Ride-hailing giant Uber will expand the coverage area of its ride-splitting service, UberPOOL, and create incentives to put more drivers on the roads ahead of SafeTrack, Metro’s massive maintenance overhaul that is expected to disrupt commutes across the region.
But surge pricing, the scourge of many late-night and rush-hour users, will remain in place.
Uber expanded its pool service coverage area this week to include the entire region — D.C., Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and additional Virginia suburbs — in hopes of encouraging carpooling during the overhaul. Previously, the pool service only covered the District and Arlington, Alexandria, and Reagan National and Dulles International airports.
The move to expand pool coverage is similar to Uber’s response to the March 16 Metro shutdown, when the company saw a record number of drivers on the road and record usage of its ride-splitting option.
But unlike the shutdown, when surge-pricing was capped at 3.9 times the normal fare, Uber says it currently has no plans to impose a limit on the price multiplier during the year-long overhaul.
“We find that surge pricing is a really helpful tool in ensuring reliability,” Uber East Coast general manager Meghan Joyce told reporters outside the company’s D.C. headquarters Wednesday. “It means that those times when many of us would rather be at home in bed like a rainy Saturday night at 2 a.m., the drivers have incentive to get out on a road when they need it and the riders can get a ride when they need it as well.”
That lack of a surge cap is significant because many expect Uber to fill the void for bar patrons and nightlife crowds with the end of late-night Metro service. When demand spikes and the supply of drivers is limited, the company cranks up fares in hopes of encouraging more to hit the roads.
Some have wondered if Uber has enough drivers to meet the increased demand. The company says it will invest $10 million to incentivize driving and ease congestion — including location-based bonuses for drivers targeting surge areas and discounts for riders in areas affected by shutdowns and single-tracking.
Uber will also launch a website aimed at making information available to commuters: outage timelines, rider tips and sign-up details. Its year-long initiative is called “Pooling Together.”
The company did not rule out the possibility of introducing surge caps for individual line segment shutdowns. The plan is for Uber to assess the demand created by each maintenance surge and provide options for each, Joyce said.
“It’s something that we’re gonna be watching and monitoring,” Joyce said. “And so it’s our intention …. to watch and respond and be nimble enough to create custom solutions as people need them.”