The Very Real Problem with Uber and Lyft in the Great Smoky Mountains

Dolly, We Have a Problem

This may sound like a taxi hack propaganda piece, but I assure you it is a public service announcement for those who are unfamiliar with the area. As a local taxi owner, I hear the desperate pleas after the bars close for the night or early Sunday morning at 5AM:

“OH THANK GOD YOU PICKED UP! I've been waiting on Uber and Lyft for an hour and it just timed out/ canceled.”

Sadly, I hear this A BUNCH. Even worse, I'm normally booked up with people who planned better and I cannot help the desperate. After I tell them I can't help, tourists from all over have to do the taxi list run down, desperately trying to find a ride to the airport, a show with bought tickets, or back to the hotel/ cabin to avoid a PI charge by the very tenacious Gatlinburg police.

It's a real problem, yo. Firstly, Uber and Lyft are receding across the country in rural areas and it baffles me why it took this long. Don't let the upside down house, King Kong, the Titanic, and LA-like traffic fool you... we are in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. WE ARE RURAL. Uber drove down the prices of taxi fares, eliminated tips, decimated taxi companies across the country (including mine- I used to have the 3rd largest fleet in Knoxville), and now have raised their prices to be more expensive than what we used to charge. Many taxi companies are gone, and less people want to drive ride share now. I understand 
why Uber and Lyft are so popular, the technology is terrific and most of the time, you don't have to deal with some weird ass taxi creep. But eventually, more and more people have lost the allure of ragging out their own personal rides for pennies on the mile, and the employment pool has shrunk because of less dramatic taxi adjacent technologies like DoorDash, Instacart and beyond.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are small towns. The entire county only has around 50,000 residents, while servicing 15 million tourists a year (making it the 2nd largest tourist attraction on the East Coast behind Orlando). Folks from Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Miami are flabbergasted at the lack of ride sharing here... but... sadly... here we are.

Why does ride sharing outright suck here? While some rogue Uber and Lyft dudes do exist occasionally (including parents on vacation who are trying to recoup their exorbitant meal costs with a little part time taxi work on the side while the kids are watching a Disney movie in the hotel), they cannot carry the load of the region. Why? Well, the Gatlinburg area has the perfect storm of why this in not a great area for ride sharing.

#1 Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are not grid cities.

The three main cities in this area exist in a straight line. This makes it almost impossible to pick out a cherry spot to sit and wait for rides. A grid city has opportunities for rides everywhere. But on a straight line, an Uber driver here has no great spot to hang.

#2 Cellphone service is atrocious

The interfering mountains and the fact that tens of thousands of visitors are soaking up the cell phone info packets at the same time make internet activity frustrating to deal with, and this includes ride sharing apps.

#3 The Traffic and our Speed Limits SUCK and our cops love speeders

This speaks for itself. We can't go anywhere fast. There are not many great thoroughfares to sneakily get from one place to the other here. Apps like WAZE have eliminated the best "local secret" shortcuts, but even those normally are twisty, turny, hilly terrains that are not fun nor safe to drive fast on.

#4 The unique Tennessee terrain and big city traffic is a lethal combo to cars

Between the constant rush hour type stop and go ooching, the large loads of 6-10 buffet lovers crammed into a Dodge Grand Caravan and the hills, mountains, canyons, dirt roads and chasms... inexperienced taxi owners and ride share drivers rag their cars out at alarming rates. Making #5 on this list an unavoidable dilemma to deal with.

#5 There's not a lot of auto mechanics in the area that are cheap or trustworthy.
Yep. I said what I said.

So what does that mean for you?

Plan ahead. Secure taxi rides the day before or dayssss before. Especially to the airport on Sunday and Monday mornings. The Uber app may say a ride to the TYS from your cabin is $68, but that is a lying unicorn. That does not exist. He will never show up. Bet me. Expect to pay around $150 to get to your flight. Taxi companies in the area are normally ran by one or two people, so if they are asleep... you are out of luck if their phones are on vibrate unless you have planned ahead.

Consider renting cars or riding the trolley... even though the trolley schedules are hard to keep up with and are sloooooooooooow. They are cheap and kind of fun.

I'm always here to help. Ask me what is best for you, and I'll advise you the best I can. I'll even refer you to different companies that may be close to you or all have female drivers, for example.

Much love, have fun in the mountains, just plan your taxi schedules ahead of time. Odds are, you will not win the Uber and Lyft lottery when you need it most- because other people are probably playing the lottery at the same time you need to vamonos.

Believe in the Funk,
Funkmaster V

#taxi #uber #Lyft #greatsmokymountains #gatlinburg #pigeonforge #sevierville #smokymountains #TRAFFIC #ridesharing

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand if you dont wanna read all this bull...
Here's a video: