Category Archives: uber

Transit + Ridesharing: Uber partners with Caltrain to create POOLtrain

Ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber are a great complement to high frequency, long distance transit corridors. They provide an affordable, fast last mile option, especially in areas where connecting bus service is infrequent or non-existent.

Even outside of large events, taking an uber to get directly to the Ferry building, or a Lyft as the last mile connection from a BART station is a pretty great way to avoid needing to drive a car to get around the Bay Area.

For Super Bowl 50, Uber has partnered with Caltrain to create what they are calling “POOLtrain”. They have added support for UberPool at all Caltrain stations for riders going to or from each station.


Uber claims that 80,000 Uber trips started or ended within 100 meters of a Caltrain station during a one month period last July. With most of the Peninsula being sprawling single family homes, not particularly walkable and poorly served by local transit, its not surprising that ridesharing is a popular way to access Caltrain, the major regional transit provider. With traffic on the parallel Highway 101 and 280 being increasingly worse, Caltrain represents a great way to avoid hours spent sitting alone in a car moving slowly.

The “POOLtrain” will only be available the week of the Super Bowl, Jan 30 – Feb 7, 2016. Perhaps if it spurs enough interest in UberPool it will become permanently available on the peninsula. If that happens, it would be interesting if Caltrain stations feature signage and designated areas for ridesharing pickups and dropoffs.

The partnership between a transit agency and uber is also interesting. Many transit agencies view ridesharing as a competitive threat. For agencies that provide high-frequency, long distance transit, especially along congested corridors, ridesharing is more of a complement making it easy for people to forgo driving entirely.

Uber experiments with fixed-route service in San Francisco

Uber is trying its hand at operating more like a transit agency with fixed-route services in San Francisco. According to TechCrunch, its new “Smart Routes” service will have vehicles operating on a specified corridor with set pickup/dropoff locations along he route. Riders who choose to be picked up and dropped off on these routes will be charged $1 less than the normal UberPool fare. UberPool fares in much of San Francisco are about $7 per ride, and can accommodate one or two riders on a shared ride.




Currently, there are two Smart Routes in San Francisco: Fillmore between Haight and Bay and Valencia between 15th and 26th.

These Smart Routes aim to make trips more efficient by eliminating the number of turns drivers need to make and choosing pickup/dropoff locations that are easy for drivers to use. It will appeal to riders who are not picky about walking a block or two out of their way to save a dollar and have a potentially shorter wait and travel time. (i.e. those already walking around or those who just want to get to specific neighborhood, not necessarily a particular address).

Smart Routes join Uber’s “Perpetual Rides”, suggested pickup points and Lyft’s Triple Match service as ways to improve the efficiency of ridesharing.

Lyft, Uber and Sidecar launch real carpooling apps to discourage car ownership

Lyft, Uber and Sidecar all announced new ridesharing options today revolving around carpooling.

Uber launched UberPool in San Francisco. Its a way to request a ride and request to share it with another person heading the same direction.

uberpoolThe key is that if they don’t find a matching rider, Uber will give you a discount on your ride. Initially, until more people start using UberPool, it will be difficult to find two people with roughly the same start location, end location and times. An app that only did ridematching would fail to match most of the time. However, with uberX providing a reliable fallback, using UberPool has no downside.

Uber claims that UberPool is part of their desire for people to ditch car ownership:

Since the early days of Uber, we’ve been excited about the idea of providing transportation so inexpensive and reliable, people can actually sell their cars.

While the UberPool idea is simple, the implications are profound. On average, uberX already costs 40% less than taxi. Imagine reducing that cost by up to another 40%! In San Francisco, how about $6 to Uber from the Castro to the Financial District? Or $10 from Sunset to SOMA? At these price points, Uber really is cost-competitive with owning a car, which is a game-changer for consumers.

UberPool has launched in private beta in San Francisco and will roll out more widely on August 15.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.18.49 PMAlso today, Sidecar announced Shareable Sidecars. They have been testing this feature in San Francisco for the last few months. Sharing a sidecar costs up to 50% less than a normal sidecar. Sidecar mentions that in many cases this is very competitive with the costs of public transit:

Now you can take Sidecar for 50% less, or just a little more than you’d pay for the metro or bus.

More than half of Sidecar riders use it for their daily commute, and Sidecar points out their value to cities:

Shared Rides are awesome for cities too. It takes cars off the road, saves space by curbing the need for parking, cuts down on traffic, slows street wear and tear and reduces pollution.

Meanwhile, Lyft launched Lyft Line today. Lyft Line is a new option in San Francisco for sharing rides with multiple people.

lyftline When using Lyft Line, you indicate your start and end points, and then Lyft searches for matching drivers and passengers. Within minutes, Lyft confirms you line and shows the price of your trip. The price is fixed, even if a matching passenger is unavailable.

