Uber introduced UberPool, a feature that allows users heading in the same direction to share an UberX vehicle and split the fare, to Washington D.C. Oct. 22.
Instead of deciding between UberX or UberBlack, users may now select the UberPool option, enter a pickup and drop-off location and match with another user on the same route. Additionally, UberPool riders are guaranteed the cost of their trip, regardless of whether an extra passenger is picked up along the way.
The company claims that UberPool will be 25 percent cheaper than UberX, which already costs 40 percent less than a taxi, on average. The creation of the service stems from Uber’s goal to be more cost-effective.
“We’re aiming particularly at those who haven’t tried Uber before, maybe because of the cost,” Zuhairah Washington, Uber’s general manager for the D.C. area, told D.C. Inno last week. “Our goal is to continuously grow the pie of users.”
However, the range of UberPool is significantly smaller than the traditional services Uber offers. UberPool will only service the D.C. Metro area and several outlying suburbs. Additionally, it will transport users to and from Dulles International Airport but will not stop in neighborhoods between the airport and the District Line.
D.C. is the sixth U.S. city to unveil UberPool after San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Austin and Boston. In San Francisco, almost half of all trips in the city use UberPool since the program debuted three months ago.
Washington cited its success in San Francisco and expressed optimism that the feature will also gain popularity in D.C.
“We have seen it proven to be the most affordable product. We expect the same in D.C., with prices that are considerably less than UberX for riders,” Washington said to D.C. Inno. “The long-term vision is for this to be a product that allows us to bring down the price even further.”
She added that the company noticed high demand for UberPool.
“We’ve had more requests for its prelaunch here than other cities,” Washington said. “D.C. is known for embracing innovation and tech and carpooling is a popular concept itself.”
Additionally, Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennet told The Washington Post the company also aims to contribute to reducing congestion and pollution in the city by encouraging carpooling.
“This is a part of Uber’s larger vision helping take cars off the road and providing a more affordable way to getting around, not having to rely on personal vehicles or on other transportation options that aren’t as reliable or effective,” Bennet said. “D.C. is a city that is faced with significant traffic congestion. … We hope this is a way to tackle that issue and reduce the congestion.”
Barry, a local UberPool driver who chose not to provide his last name for job security reasons, believes the new feature will significantly improve conversation in his car.
“Today’s life is about connectivity, so it depends on whom you are sitting with. That guy might be a friend for life,” Barry said. “If Uber did not think it would help people, I don’t think they would have done it.”
Zach Durkin (SFS ’17) expressed optimism about the convenience and cost of the new feature.
“UberPool is going to be great, especially for college kids without cars because it makes getting into D.C. much more inexpensive, which I am really excited about,” Durkin said.
Clayton Smith (MED ’18) also pointed to the cost-saving potential of the option.
“Yeah, I’ll use it for things like going to the airport, but I haven’t tried it yet, though,” Smith said. “I think when [UberPool] catches on it will be [worth it] but in the beginning it won’t be very cost-effective.”
Caitlyn Cobb (COL ’18), however, doubts she will use this feature, given the current rideshare feature that allows users to split fares with each other.
“I already split fares when I’m riding with a group of people, and that’s pretty straightforward,” Cobb said. “I don’t see why I would use the new feature.”