Commuters in Philadelphia may have been surprised in recent weeks to see a new option in their Uber applications for an "Express Pool" ride. The new service, launched at the end of February, matches ride-seekers based on their location and has them meet at a common pickup point.
Express Pool is the first new service that the company has released in three years, The Verge reported. It was first piloted in Boston and San Francisco in November 2017, and has now been expanded to a handful of other cities including Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, and Philadelphia.
The service, which Uber says can be up to 50 percent cheaper than UberPool and 75 percent cheaper than UberX, aims to make rides more affordable for commuters.
Riders who select Express Pool may experience a slight delay while the app searches through hundreds of drivers, locations, and passengers to find their ideal matches. Then, after receiving a match, riders will be asked to walk a distance less than three blocks to their pickup location, where they will meet up with the other passengers. These riders should ideally all be headed towards the same direction, and will be dropped off within a few blocks of their original destination, The Verge reported.
Uber product manager Ethan Stock said to the San Francisco Chronicle that the new Express Pool is designed to be an improvement of the previous Pool feature.
“Express Pool is a much better design ... it alleviates some of the problems drivers have with traditional Uber Pool, where you have to go a couple of blocks out of your way,” he said, adding, “Our mission with shared rides is to make [Uber] affordable for everyone.”
The pricing of Express Pool puts it in the price range of public transportation services in Philadelphia such as SEPTA. Penn Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning Erick Guerra said to the Philadelphia Inquirer that this could be a good thing.
“I think that there’s a lot of potential,” Guerra said. “The more different types of transit service we try to provide, I think the better off we make the people who are trying to get around the region.”
In addition to saving people time, Stock said he also believes the new service could help reduce city congestion and vehicular pollution. "Cities aren't going to work if everyone is trying to take an UberX," Stock told CNN. "It's inefficient in how city infrastructure is used.”
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