After announcing that it has lowered base fares in over 100 US and Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Quebec City, Hamilton, London and Kitchener-Waterloo, Uber says it will bring UberPool, its carpooling service, to Toronto beginning this Wednesday.
After a two-week pilot program during the Pan-Am Games last summer, the service will launch permanently on Wednesday, January 13th at 2PM ET in Canada’s largest city.
The service is already running in 16 other cities around the world after starting in San Francisco in late 2014, where it now comprises over 50 percent of the Uber rides in the core. While Uber touts the environmental advantages of sharing cars — “In one month alone, the service saved 120 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions when compared with non-pooled trips, the equivalent to saving over 51,000 litres of unleaded fuel,” says a press release — most Torontonians will be drawn in by the 30 percent cost savings compared to a regular UberX ride.
UberPool uses the company’s existing network of drivers to pair passengers going in roughly the same direction. Users will be able to choose the pickup point and drop-off location as they would a regular UberX ride, but Pool customers will either already have another one or two passengers in the car, or pick them up, on their way to a destination within the city. The service has stricter cartographical boundaries right now than the regular UberX service, but it still encompasses much of the Toronto area: “Between Jane Street and Victoria Park Avenue up to the 401, including the Yonge corridor north of the 401 to Finch Avenue between Bathurst Street and Bayview Avenue,” according to the company.
Bringing a friend adds $1 to the overall trip tally, but Uber passengers can still split the cost of a fare as they would during a regular UberX ride.
Ian Black, General Manager of Uber Canada, notes that, like in other cities, UberPool will cut down on the number of cars on the road, reducing emissions and congestion. “Over time, this should help reduce congestion on Toronto roads,” he says, pointing out success stories in other major urban areas like Los Angeles and New York City. There is also a benefit to Uber drivers, who reportedly spend less time between fares when running UberPool rides.
Last week, when Uber announced it was lowering prices for base UberX fares in over 100 cities, it was criticized for glossing over the potential revenue loss for its hundreds of thousands of drivers. The company notes in a blog post that lowering fares in some cities spurs more ridership, which in turn earns drivers more money; in cities where this doesn’t happen, Uber promises to reverse the price cuts.
UberPool promises to keep drivers busy, but as more Torontonians adapt to true ride sharing, it’s unclear whether those ferrying them will take an income hit.