UberPool has been live in Sydney for awhile now, and it launched in Melbourne back in June. But I hadn't actually tried it until recently. This is mostly because of surge pricing and some not-great experiences in the past, so I was disillusioned with the company.
Also, I'm a weird loner whose anxiety flares up at the prospect of making potential small talk with presumably normal people.
But then I saw how cheap it was and decided to take a punt...
If you're unfamiliar with UberPool, the explanation can be found in the name. It's a ridesharing service within the Uber network that allows you to share your ride with people going in the same direction as you.
Here's how it works, according to Uber itself:
- Enter your destination and request UberPool. Then, wait a few minutes upfront while your trip is matched with other riders to find an efficient journey.
- With UberPool, you may walk a short distance to a pickup spot near you - simply follow the in-app walking directions. This helps keep detours to a minimum and makes pickups faster.
- UberPool matches you with other riders heading in a similar direction to you.
Perhaps I've been incredibly lucky so far, but I'm yet to have a negative experience with the service. Of course, I'm not so naive to assume that its the same for everyone, or that I won't cop a shitty ride sharer or driver at some point. I've had bad Uber drivers myself in the past, and some women have suffered much worse. But so far, my experience with UberPool has been genuinely good.
Let's start with the cost.
Uber have stated that UberPool users in Australia should expect to save up to 50 per cent on their trips compared to UberX. I've had even greater savings than that. On a recent trip between my house and an inner city suburb I paid $9.82 on a fare would usually be around the $30 mark. In fact, most of my UberPool trips have been around $10, with only one pushing $15.
I've also had a good run with the pickup spots, which I originally thought would be the biggest pain point for me. It was actually the main reason that I held off on using the service for so long.
I assumed that designated meeting areas would mean multi-block walks permeated by the stress of having to get there before the driver. But I've never had to walk far to my designated pickup spots — the farthest has been a single block.
Interestingly, the pick point system differs to the way UberPool works in the U.S. where the driver meets you wherever you are — like with UberX. But that method has apparently caused issues in regards to extra time wasted on detours.
"With the traditional version of POOL, there's quite a lot of frustration around having to go around the block a few times to pick someone up, maybe having to backtrack, when you've already got a customer in the car who wants the most direct route to their destination," Uber's general manager for Australia and New Zealand Henry Greenacre told Mashable.
"So what we've found is introducing a little bit of walking, waiting a little bit, we can create an experience which is much more direct for customers."
The system isn't perfect, of course. You're relying on human beings, after all. But the issues I have experienced have only been mild inconveniences. In one instance a fellow passenger accidentally put in the wrong drop off address, and in another someone didn't show up. But neither experience impacted my ride by more than a few minutes.
The only real time-drain I have experienced so far is when you first order the service — a timer counts down for 1-2 minutes as it connects you with an appropriate driver. And while this isn't a huge amount of time when it comes to life in general, its definitely a longer wait than when you order an UberX.
And this is perhaps worth keeping in mind when consider UberPool — it's great if you're not in a hurry. While I've had positive experiences, there is a danger that another ride may significantly impact on your arrival time. So if you are running short on time, it may not be worth taking the risk or stress.
But if your arrival time isn't urgent, these small sacrifices may be worth the price tag — which has consistently been around 1/3 of the cost of UberX for me.
As an added bonus, half of my trips have resulted in no other passengers being picked up. This means that I received almost exactly the same experience as being in an UberX but for much cheaper.
This generally happened when I was leaving a Sydney suburb outside of the CBD and heading out of city during the day. In other words - less popular routes and times.
As a last point — I was particularly grateful for this kind transport option on a recent Saturday evening. I needed to get from Annandale to my Undisclosed Outer Sydney Suburb after midnight when public transport options were scarce, and certainly not nearby.
With UberPool I was able to get home safely for less than $10. All I had to do was sit in a car for 25 minutes with a couple who kept to themselves. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
While Uber has a long way to go when it comes to the plethora of issues that have been reported in recent years, I hope that UberPool in Australia ultimately becomes a positive step that helps lead the company in the right direction.