New Orleans is an interesting market when it comes to rideshare driving. We are not a large city. However, we do have large amounts of tourists, convention goers, and other visitors that not only make this a great place to live but a great place to drive in as well.
Navigating the city
One of the most important aspects of driving Lyft or Uber in New Orleans is familiarity with the layout of the city. Knowing how to get around from point A to point B, especially during the busy festivals and other tourist events, is vital for you to be able to give the best customer service. Sometimes what your Uber map tells you is the fastest way to go will be the slowest, or even impassable. Even if you’re using Waze, when driving Lyft or Uber during big events in New Orleans, you sometimes need to rely on instinct. During these times, you will need to use your best judgment and communicate with your customers about why you might be taking a route that seems longer.
One example of this would be during the upcoming French Quarter Festival. There is a lot of foot traffic across Decatur between Jackson Square and the riverfront (where the rest of the the festival will be held). If you had a customer at the casino trying to get around to the French Market the shorter distance route would be up Decatur. However, during French Quarter Fest, the fastest route will likely take you down Poydras (or Canal) to Claiborne (or I-10 E) to Elysian Fields, and then down towards the river.
Other events bring road closures that mapping software may not be able to keep up with as well. Higher tourist events will cause Bourbon Street to be impassable (either because of the dense foot traffic or simply because police will shut down any crossing of Bourbon Street between Canal and St. Ann). Parades will also close down streets making it important for you to contact your riders quickly if the route to them would require you to normally cross the closed street.
Asking a Lyft rider to walk a block to you can be much more convenient than you trying to find a route to that customer. Asking a customer to walk one block from Frenchman St to Elysian Fields, for example, could be the best way to avoid sitting in Frenchman St traffic for ten minutes. It is often a good idea to ask customers who are waiting on Bourbon Street to meet you either at Dauphine or Royal. Driving across those two blocks of the French Quarter can sometimes take more than 20 minutes when it is busy.
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The less traffic you sit in, the more rides you will be able to take per hour. Getting your customers where they need to be quickly will keep you a highly rated driver. Most of your customers will appreciate the communication and you helping them get to their destination more quickly. Of course some customers, like persons with disabilities, will be unable to come out to you. In those cases you should obviously drive to them.
Getting on the road quickly and familiarizing yourself with the city before these large events is the best way to make sure you are comfortable with all the ways to navigate around the city and to find the shortcuts that can save you when traffic gets congested. Some roads that can be used for quick shortcuts/detours in the area include (but are not limited to) Earhart, Broad, Washington Avenue, and River Road.
Earhart starts at the end of Calliope (by Claiborne) and goes all the way into Hickory Drive in Jefferson Parish. It is an alternate route to get to the airport when I-10 gets too congested. Once you get out of Orleans Parish, the road opens up to a three lane highway that often is not congested. The best alternative route to the airport is to take I-10 to Airline and then take the left exit to “L and A Road” to get to Earhart.
Broad is a great road for getting uptown from downtown without having to use Claiborne, especially during school zone hours. If you drive on Poydras away from the river, it turns into the on ramp for Broad and will bring you uptown. Broad then forks at the end to Napoleon or Fontainebleau, giving you a quick shortcut to get many places uptown.
Taking Washington can bring you quickly from Carrollton to Earhart without having to wait for traffic lights and can be a good way to avoid interstate traffic if you happen to be in the area already. Washington heading away from the city will turn into Palmetto, which is an alternate way to get to Metairie Road without having to use the interstate.
If you are already uptown and need to get to the airport or some other place in Jefferson Parish, River Road will often be your best route to take. Otherwise you would have to spend time driving in the wrong direction just to get onto the interstate. River Road can bring you all the way to Kenner. Or you can get off at some point and find your way to Earhart as well.
Where to drive
Different events are held at different parts of the city, which means for specific events you will have to change your tactics accordingly. However, there are a few fairly reliable places to be in order to get a lot of quality rides.
Weekdays in the afternoon will often see a spike in demand all around the uptown area, especially when the schools are in session. Oak Street has a lot of good restaurants and people will often be looking for rides after getting a bite to eat. Thursday through Saturday nights are also times where you can pick up students who are looking to go out.
Central Business District (CBD)
With a lot of hotels in a small area, the CBD is a great area to drive when you are anticipating that conventions are letting out and there might be higher demand for people looking to leave for the airport. You will also have tourists looking for good restaurants, many of which are not within walking distance of their hotels. As such they will need a ride to get to where they are going.
There is also a cluster of museums in the CBD, including The National World War II Musuem, and The Ogden Musuem of Southern Art. Often, visitors to these museums are staying in another part of town. So, catching a rider from one of them can often get you to the French Quarter.
French Quarter/Frenchman Street
Friday and Saturday nights are the biggest nights in the French Quarter during times where festivals are not going on. During larger events you might see high demand every night of the week. Bars stay open late and you may be able to pick up customers through the early morning hours when some of the early morning flight departures are happening.
New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
This is a tourist town and MSY is a place where people will be landing all day long. Sometimes people choose to sit and wait in the queue to try and get a ride into the city. Other times people try and wait in the city to get a ride to the airport and then get a rematch back into the city. Often that decision is a personal one based on what that person’s daily goals are and if those drivers have other things to do while waiting for a ride in the queue. For example, some students choose to study in queue as they wait for a ride. And remember, while your Lyft sticker should be displayed at all times when driving, it is very important that you have your sticker placed properly on your vehicle when entering the transportation center for pickups.
New Orleans is a service oriented town. You want to always provide the best service possible and set yourself apart from the crowd. Many times this includes providing cell phone charging and waters. People can always use a charge on their cell phone. Waters are also important because when it is hot you want to keep hydrated. Other items you might want to have on hand include individually wrapped mints, hand sanitizer, and airsick bags. Even if customers do not take you up on your amenities, the
fact that you did offer them will set you above and beyond their expectations.
When to say no
It is sometimes difficult when you have to tell a customer no. However, sometimes your customer will not be aware of the laws or of Lyft policies and it is your responsibility as a driver to follow both. Lyft customer support will be there to help you in these circumstances. If you have to cancel because of any of these reasons and you are in the middle of a streak, make sure to complete the streak and then report the issue to Lyft customer support.
Sometimes tourists who bring children will fail to bring the appropriate child safety restraints. Lyft policy requires that state laws on child restraints be followed.
Louisiana law allows for people to walk around with open containers of alcohol. However, this does not apply to your personal vehicle. When customers want to bring open containers into your vehicle, remind them about the law.
Too Many Passengers
Louisiana law requires you to only have one person per seat belt. People will sometimes want to fit more people in the car than is legally allowed. Remind them that standard Lyft rides can fit no more than 4 passengers. If they have 5-6 customers, they should be requesting a Lyft Plus instead. In most circumstances, parties with 7 or more customers will require two ride requests. You can offer to help a second member of their party to download the Lyft application if they have not already done so. You can even have them use your rider referral code to make additional money on the ride they will be taking with someone else.
New Orleans is a fun town and as a driver you want to represent that fun loving attitude. It is what most of your passengers will expect. Driving in New Orleans allows you the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people from different parts of the country. The more you share about your city, the more appreciative they will be of you and your service.