Plan ahead: Uber fares likely to skyrocket on New Year’s Eve

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DENVER — New Year’s Eve is one of Uber’s busiest nights of the year. But that could mean you start 2015 with a much lighter wallet.

The controversial ride-sharing startup is expecting to service 2 million riders worldwide on New Year’s Eve alone.

An Uber spokeswoman said New Year’s Eve 2014 was one of Uber’s busiest days. And the company has quadrupled its presence compared to last New Year’s Eve. It’s now operating in over 260 cities across the world — up from 66 last year.

But how much — or how little — might riders pay? That’s unpredictable due to Uber’s price algorithm, which charges riders inordinate sums of money during periods when its cars are most in demand. (Hello, New Years Eve!)

Last year, the company issued a blog post ahead of New Year’s Eve, explaining its surge pricing and providing timing guidelines (best times to ride: before 8 p.m., between 10:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m., and after 3:00 a.m.). It’s expected to publish a similar post Tuesday.

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Uber requires users to confirm the price so there are no surprises, but there was still plenty of criticism from riders who felt they’d been unfairly gouged.

Last year, Twitter user @Uber_Surge retweeted receipts from riders impacted by the surge. Prices ranged from a 4.85 mile ride in Pennsylvania that cost $265 to a 59.13 mile ride in Texas that totaled $731.75.

Its surge pricing — which the company is seeking to patent — has been heavily criticized. Most recently, it caught flak for inflating prices during the Sydney hostage crisis. (It later refunded rides and issued a blog post apology to explain its algorithm, which operates automatically.)

The company has had a wild ride this year — from lawsuits to shutdowns to outspoken critics. But its supporters feel just as strongly: It closed a $1.2 billion round of funding earlier this month.