Uber users in Los Angeles will have a new way to hail a ride, starting today. The company’s Express Pool service, piloted last year in San Francisco and Boston, is now available to customers in Los Angeles.
The Express Pool system allows customers to trade the convenience of being picked up wherever they are for a more “consistent experience,” says Ethan Stock, director of product for Uber. To make trips more efficient, the app will often ask users to walk to a set destination so that drivers don’t have to go too far out of their way to find them.
That makes it even more comparable to traditional public transit than Uber’s Pool service, which launched in 2014 and offers users the opportunity to save on the cost of a ride by picking up other passengers along the way to their destination.
The new option is designed to iron out some of the wrinkles in the Pool system, which has been criticized by drivers and riders alike for its unpredictable matchmaking system, which often leads to long detours and circuitous pickup routes.
Users may also have to exercise a bit of patience when ordering a ride using Express Pool. Stock says passengers can expect to wait for 1 to 2 minutes while the app pairs them with other riders traveling along a similar route.
Riders will get a significant discount by using the Express Pool option. Uber estimates that trips with the new system will be around half the price of a Pool ride and up to 75 percent less than the conventional UberX option, in which just one passenger hails a ride to a single destination.
The new system sounds quite similar to a “microtransit” program that Metro wants to create through a public-private partnership. Meant to give system riders more flexible service—as well as a new way to travel to and from larger transit stops—Metro’s program would also rely on smartphone technology and would allow passengers to get picked up along flexible routes that could change depending on rider demand.
Cities around the country have started experimenting with microtransit systems to supplement rail and bus networks that are harder to rework and customize on the fly. In the small city of Altamonte Springs, Florida, the local government is even subsidizing Uber to provide rides to the local light rail station.
In a 2015 blog post, transit consultant Jarrett Walker suggested that microtransit services could provide a valuable supplement to conventional public transportation networks—if providers are willing to cooperate with, rather than compete against, local transit agencies.
Stock says Uber’s new service will help transit agencies by giving riders easier access to transit hubs and that the company has already coordinated with Cincinnati on a possible partnership.
Asked whether the company had contacted Metro about the new service in Los Angeles and how it could fit in with the agency’s transit goals, Uber spokesperson Stephanie Sedlak tells Curbed that the company has already seen riders using the Pool option to get to and from stations in Los Angeles.
“We commend Metro’s continued commitment to ensuring Angelenos have access to multiple and complementary modes of shared transportation solutions,” Sedlak said.
Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero says the agency was not aware of the new Express Pool option.