Lyft claims that routes never add more than a few minutes to your travel time and that sharing a Lyft Line can cost 60% less than a normal Lyft. When using Lyft line, you can have a party of two. Lyft also suggests that if you have lots of luggage, pets or are an unaccompanied minor that you use a traditional Lyft.

UberPool, Lyft Line and Shareable Sidecars all provide lower cost, on-demand ridesharing for trips where the travel time is less important than the cost. In the case of Uber, they explicitly state that they would like to lower the cost to the point where it doesn’t make sense to own a car. These services are perfect for commutes with slightly flexible arrival times, longer distance trips, and trips to social events where travel time does not need to be minimized. Its impressive that they all launched on the same day.

UberX lowers fares 20%

$5:  The new minimum fare on UberX

$5: The new minimum fare on UberX

UberX annouced today that it will lower fares by 20%:

The new fares are:

$3 Base

with a $5 minimum fare.

This compares favorably to San Francisco taxi rates:

$3.50 Base + first 1/5 of a mile
$0.55 per fifth of a mile ($2.75 mile)
$0.55/minute of waiting or traffic time delay
$2 airport surcharge

Uber claims that they are cheaper than taxis or any other ride sharing system in every city that UberX operates in. There are 24 cities with UberX service.

Moreover, they claim to be cheaper than the bus if you share the ride.

The reason for lowering rates is economies of scale:

The answer is in the network effects of our business. More cars and drivers mean better coverage and lower pickup times. Lower pickup times mean better economics for drivers, and thus more drivers and cars.

Uber getting cheaper means more people will use it for more types of trips, which may help futher decrease costs or improve service, as long as the supply of drivers keeps up with rider demand.

Uber launching a fleet of boats in San Francisco (one day only)

uber-boatCoinciding with the potential second BART strike on Monday, August 5, Uber is providing boat service between San Francisco and the East Bay. The service will be available one day only.

Boats leaving the East Bay will be available 7 AM to 9 AM, and boats leaving San Francisco will be available 5 PM to 7 PM. The cost is $30 and includes breakfast and uber swag.

Since some boats are faster than others, and wind is an issue for sailboats, the estimated travel time is 30-90 minutes.

Read more on the uber blog.

Lyft, sidecar and Uber get a Cease-and-Desist letter from Los Angeles DOT

cease-and-desistPeer-to-peer ridesharing services have already had many legal challenges as they disrupt existing transportation services and work within regulations that were not written with them in mind.

On June 26, Lyft, Sidecar and Uber received cease-and-desist letters from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). (full letters here, here, and here). They already went through a similar situation with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last year. After negotiating with the CPUC, an agreement was reached in January of this year allowing all three companies to operate in the State of California.

LADOT threatened in the cease-and-desist letter that it would arrest drivers and impound their cars for up to 30 days, although this has not happened yet. All three companies continue to operate in Los Angeles. Lyft is asking anyone who enjoys using their service in Los Angeles to contact key city officials to voice support.

In spite of any California setbacks, Lyft announced their San Diego launch on July 3rd. Lyft now operates in three California cities: San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles as well as Boston, New York and Chicago.

Uber experments with Helicopters: UberChopper is born

Last week, as part of a promotion about summer service between New York City and the Hamptons, Uber offered one-way helicopter rides between New York City heliports and the Hamptons. An SUV ride for up to five people to and from the helipads on both ends of the trip was included.


A one-way UberChopper ride for up to 5 people cost a flat $3000, while a ride in a vehicle to the Hamptons was only $300, $400 or $500 for uberX, uber and uberSUV respectively. The helicopter service was only offered for one day (July 3) while the regular uber service to the hamptons will be offered for the rest of the summer.

This is an interesting move for Uber – uberChopper is clearly catering to the uberWealthy while at the new lower uberX rates are catering to the budget-conscious as a cheaper alternative to taxis.

New San Francisco Law will Collect Realtime Location from all Taxis


San Francisco taxi origins and destinations, with magnitude blobs by Eric Fischer

The San Francisco board of supervisors will vote on a law that will require all taxis to transmit their locations to a central system. Additionally, all apps based on hailing cabs (UberTaxi, Taxi Magic, Flywheel) would be required to use the network.

This will have a few effects:

  • Create a great new source of data about cab demand and supply for SFMTA to use when deciding how to regulate cabs and potentially allow additional cabs.
  • Enlarge the pool of cabs hailable via apps
  • Remove app companies ability to regulate which drivers are allowed into their systems, potentially decreasing driver quality and passenger experience

SFist puts it best:

A good number of our cab drivers are unprofessional bigots and goons who don’t represent well for their ilk, smoking in their own cabs, refusing to take credit cards, being homophobic, and refusing to drive to the Sunset and elsewhere.

Uber Taxi charges an additional $1 on top of the cab cost and tip to use its service for hailing a cab. One benefit to using Uber Taxi is that it has vetted drivers and will remove drivers with low ratings from its service. If uber was required to use all San Francisco taxi drivers, no matter how bad thier rating was, there would be less incentive to use uber over other taxi hailing apps.

