Today, Uber it’s officially adding a new service to its roster that’ll cater to people who don’t want to spend a lot of money: a low-cost carpool service called Express Pool.
Typically, when you take an Uber, the driver comes to you. With Express Pool, which is launching in six new cities, you walk to meet the driver at a specific location. In places like San Francisco and Washington, where one-way streets can often send cars off course, Uber says a walk down the block could save riders and drivers time and hassle.
The ride-sharing company announced the service Wednesday, with the option made immediately available to customers in Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver. On Thursday, the service will expand to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Miami, joining Boston and San Francisco (where it already piloted) before rolling out nationwide at a yet-to-be announced date.
What makes Express Pool so cheap compared to the standard Pool and UberX options is that it utilizes pickup points, where users are expected to walk, to offer fares discounted by at least 50 percent. The company says the new service will be 75% cheaper than UberX.
Those fares come not only at the cost of walking, but a slightly longer wait time — up to two minutes, according to Uber. But customers could find it worth it: A screenshot provided by Uber demonstrating the new service shows a ride in San Francisco during 8 a.m. rush hour costing just $2.95, according to the Washington Post.
Such fares will raise more questions about Uber’s ability to fairly compensate drivers, as well the company’s place alongside traditional mass transportation services. The immediate parallel is a bus, but Uber says it doesn’t see it that way.
“We don’t think that this is at all like a bus,” Ethan Stock, director of product for shared rides, said in a call with reporters this week, the Post reports. “Three of the fundamental things about how buses work is they have fixed pickup and drop-off spots, a fixed route and a fixed time schedule that they’re operating on. Everything about the Express Pool product is dynamic.”
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