If you've ever taken an Uber Pool or a Lyft Line, you know that it's a little like playing the lottery: There's the potential to win big or, well, lose. "Winning" in this context means you score a ride without any subsequent pickups or drop-offs, arriving at your destination at the same time you would have if you had booked a non-shared ride for less. "Losing" means you're taken out of your way to pick up or drop off one to two more people, pushing back your arrival time.
Now, Uber is taking steps to decrease the severity of the "losing" Pool situation. For the first time in three years, the company is launching a brand new service: Express Pool.
Express Pool has two major perks over the regular Pool service: It's even less expensive — Uber says prices will be up to 50% off the already reduced pricing of Pool — and it provides a more streamlined route to your destination. Your driver will only pick up other riders who are located along the same straight shot, resulting in a trip that is slightly shorter. It sounds a lot like taking the bus, albeit a bus with a route its riders have far more control over.
You might be asking why you'd even consider taking regular Pool over Express Pool. There is one small catch: With Express Pool, you'll have to wait a couple of minutes after requesting your ride to get details about where your driver will pick you up. Instead of the door to door service you get with regular Pool, Express Pool will assign you pick-up and drop off spots that are a block or two away from your desired location. If it's lousy weather outside or you're carrying heavy bags, you might opt for regular Pool to avoid the walk. If not, the short walk for Express Pool could be worth it given that you'll save money and likely end up with a shorter overall trip since the route won't deviate based on one way streets. Plus, drivers won't double back to pick up another rider, something that seems to happen far too often these days with the regular Pool option.
"We want you to feel like it's a consistent experience you can rely on, not just [one of ] those wonderful trips that you can occasionally get on Pool," Ethan Stock, Uber's Product Director for Shared Rides, said during a presentation announcing the news.
According to Stock, the initial waiting period also maximizes your chances of being paired with other "compatible riders", or those with similar routes. Stock also envisions people taking Express Pool multiple times a day, since the affordability makes it a promising option for commuters. Still, it's hard to know just how affordable Express Pool will be on a daily basis, especially since, like UberX and regular Pool, it will be affected by surge pricing during especially busy times.
Uber has already been piloting Express Pool in Boston and San Francisco and will expand the service to D.C., L.A., Philadelphia, Denver, and San Diego starting today. If you don't live in one of those cities, look out for Express Pool to arrive in your hood in the coming months.