02259: UberPool Nights

This month Uber has been running a LOT of promotions related to their UberPool service, which allows you to save a little money on fare by being open to other riders joining you in your car. The system does its best to match you with other riders going your way and it's possible to have multiple pick-ups and drop-offs over the course of a trip as you make your way home. Admittedly I don't use the service all that consistently, but I do try to take advantage of it when I can.

UberPool definitely isn't great if you're in a hurry since you're bound to take side-trips and detours for other passengers on your way to your destination. In Metro Manila, any detour can be pretty crazy and can add a ridiculous amount of time to a trip. And that's more because of Metro Manila traffic and not to do with the quality of the service. Thus it seems easier to risk taking UberPool when going home or when you have an extra hour of time to budget on top of your normal travel time.

It's obvious that all the UberPool promos are partly to condition people to use the service and also to act as a major lobbying action with the government. With the legal status of Uber repeatedly under fire and more traditional transport groups all lining up for filing petition after petition against them, they clearly need to get the government on their side. And what better way to do that than run an experiment using your customers to demonstrate how many trips can be "saved" with carpooling.

It's not a bad strategy and I do believe in solutions like carpooling helping to somehow right-size the number of cars on the road. A long-term strategy for addressing traffic would most likely require us to move away from the notion that owning a car is a good thing. It will take a while to get away from that notion plus the fact that using UberPool isn't all that cheap once you take away all the promotions. Only time will tell.