How to use Uber or Lyft for Event Transportation

How to use Uber for Event Transportation

There are lots of ways to get attendees from Point A to Point B.

  • Buses are amazing. They move a ton of people quickly and can be really comfy but they can be limiting for smaller groups, smaller spaces, and smaller budgets. Let’s not mention that if an event runs long, you are going to be paying for another block of time and if it is a group of 300 or 3000 people, that will add up to a crap-ton of money that would be better spent on educational opportunities for your attendees.
  • Black Cars are luxurious. Leather, chilled water, a person with my name on a sign holding the door for me… What’s not to love; except the price and is this really feasible for 100 people all leaving the hotel at the same time to go to Busters Wine Emporium for your evening networking shindig. And for groups with more modest tastes, you are gonna come across all bougie and that is not gonna go over well with the Board of Directors.
  • Taxis. Expensive and unreliable. We can leave it at that.
  • Boats are fun but if you are in Vegas or Palm Springs, you are going to be swimming in sand.

So. What is the budget conscious, down to earth, forward thinking, tech savvy conference planner to do? Did you ever wish you could just use Uber or Lyft to get your attendees from point A to point B? Well, you can…

Love them or hate them, depending on the location, Uber and Lyft are both great options for moving attendees. They are clean, quick, and easy on the transportation line-item. Attendees have the convenience of leaving when they want, alone or with a small group. The best part is that for the planner, setting this in motion takes all of about 10 minutes and you can bypass the whole transportation RFP rigamarole.

Using Uber and Lyft for Event Transportation

Although they have been around for sometime, few association and conference planners even know Uber and Lyft have have a groups option and for those that do, most of our anecdotal evidence (we asked our friend Ruth) leads us to believe that planners think the cost is sky high…. But the reality is much different.

Uber and Lyft have programs that are almost identical giving you a couple of options. We won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each but we will give an overview.

To get started using rideshare for your event, you first have to understand how it works. You would think that attendees would hail their rides, pay, and then submit receipts at the end of the conference. To that I say…. Oh. Hell. No. That would make me cry into a void of expense reports and excel documents and I ain’t going there.

What you actually do is click a little, type a little, email a little, and boom… Attendees are moving around the city. Conclusion of the event, a couple of clicks, bang, a nice little report detailing your expenses.

With both programs, you only pay for the rides that attendees use, you can set the drop-off and pick-up locations, and can even set the max dollar amount you want to spend. Then, you simply send your attendees a code (Uber calls it a Ride Pass) and off they go. If the ride is less than the dollar amount you have selected they are done, if the ride is more than their monetary allotment, the balance is simply paid by the attendee using their own Uber or Lyft account.

STOP WORRYING about the attendees that don’t have an Uber or Lyft account. You can deal with it and so can they. I was just at a client event in New Orleans and I helped a nice, not tech savvy couple, get Uber on their phones so they could go to dinner. When they got back, they were like “holy hell, how were we not doing this a long time ago”.

Your fears are not their fears. What you think is too much for attendees is based on your perception. Yes, you should most certainly provide a page in the app or on the website with instructions and yes, you will have some attendees that can’t handle the stress of getting an app but two things work in your favor. Peer pressure and herd mentality. No one wants to look dumb but if they are really techno-phobic, they will hop a ride with a colleague, friend, or coworker.

On the way off-chance that you have a person that is so unfriendly and un-techy that no one will ride with them…. You can always hail that individual a cab or simply use your App to call an Uber or Lyft for them…

Now that we are past that, let’s do some math to see what this might to cost. Let’s say you have to move 300 attendees from the Hotel to an off-site event a mile away.


  • You would need six buses, each holding about 50 persons.
  • Our (educated) guess is that most bus companies have a 5-hour minimum of around $1200.00 per bus (will vary, I get it).
  • That is gonna cost you about $7,200.00.
  • Cool. Makes sense and easy enough for the budget.


  • Using Chicago as an example, we know Uber’s fare is calculated as $1.70 base fare, $0.20 per minute and $0.90 per mile.
  • A trip from 400 North Michigan Ave to 400 South Michigan Ave should be about $6.82.
  • If every attendee went in their own rideshare, the total would be $13.62 round trip.
  • We will round it up to $16.00 round trip to account for a tip
  • The total cost for all 300 attendees is about $4800.00 give or take.

The rideshare cost is great when you consider that only a handful of attendees will ride alone. The cost should be far lower than our math. You have actually made things more convenient for the attendee and saved a little money.

Now. I am a realist. This is NOT going to work for every scenario.

  • You need to move 10,000 people in less than an hour. Good luck with rideshare or cabs… Buses are the way to go.
  • You need to move 300 people in Little Rock, Cincinnati, or Jacksonville? All great destinations but it might be tough finding enough Ubers or Lyfts.

One place I do see this as a viable option are those conferences that have roving bus shuttles that go from various hotels to a conference center all day long. Instead of all of the buses, simply use Uber or Lyft to supplement for those folks that want to go back and freshen up after lunch. I can’t tell you how many conferences I attend where empty shuttle buses are going around and around for hours while attendees are tucked all nice in their sessions.

Another place where this is a nice option is from the airport. Uber and Lyft are easy-peasy and for the VIPs, you could even cover Uber Black (Uber’s black car service).

Uber and Lyft are Good Tools to have Available

Knowing that Uber and Lyft have group options is a good thing. It allows you to have one more weapon at your disposal when you need to get attendees from one spot to another and is the most cost effective option for some scenarios. Is it perfect for everything? Again, no… But in the right situation and the right town, it may be a huge time saver that is budget friendly!

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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