COMMENTARY

“Don’t Get In The Pool”

5.2.16 Uber Pool

Written by Silas Grant –

I like driving for Uber. I’ve had some great experiences over the past 18 months. I also think there are some problems in need of solutions. Uber Pool has been a great addition, but the blanket implementation of the feature is hurting drivers. Below, I share some of the problems within the Uber Pool feature. Along with that, I provide my observations, examples, and some potential solutions.

Problem(s):

  1. Pool is being misused/abused and it’s negatively impacting drivers.
  2. When driver’s distance to pick up riders surpasses rider’s trip distance, that scenario is not beneficial for drivers at all.

Uber fares have dropped 35% in the past two (2) years. And in addition to that decrease, the Uber Pool option now allows riders to receive the same ride with a trip that that can be 60% of what an Uber X ride would be. In the past few weeks, I’ve been on the road more. In that time, I’ve have more Uber Pool requests. For instance, one day this week, I spent close to nine (9) hours online. I had 25 trips in that period. 13 of the 25 trips were Uber Pool. Of the 13 Uber Pool trips, only four (4) riders shared a ride in my car at once. That was two (2) rides with four (4) riders (two each ride). The other nine (9) rides were riders who benefited from the decreased fare without sharing a ride with another passenger.

I can not recall exact details on those nine (9) rides. But, I will share one example: one rider requested a pool ride from a very suburban area and the distance from my location to the location of the rider was approximately eight (8) miles away. I picked the rider up and the distance of the actual trip was about six (6) miles from the pickup. The fare was $7.25. This entire process was close to, if not 30 minutes. If this would become the norm, it would put me at an average of less than $15 per hour…and that’s IF I received another request as soon as I dropped off riders. Not only was the fee “nominal” in comparison to the distance to pick up the rider, it was also a shorter trip than the pickup distance. This has become increasingly the case in the suburbs. And I am an advocate for suburban Uber usage. I take joy in serving riders in suburban areas. They are quite underserved when it comes to transportation options outside of private car usage. But the suburbs are not logical for Uber Pool usage; unless it is rush hour with proven evidence that the suburban area in question has a high volume of requests headed into the major city that it neighbors. Until suburbs and counties increase volume of rides and the likelihood for Uber Pool to have riders sharing vehicles, Uber Pool should be eliminated from suburban areas and other areas that have similar dynamics.

Uber Pool should also be labeled “unavailable” when drivers are not within 2 miles of a rider and there is no surge. Surging with Uber is pretty simple: prices increase when the requests for rides surpass the number of drivers in that area at an exponential rate. When the ratio of riders to drivers available in an area is so high, the surge pricing is implemented to incentivize drivers to sign on to the market. In the instance that an Uber Pool request is made that requires that a driver has to drive more than two (2) miles to pick up a rider and there is no surge, it is safe to say there are not a number of riders in that area making requests. This reduces the chances of another rider making a request for Uber Pool. To compound this situation, imagine a request coming in that has a trip that only has a duration that is 1-3 miles. Now you have a request in an area that is not busy (no surge), and requires the driver to drive miles to pick up the rider, but their trip distance is short (even shorter than the pick-up effort). None of this makes sense at all for drivers.

I could go on an on providing examples of ways to improve the process. By no means am I ungrateful. Uber offers flexibility in work hours. I am able to pursue my dreams, learn new skills, and be free. But in the long term, this process has to make sense. And I’ve offered what I consider to be solutions to assist the drivers.

My Suggested Solution(s):

  1. Reduce pool to areas proven to have high request rates.
  2. Limit financial benefit of pool for riders to rides when multiple riders actually ride on trips together. In other words, each Uber X and Uber Pool ride should start as an Uber X ride with Uber X fares. If the rider is opting to use Uber Pool, the rider should only benefit from the reduced pricing if other riders join the trip.
  3. Eliminate options for pool when drivers are not within 2 miles of rider and there is no surge.
  4. Apply a $5 surcharge for riders when driver has to travel further than 4 miles to pick up the rider. Add an additional $2 surcharge when the distance to pick up rider surpasses the rider’s actual trip.
  5. Uber Pool should be unavailable to riders traveling less than 2 miles.

So, until the blanket approach to Uber Pool is resolved, please reconsider using pool unless it makes sense for everyone in the process. As it stands today, this feature helps Uber attract new riders and retain existing riders. The feature certainly reduces the fares for riders. But if it stays as it is, it won’t be a benefit for us as drivers. And having more drivers on the market reduces the chance for surge fares. I know that most of you all have friends who drive for Uber. Consider us. Lyft has a tip option built within the app. And while I won’t advocate for a tip, taking an Uber X trip for a short distance with a low likelihood for an another rider making a request if you’d requested Uber Pool will be the equivalent of what a tip would be anyway. It’s a nominal increase for you, but those fares add up for us. And this entire ride economy has benefitted us all and allows us to have options. Let’s not run this benefit in the ground, but not being considerate to others.

(Image credit: Uber)

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