Uber has come up with a new way of providing rides that has the potential to reduce congestion on busy city streets, while also cutting down on the cost customers pay for the ride-hailing service.
In eight U.S. cities, the company is offering a new service called “Express Pool,” according to the Associated Press.
The new program links riders in the same geographic area who need rides to similar final destinations.
Customers who participate in Express Pool will need to walk a few blocks in order to catch an Uber ride at a common location. Similarly, the drop off point would also likely be a few blocks from where riders are ultimately headed.
It’s estimated that Express Pool rides could be as much as 75 percent cheaper than regular Uber rides. The new service may also be cheaper than Pool, the current ride-share option offered by Uber.
Those who rely on Pool, which does not require meeting other riders at a common location, need not panic. Though very similar to Express Pool, the existing program is going to remain in place.
One noteworthy difference between Pool and Express Pool is that the latest service will travel a more direct route. Pool, on the other hand, takes longer because it picks up riders at their individual locations and drives them to their specific final destination.
Testing of Express Pool began in November in San Francisco and Boston. Over the coming days, it will be expanded to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Miami, San Diego, and Denver. Additional cities are also in the works.
Though there are some concerns that the new service could lead to competition for mass transit, the impact will depend on a variety of factors, including how effectively Express Pool works.
Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington, told the Associated Press that if buses or subways are overcrowded and Uber can provide service for a similar price, then it will prove helpful for mobility.
“If, however, you are cannibalizing transit that’s not over-subscribed, then that becomes a bad thing,” Hallenbeck said.
Additionally, if the new ride-sharing service ends up luring people away from mass transit and creating more automobile traffic, that will only serve to increase congestion, Hallenbeck noted.
Both Uber and Lyft have been the focus of much criticism regarding the congestion the services add to busy city streets.
A report from the University of California, Davis, which involved a multi-city study, found that ride-hailing services may be leading to a decline in public transportation use and at the same time, adding more cars to the road, instead of reducing the number of vehicles on city streets.
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