If you’re a rider or driver for Uber, you’re probably familiar with Uber Pool. It’s the thing everyone loves to hate and well still loves to hate. It’s the feature that lets you sit in a car with a few strangers in uncomfortable silence for 15 minutes until you reach your destination.
Uber came up with this idea as a way to give riders an even cheaper option than UberX, but in doing so, they’ve been burning through money trying to subsidize the lost revenue. Uber burning through money is not a new phrase, but it’s weird that they would spend millions a week to get riders to use their service that nobody likes. Well, nobody likes the service, but people do love the price.
Uber wondered how they can make an already unpleasant situation worse, so they unleashed Uber Express Pool in a few cities under a trial run. This feature is very similar to Uber Pool where you are quite possibly going to share your ride with a complete stranger (or three), but they give you the added bonus of making you walk a block or two before you can do it! I think they’re trying to see just how uncomfortable they can make it for everyone before people just start going back to UberX.
I live and drive in the Boston region, so I’ve had quite a bit of experience with Express Pool compared to many Uber drivers and riders around the country, and I will say the price is significantly cheaper. I’ve seen up to 50% off the already discounted Uber Pool price, but as a rider living in cold New England, walking a few blocks in freezing temperatures didn’t seem worth the few dollars I’d save. It’s been so cold this winter that I’ve often had people request Uber just to give them a ride 1/3rd of a mile, so needless to say, Express Pool doesn’t exactly blow up my app – yet.
Here are a few FAQ’s I thought of about my experience with Express Pool:
- What is their logic behind Express Pool? It’s to speed up pickups and dropoffs and have drivers take the most direct route possible. Like a bus. A bus that can only seat 4-6 passengers and you’re all so close to each other than you can tell what the person sitting next to you had for lunch. Also great for spreading the flu!
- Is it easier for the driver? Yes and no. When done properly, the Express Pool is decent for staying on main roads and not driving all around to pick someone up. However, if you use Waze as your GPS, you’re probably driving through someone’s living room to get to your next stop.
- Does it pay less? Despite charging the rider a lot less for this ride, I have seen no difference in the amount they pay you for a normal Uber Pool ride (which is typically less than UberX). I don’t know if this will change in the future, but for a company hemorrhaging money, this can’t be good for their bottom line.
- Why are they doing it? Simple – to beat out Lyft. Despite what passengers may say, the rideshare app with the lowest price wins almost 99% of the time. I’ve had passengers say that they prefer Lyft over Uber or vice versa, but the reality is, that only matters when everything else is equal. Those people who claim to hate Uber will be hopping on an Express Pool if it charges them 50% less than Lyft.
- Won’t they run out of money? I’m pretty sure Uber is out of money and living off borrowed cash, so I guess losing a little more is no big deal to them?
- What is the real reason they can afford to do this? Right now, they can’t. However, Uber is hedging their bets that driverless cars are coming sooner than later and they will almost certainly be launched on Express Pool first. This is because the routes are more direct so the driverless car won’t have to take tons of backgrounds to pick people up. Once these cars are in play, Express Pool will begin to give them a profit as a large majority of the typical fare goes to the driver. Cut out the driver – increase the profits. Stick to main roads – increase confidence from passengers riding in driverless cars.
So, if you’re a driver out there. Don’t worry, Express Pool is likely here to stay! (notice the sarcasm). If you’re a rider, well you now have yet a cheaper option to get around the city, assuming you’re willing to walk for it.