The Cultural Crossroads for Uber and Lyft drivers in Orlando

Orlando Airport in Florida is a Latino cultural crossroads, where rideshare drivers wait in the FIFO parking lot and have time to chat and joke. The FIFO lot has hundreds of drivers waiting for passengers coming into the State for a wonderful vacation. Orlando airport set up the new parking lot from the rideshare pressure wave that is sweeping over the world. This lot is called FIFO since it stands for First In, First Out, which means that the drivers come in an orderly fashion and don't need to argue about who gets to drive next.

With all the "order" in a FIFO lot, it is quite crowded and chaotic since the drivers have to wait for the incoming craft to pour out their passengers, creating surges in requests. Since the drivers accept the necessity for such an order, they wait and become friends, according to one driver Jesus Collins. The drivers waiting in a FIFO lot prefer to wait then to drive around wearing their vehicles and wasting gas. In fact, this is where some interesting people get a chance to gather and meet and talk about a variety of subjects and in some cases, find ways to help each other. For instance, during one waiting session, a mobile preacher, a laid-off executive, a college student, a mother with kids in school, a retiree and a job seeker all met up to talk about life in general. The vehicles vary according to socio-economic status and range from luxury cars to old ones, pickups to SUV limousines.

The wait can be quite a while, and many drivers accept that their daily work shift hours can reach 12, including the wait in line at the airport. One driver, a mother of two children, starts her day dropping her kids off at school, she looks at her app and states that she was 97th in place and is now 17th. Drivers look at their apps counting off their place in line; one is at 89 another at 36.

Its all about patience, the ability to wait for a hit. One driver, a non-Spanish speaker states that she has patience because the line moves, and you always get a hit. It's just a matter of air traffic and timing. Knowing when to come to the airport and wait.

All drivers come prepared with many essential tools and gadgets. Cleaning equipment is abundant as drivers are constantly cleaning their cars, inside and out. Wiping windshields, polishing chrome and sweeping furniture. The cultural divide is wedged closely together here, where the majority are Venezuelan but include Brazilians, Colombians, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and some Anglos. O one knows why the majority, around 60% are Venezuelan.

One of the interesting situations of waiting in a group is sharing interesting passenger stories as well as discussing country-related issues. The Venezuelans talk about their countries security issues while others discuss drunken passengers and others counsel and offer informative help. One interesting yet disturbing story came from a female driver, aged 27, he described her cultural heritage as Cuban Israeli and was shaken when a passenger reached out and kissed her hand. The passenger, drunk at the time had a gun secured in his waist belt. Before she was an Uber driver, she worked for American Express until they outsourced to Asia. After the incident she tried unsuccessfully to get help from Uber, so she moved over to Lyft and now campaigns against Uber whenever she has a chance.

As with all queues, tempers can flare, and suspicions do grow, where some drivers think that others might have an app that plays around with the queuing numbers. Not all the drivers think that way, and some laugh it off claiming that it's a bug in the Uber app that leaves a queuing number static, and then suddenly you get a call for a ride.

All agree that one of the main issues directly related to a drivers rating is the speed at which he reaches a passenger. Having stated this, there are problems with the FIFO lot system, since many times it states that there is a space when there isn't. The lot is organized to hold up to 80 cars, but in reality, there are three times the amount. Many arriving drivers realize that there is no space but wait around anyway, jamming up the spaces that might be free for use.

Here are what Uber site states regarding the Orlando FIFO lot:

"At MCO, Uber's technology uses a first-in, first-out (FIFO) queue. This means that in order to receive a trip request, you need to enter the designated waiting area, located within a "FIFO zone." You will then be placed in a virtual queue where the first driver-partner to enter will be the first to receive a trip request.

Based on the operating agreement with MCO, the waiting area for peer-to-peer (P2P) drivers is located at B-52 Memorial Park (see map below).

Some things to know about FIFO queues:

  • Proximity to the terminal within the FIFO zone does not create an advantage for driver-partners or move you closer to the top of the queue.
  • If there are no driver-partners in the FIFO zone, trip requests will go to Uber driver-partners in the area—outside of the FIFO zone—based on proximity and other factors.

You can lose your place in line if:

  • You go offline on your Uber driver app
  • You drive outside the FIFO zone
  • You do not accept multiple incoming trip requests in a row
  • You cancel multiple rides (if the rider cancels, you will remain at the top of the queue)
  • Picking up your rider

Once you accept a trip request, the pickup location at MCO is located on the second level (see map below)."