This map shows the Boston boundaries of Uber’s surge pricing

Why a Boston University student’s Uber request impacts surge pricing in Charlestown.

This map shows the rough boundaries of Uber’s “surge zones’’ in Boston.
This map shows the rough boundaries of Uber’s “surge zones’’ in Boston. –Boston Globe staff

Calling an Uber near Logan Airport increases surge pricing deep in Chelsea, while dialing up an Uber in Brookline has no effect on a multiplier on nearby Jamaica Plain.

Call it the butterfly effect of Uber in Boston.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis from Christo Wilson, a Northeastern University assistant computer science professor who studied Uber’s mysterious surge pricing formula. Wilson used a series of fake Uber accounts and virtual versions of the app across several cities to crack the “black box,’’ he told BetaBoston.

The results found that cities are made up of “surge zones’’ with clear borders. Inside those borders, users will see a constant surge multiplier throughout the area. (The zone is based on the Uber’s origin.)


Using the rough barriers in the map above, you can see the sometimes odd shapes these borders make up, including the remarkably disparate section that includes Fenway, downtown Boston, and stretches into Charlestown.

Uber questioned some of the the study’s findings and said it was limited in its use. However, Uber did admit that the map of surge zones was roughly accurate, according to BetaBoston.

You can read more about the study at BetaBoston.

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