Uber Pool Is Back, Baby
The ride sharing option, now called UberX Share, may now be available in a city near you
On Tuesday morning, Uber announced that shared rides would once again be available in select cities across the U.S. — New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Portland, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh among them — under a new name: UberX Share.
“At Uber, we know affordability is important to making transportation more accessible for more people — especially in the current economic climate,” a company release said. “Offering more affordable products isn’t just good for customers, it helps build out an ecosystem of affordable, multi-modal transportation — from shared rides, to micromobility, to public transit, which continues to be a powerful ally to Uber. Together we can chip away at our ultimate shared competitor: personal car ownership.”
The new service offers users the opportunity to save up to 20% off the total fare if matched with a co-rider along the way, an arrival time of no more than eight minutes later than an UberX ride and a more sustainable ride sharing option. And I, for one, am thrilled.
For the uninitiated, the original UberPOOL (which was done away with in 2020) launched back in August 2014, with the goal of making rides more affordable, and presumably to service more riders in the absence of more drivers, by allowing users headed in the same direction to share a car. The end result was something weird, inconvenient and oddly wonderful.
In August 2014, I was a (relatively) new college grad, fresh off an unpaid internship and living in New York. In other words: I was always trying to save a quick buck, so UberPOOL became my default. Now, in the best case scenario, you’d order an UberPOOL and there would be no other passengers along the way. But, more often than not, you were likely to find yourself crammed in the backseat of a car with a minimum of two strangers and traveling a half hour out of your way, despite only ever being 10 minutes from your destination to begin with. It was the latter scenario that also made UberPOOLs breeding grounds for spontaneous karaoke sessions, networking opportunities and even hookups.
“You can’t convince me that Uber pool wasn’t a collective fever dream,” user @hqellingson recalled in a TikTok last December. “I really would sit in the third row of a suburban in downtown DC on to of someone’s grandma, a politician, and a stripper for 30 min of the sweatiest, smelliest, most illogically routed journey home just to save 6$.”
In what is arguably the most perfectly crafted response of all time, a second user wrote in a (since deleted) comment: “[M]y last time using pool, everyone in the car got hungry for shrimp and they really wanted the driver to pull over 4 shrimp and started chanting SHRIMP.”
It was all so quintessentially New York — and symbolic of city living writ large — that even now, almost a decade later, it makes me feel eerily nostalgic to think about. One time I got into an UberPOOL in tears (for reasons I cannot recall) and the other passenger, a woman around my age, asked if I wanted to talk about it. Weird? Maybe. Wholesome? Undisputedly, yes.
Of course, all the feels aside, the pandemic has altered the ride sharing landscape — possibly irrevocably. That said, it’d be difficult to argue that a chance to save on carbon emissions and up to 20% off of Uber fares isn’t a positive development, particularly given the current climate. So, on that note, may we all have the opportunity to share shrimp with a stranger this summer.
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