Tag 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.

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.

A Post-medallion World

SF_medallionThe priceonomics blog has a great post on traditional taxis (medallion-based systems) vs new ridesharing startups (technology-based systems like Sidecar, Lyft, Uber and Instantcab). Its a great read about the current state of ridesharing in cities and the history and economics of the taxi medallion system.

The article talks about why medallions are outdated:

When this medallion system was introduced in New York City in 1937, there were 11,787 issued. That number remained constant unti 2004. Today there are 13,150.

The economics of being a taxi driver:

UCLA professors Gary Blasi and Jacqueline Leavitt found that taxi drivers work on average 72 hours a week for a median take home wage of $8.39 per hour.

The transformation from medallions to free market:

According to publicly available statements from ride-sharing companies, there is strong evidence that there are already more community drivers on the road than regular taxis in San Francisco. In San Francisco, the transformation from a medallion constrained taxi system to a free market is nearly complete. These ride-sharing companies are all rapidly expanding across the country.

The government’s reaction:

“These medallions are public assets. The value belongs to the people of San Francisco for the benefit of the transportation system.”
– Ed Reiskin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director

“I really hope we keep the medallion system and get rid of ride-sharing apps.”
– No one who uses San Francisco Municipal Transportation, ever

Read more on priceonomics »

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).