SAN FRANCISCO — Want to save some money on your next Uber ride? Put on your walking shoes.
The ride-hailing service rolled out its Express Pool service Wednesday as a cheaper version of its Uberpool option.
Express Pool more closely resembles public bus service. When you request Express Pool, Uber notifies the user of the pickup location so they can walk to the stop. With Uberpool, users are picked up and basically carpool together.
The Express Pool ride ends at a spot near the user's destination as chosen by the driver, requiring the user to walk another short distance. With Uberpool, users are dropped off right at their destination.
The location of the pickup can change depending on who else is being picked up, their intended direction of travel and traffic patterns.
Ride on Express Pool is up to 30% cheaper than on Uberpool and up to 75% less than a regular Uber ride. On Wednesday morning, the cost of a ride to San Francisco International Airport from the nearby town of San Mateo was listed as $22.46 for the traditional taxi-like Uber service, UberX; $20.45 for Uberpool; and $14.57 for Express Pool.
In many ways, the system is what ride-hailing users already do on their own: thinking about where they can quickly walk for the easiest pickup, trying to find a place oriented to their direction of travel and avoiding traffic congestion.
Uber, based in San Francisco, noticed that riders, using the app to hail a driver, sometimes designate their pickup spot as their exact location but then move it across the street or at the end of the block, Uber spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh said.
Using its routing software, Uber is thinking of incorporating the ability to move to a better spot as an option in its regular service. In the future, the app might inform a user of the estimated time to their destination but also gives them the option of walking a little bit to a more efficient pickup point for a quicker ride.
“We are thinking about ways to help riders understand where their location is and whether there’s any time trade-off in terms of getting picked up there,” Durkosh said.
Because time and distance are money, Express Pool can be a less-expensive ride option.
Uber also says the new service will be easier for drivers, who anecdotally have said that one of the frustrations of driving an Uberpool group can be the need to backtrack or loop around blocks to pick up multiple riders.
The Independent Drivers Guild, which represents some Uber drivers, isn’t so sure.
According to spokeswoman Moira Muntz, in general drivers hate Uberpool because riders often don't get the quality or individualized experience they expect when using a ride hailing service. That in turn can lead to bad reviews and drivers getting thrown off the service, she said.
“Express Pool could be even worse since riders will have to go out of their way to be picked up. We believe at the very least drivers should have the right to opt-out of receiving Pool dispatches, they shouldn't be forced,” she said.
Express Pool is running in San Francisco and Boston and soon will be offered in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami, San Diego and Denver. Uber says more cities will follow.
From a public policy perspective, these types of ride-pooling services represent an enormous opportunity to provide more high quality, inexpensive transportation to more people who don’t have access to cars or public transit than ever before, said Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis.
While ride-hauiling services such as Uber and Lyft started out with individual riders, “what we want to do is encourage them to move to pooling services because they’re the ones that provide real societal benefit, because they provide access and mobility for more people, especially in suburban areas and small cities which have poor transit service,” he said.
Pool services provide a broader set of choices for the public in ways that are more economically and environmentally efficient, he said.
The service launches as Uber continues to try to rehabilitate its image. Last August, Uber hired CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, replacing founder Travis Kalanick in an attempt to clean up the company's internal culture.
This month, Uber settled a self-driving lawsuit with Google-owned company Waymo over trade secrets. The settlement included giving up a stake in Uber to Waymo.
Weise reported from San Francisco and Molina from McLean, Va.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.