News & Politics

What You Need to Know About UberPool

What to expect from the shared-ride service's first weekend in DC.

Photograph via iStock.

If UberX is Uber’s discount brand, then UberPool is its option for severe bargain-hunters.

UberPool launched in DC yesterday, and it looks a lot like UberX (drivers use their own personal vehicles). But instead of one lonely passenger (or group of passengers) with one destination and pickup point, UberPool is designed to save riders money by pooling them with strangers headed in the same direction.

DC is the eighth city to get the service. It’s already operating in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Austin, Texas, along with Paris and Bangalore, India. Here’s what you need to know before you hop in.

How It Works

UberPool uses your pickup and drop-off points to coordinate your ride with another rider traveling a similar route. One of you will be on the way to the other’s drop-off point, and ideally those drop-off points aren’t too far away from one another. You will split the fare.

Where You Can Go

UberPool rides can only originate in a smaller coverage area than Uber’s regular zone, though it includes the entirety of the District and most of the closer-in suburbs. It also encompasses Dulles International Airport, meaning you can pool your ride from the airport, even though it means passing through an UberPool dead zone.

What Can Go Wrong

Uber put out an etiquette guide for UberPool users when it launched in New York, but it sort of highlights all the things that can go awry during your ride. Among them: bad breath wafting to your corner of the backseat; a chatty co-passenger when you’re not in the mood (or, equally horrifying, one who’s talking loudly into a cellphone); a fellow passenger who makes you wait when the car arrives; an overzealous window-opener seeking “fresh air” in frigid weather; and—perhaps the worst-case scenario—a sweaty or smelly rider headed home from the gym.

There’s also UberPool’s recent emergence as an informal dating app. “We think people will be excited to save money and meet new people,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett told Washingtonian last week.

But these are the risks you take to save a few pennies.

What It Costs

UberPool rides a minimum of $5, including a $1.35 safe-ride fee, which the company says pays for background checks on drivers and other overhead costs. Rates are quoted in the app before you ride, so there should be few surprises. While Uber has declined to provide per-mile and -minute pricing, Bennett said fares will only be split when there are multiple riders in a car, but that the base fares for individual riders will be lower than a typical UberX rate.