Hurricane Irma: Uber is offering free rides to Tampa shelters, but only for a while

By Greg Hadley

People still in the Tampa Bay area ahead of Hurricane Irma’s expected arrival are being urged to evacuate to emergency shelters before curfews go into effect Sunday afternoon and evening.

But as wind rises and rain pounds the area, those who feel unsafe driving have an alternate way to get to safety: ride-sharing app Uber is offering free rides to Tampa-area shelters.

The offer, which works with the promo code TBSHELTER, was announced on Twitter Sunday morning by Tampa’s Office of Emergency Management.

The service will only last until 6 p.m., when the city of Tampa’s announced curfew will go into affect. As of 10 a.m. Sunday, Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, said space is still available in shelters.

Uber and its competitor Lyft have both already suspended service in Miami and south Florida as curfews were announced and conditions became hazardous.

Uber typically uses “surge” pricing, which causes costs to rise when there is high demand and fewer drivers. However, the company came under intense criticism after superstorm Sandy caused prices to spike to staggering totals in New York and agreed in 2015 to cap its prices during emergencies and natural disasters, according to Time.

On Thursday, Uber told the South Florida Business Journal that it was suspending surge pricing for Irma to avoid accusations of price gouging, which have been leveled against many businesses in light of Irma and Hurricane Harvey.