Uber expanding into peer-to-peer ride sharing in California

Screenshot_2013-02-14-01-02-12On the same day as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reached an agreement with peer-to-peer ridesharing service Lyft, it also signed an agreement with on-demand limo provider Uber to allow them operate ridesharing services while the CPUC’s rulemaking process for ridesharing is underway.

The New York Times reports that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that Uber will start to incorporate ridesharing into its app in California.

Including Uber, there will be four peer-to-peer ridesharing services in San Francisco: Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo being the other three.

Uber faces yet another fight in Denver

uber_logoUber gets to navigate arcane local, county and state laws and corrupt taxi monopolies in every city where it launches. Denver is no exception.

uberDenverLoveThe Colorado Public Utilities Commission has proposed regulations that will make transportaion services like Uber effectively illegal (or too costly to be viable).

  • Non-taxis can only be chartered by time, not distance (section 6301)
  • Non-taxis can not be located with 200 feet of a hotel, motel, restaurant airport, or bar, effectively excluding non-taxis from dense areas of cities (section 6309)
  • “partnering with local sedan companies will be prohibited” – not exactly sure how this is interpreted, but it sounds bad (section 6001 ff)

It will be interesting to see how this proceed. At this point, Uber has become fairly accepted in most other major US cities, after several other legal battles.

Uber lowers rates in SF, cost is now closer to a Taxi


Today Uber announced that it was lowering its rates in San Francisco by about 10%, effective Jan 21, 2013.  This brings the cost of using Uber in SF closer to the cost of a Taxi.

The minimum fare of $15 did not change, so very short trips will cost the same.  However, most trips will have a reduced price.  The old and new prices for regular Uber (black car) trips in SF:

Old rates New rates
Base Fare $8.00 $7.00
Per Minute $1.25 $1.05
Per Mile $4.90 $4.00
Minimum $15.00 $15.00
Gratituity included included

Uber also launched UBERx for everyone today (it was in private beta).  UBERx is a lower priced version of Uber that uses hybrid and mid-range cars, not necessarily black. UberX rates:

UBERx rates
Base Fare $5.75
Per Minute $0.85
Per Mile $3.75
Minimum $10.00
Gratituity included

For reference, San Francisco taxi rates:

SF Taxi Rates
Base Fare
(includes first 1/5 mile)
Per Minute of waiting or traffic delay $0.55
Per Mile $2.75
Airport Surcharge $2.00
Gratuity 15%

I crunched some numbers for a few theoretical trips:

Taxi UBERx New Regular Uber rates
Mission to SOMA
(2 miles, 3 mins of waiting)
$12.25 $15.80 $18.15
Inner Sunset to Marina
(4 miles, 7 mins of waiting)
$21.10 $26.70 $30.35
Golden Gate Bridge to Caltrain
(7 miles, 15 mins of waiting)
$35.65 $44.75 $50.75

UBERx costs 25-30% more than at taxi (including gratuity) while the new regular Uber rates are about 40-45% more than a taxi.  The main benefit of Uber over a taxi is reduced travel time and reduced variability in trip time. By booking a ride through the app, users know exactly how long until their driver arrives to pick them up and can monitor progress in the app.  Unlike with taxis, there is no chance they will abandon you and pick up someone else en route, so you can be certain about when they will arrive.  For many high value trips, the additional 25-45% cost over a taxi may be worthwhile.

There are other benefits of Uber over a taxi:

  • Nicer vehicles
  • Consistently friendly and knowledgeable drivers
  • No cash or payment needed at end of trip (payment is via app and happens automatically)  This speeds up travel time slightly as well.

It should be also noted that Uber launched a new option to request a standard SF taxi through their app.  The trip cost is standard taxi rates plus $1 and 20% gratuity.

Uber is worth trying out for your next high-value trip.  They currently have options in 26 cities and 7 countries, although not all vehicle options are available in all cities (San Francisco tends to get most of them earliest).

New York taxi commission approves UberTAXI

On Dec 13, 2012 the City of New York’s Taxi commission voted to allow electronic hailing of taxis.

UberTAXI launched in September 2012 but was shut down a few weeks later by taxi officials due to a rule that forbids prearranged rides in taxis in New York.  That rule is somewhat unique to New York, in other cities where cabs are rare most rides are prearranged (by calling a cab).  In New York, calling a cab to pick you up is illegal.  This makes it difficult to get cabs in less busy parts of new york.


The recent approval will allow a one-year pilot program to allow companies to prearrange cab rides.  This means that uberTAXI (already live in New York) and other companies like Flywheel can now operate in the largest taxi market in the US.

Uber operates in over 20 cities and 3 continents and uberTAXI is live in San Francisco.

Uber provides a great service, and adding taxis to their array of transportation options (black car, hybrid, SUV) is a great additional transportation choice.