Carpooling, apparently, is the latest hot thing for app-based ride services.
Lyft is launching its version of carpooling next Thursday, just weeks after Uber introduced uberPool to Washingtonians. And even before the two top on-demand car companies announced their carpooling services, a smaller transportation company, Split, offered shared rides.
“Obviously the idea of carpooling has been around for a long time, but companies have seen the opportunity to integrate it into their offerings,” said Steve Taylor, the new general manager for Lyft operations in the Washington area.
And, they are using technology to enable the idea.
Washington, with its large number of millennials, high population density, and growing frustration with public transportation, is ripe for such services, experts and transportation officials say. For the companies that first introduced the concept of riding in a stranger’s car, it’s an opportunity to grow their reach even more while also providing a solution for commuters.
Lyft Line, slated to launch Nov. 19, is in many ways like uberPool. It allows passengers to share rides with other passengers headed in the same direction. Here’s how it works: You book a ride. The driver picks you up and the car is matched with another person going in the same direction. That passenger is picked up along the way; the fare is then split between the two passengers.
Split is a bit different. The company touts itself as more community-driven than its competitors, working in neighborhoods where it designates convenient pick-up/drop-off locations.
But is the concept something Washingtonians will embrace as they did uberX and classic Lyft? Split, which has been around since the spring, has had success. A company spokeswoman said recently that rides with the service have doubled month after month. When Split launched in the District, it focused in the city’s central core, but it recently expanded to other neighborhoods including H Street, Petworth, and Mount Pleasant, and soon will cover Glover Park and Catholic University.
Lyft and Uber, which tout their pool services as much cheaper than their lowest priced-car services, have also had success elsewhere. Both companies say their carpool services carry about 50 percent of their trips in San Francisco.
So Washingtonians aren’t afraid to share their ride with a total stranger? In a way, it’s a practice not so foreign to many who do what’s been known as “Slugging” of “instant carpooling.” This type of commuting allows drivers heading into the city to pick up additional riders, or “slugs” at a known set location, and travel to the city via the HOV lanes. Believe it or not this organized hitchhiking system is very popular in the district.
Still, conceptually the idea may feel a little unnerving, but some industry officials say that is likely to change. Just as it has become a norm to get a ride from a strangers on their personal vehicle when using Lyft and UberX, sharing the back seat with an unknown person is also envisioned as part of the commute culture.
“I think those barriers have now fallen and people are extremely comfortable with the idea of sharing rides not just with drivers but also with other passengers,” said Taylor. “Part of the beauty behind ridesharing is that you get to share part of the day with a stranger.”
So you get a ride and new buddy. How about that?