halt just as the floor speeches began Monday afternoon: Police decided to partially close AT&T Station. One the day’s larger protests converged on Broad Street just outside the station, flooding the area. Rather than increasing the crowd’s size by the rail car load, security officials began making riders exit at Oregon Station instead, a mile away from the Wells Fargo Center.
DNC credential holders were allowed to board northbound trains at AT&T Station. Around 7 p.m. extreme thunderstorms forced most protesters to seek shelter. Around 8:30 p.m., southbound service to AT&T was restored, but the point is largely moot, as most convention goers arrived hours ago, when the speeches started.
Those pounding rains may drive many convention goers towards Uber, the official ride-hailing partner of the DNC, should the weather stay foul by the time Elizabeth Warren finishes up her keynote address.
That may mean delegates and media face an expensive proposition: Multiple passengers reported steep prices leaving the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night, some rides to Center City approaching $100. An Uber representative was unapologetic for the stiff price surges, noting that passengers in Philadelphia see price estimates before they hail a car, so they knew the prices in advance. That’s a service improvement largely driven by some horror stories from the not-so-distant past of individuals taking Uber not fully aware of how expensive the price surging multiples would make their trips.
On Monday afternoon, the price for trips between the Wells Fargo Center and Center City on uberX seemed to hover between $10 and $15. Taxis cost about $15 as well, but cabs are much harder to find down at the convention.
Uber has signs directing delegates and journalists to its air conditioned hospitality tent stocked with bottled water, granola bars and packets of M&Ms. The official DNC taxi stand is half a mile further out, an unmarked strip of pavement with no such amenities.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many taxis dropping passengers off wound up in Uber’s carefully orchestrated queue, much to the consternation of Uber employees.
An anti-Uber coalition of disability advocates, limousine drivers and cabbies says it will hold a protest outside the Pennsylvania delegation’s hotel at the DoubleTree Hotel at 11 pm Monday night. The coalition is upset over recent legislation temporarily legalizing uberX’s operations in Philadelphia.