Uber Pool: Why Drivers And Passengers Don't Like It

I'm Lexus Jones. I have a regular full-time job but on the weekends and occasional weeknights I drive for Uber. Over the last couple of years I have driven over 2,000 trips for Uber. At first I drove on the UberX platform. Now I drive a luxury car on the Uber Plus platform. Whenever I think that I have seen it all, something new happens. I will be sharing those stories here. I will also answer questions and give advice on how to get the most out of your rides.

Here's a little known fact about Uber Pool: drivers who know anything about it hate it.

Why? Because we have to pick up two, sometimes three, passengers and drop them all off for the price of one. Here's how Uber explains it themselves:

...it's not like picking up two overlapping uberX fares. There won't be a time where you'll be paid for 2x uberX fares when there's two riders in your car on an uberPOOL trip.

Each trip will look like:

Rider 1 (when riding solo, driver is getting uberX fare & 100% is from Rider 1)

Rider 1 & Rider 2 (when riding together, driver is getting uberX fare, 50% from Rider 1, 50% from Rider 2)

Rider 2 (when riding solo, driver is getting uberX fare & 100% is from Rider 2)

Do you enjoy doing double the work for no added financial gain?

Uber loves it because they make their normal commission on the rides. They also get to charge pool passengers an extra $0.50 if you bring along a friend, and they make double the "Safety Fee." But most importantly, it's two more rides that aren't going to their competition.

But here's the funny thing: passengers don't seem to love it, and that might be Uber's fault. Uber Pool only gives the passenger a discount if a second passenger is picked up. As explained above, the only time you're getting a half-priced Uber ride is when you're in the car with a stranger (other than the driver).

However, I can't tell you how many times I've been driving an Uber Pool and the beep goes off alerting me we need to pick up a second passenger and the first passenger sighs or says, "Ugh, can you ignore that?"

I want to say, "Why did you pick Uber Pool if you don't want the benefit of Uber Pool?"

And that's when I realize it is Uber's fault. It's confusing. When Uber Pool started in February, it was relatively simple. In Los Angeles, they split the city up at La Cienega Boulevard and said if you use Pool and you stay on one side of La Cienega it would be $5 whether you got matched with another passenger or not. If you crossed La Cienega it was $15. It didn't matter if it was surging or not, it would be either $5 or $15. And drivers were paid as if there was no such thing as Pool.

Obviously Uber lost a little money on the deal, but they were valued at several tens of billions of dollars, so who cares, right? Now, as a result, less than a year later, we have an entirely different model that is nothing like what it was when it was introduced.

And what's worse is the people in the Pool don't want to be in it. They rarely talk to each other and any conversation the original passenger had with the driver ends the minute the second passenger arrives.

So the question for passengers is: is it worth it?

Uber Pool is worth it if you are going a relatively long distance (say if you're in L.A. going from downtown to Venice or North Hollywood to Culver City) and you luck out and get a second passenger early in the ride who stays with you for most of your trip. In that scenario you will get your ride for about half price, which is amazing because even without Pool, Uber is so much cheaper than a cab.

As for the riders, you guys in the Pool should talk to each other. Two silent people on their phones texting their friends, trying to ignore each other makes for an awkward, weird, not-fun ride. Was it really worth the $7 of savings to be miserable for 20 minutes?

Back to the drivers: because experienced drivers know that Uber Pool is a ripoff, hassle, and waste of time, they hardly ever do it. Therefore the drivers who accept Pool are new, inexperienced and probably not the ones you want. So if it is a short(er) ride or you are going somewhere where you cannot dilly dally, you might want to just avoid Uber Pool entirely and take Uber X.

Lexus will answer your questions. So leave them in the comments below or e-mail us at tips@laist.com. Follow Lexus on Twitter at @uberlexus

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