Ridesharing started off with the concept of actually driving shared vehicles. The initial idea was that you, the owner of a vehicle in good standing, could essentially lend your vehicle out through a transportation network company (TNC) and have its use shared through the TNC’s services. Companies like Uber and Sidecar pioneered the accessibility of peer-to-peer car rides via the bubbling sharing economy. The more that people were able to share vehicles, the fewer vehicles would be on the road. Fewer vehicles means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less congestion on the extremely dense metropolitan DC roads. Furthermore, those who take advantage of carsharing and ridesourcing opportunities find themselves spending considerably less on travel and end up using more public transportation.
In this day and age of awareness and conscientiousness about environmental impact, consumers in the sharing economy rely on bikesharing, carsharing and ridesharing via apps to get around. One of the ridesharing trends to surface within the last few years is carpooling via TNCs. Although carpooling itself is not new, the idea of using rideshare services as a means for a carpool commute is recent. Now, if you drive for rideshare companies in DC and in markets all across the country, you’ll have the opportunity to be a part of this new transportation development.
Let’s examine the different avenues available for rideshare carpooling in Washington DC to figure out both the benefits and disadvantages:
As Uber’s premier carpooling service, uberPOOL came onto the scene in DC shortly after its San Francisco launch in late 2014. Potential passengers select uberPOOL on the Uber app. You, the driver, then end up picking up multiple passengers for similarly-distanced destinations. A maximum of two passengers can be picked up from the same location at once, but you can pick up as many passengers as can comfortably sit in your vehicle.
Pros: Drivers using uberPOOL spend considerably less dead time between rides. That means that you spend as much time as possible on the road actually driving folks from one place to the next, rather than waiting for the next ping. In essence, you’re getting paid for transporting a rider to their destination while you’re driving to the next pickup location. That’s payment for travel to and from passengers!
Cons: uberPOOL works with some glaring flaws.
For one, refusing to pick up passengers who selected uberPOOL could result in your app being locked out for 4-15 minutes. Since the coverage area for uberPOOL in DC extends from the District through to the airports, it’s extremely difficult to avoid being hailed for one of these shared rides. Not only does the mandatory pause halt driver momentum, but it is essentially a slap on the wrist for opting out of a service that you didn’t necessarily sign up for.
In addition, rideshare drivers who participate in uberPOOL generate fewer profits from the carpooling rides. The wages are significantly lower for rideshare carpooling in comparison to regular rides. Drivers also end up spending more time stopping to pick up new passengers, which ultimately reduces the time they spend on the road actually earning money.
As is common practice between Uber and Lyft, Lyft provided Lyft Line services as direct competition to uberPOOL. The services provided from drivers through Lyft Line are similar to uberPOOL. Drivers are still allowed to pick up only two passengers at one location to ensure that there is enough space in the vehicle. A notable difference is in the ride request system for passengers, but that would rarely affect the driver. Although Lyft has a smaller pool of users than Uber at the moment, their share of rideshare passengers is steadily increasing.
Pros: Since Lyft is trying to grow their user base to be competitive with Uber, the company works to subsidize the rides for passengers and increase the pay for drivers. The base charge to passengers is less, but drivers make a few cents more per mile and in base fees with Lyft Line.
Cons: The smaller user base is certainly a negative point when comparing Lyft Line to the nearly-identical Uber service. Drivers are much less likely to get that second passenger than they would be with uberPOOL. Outside of the current market, Lyft’s trajectory as a company has it expanding considerably in the near future in response to Uber’s recent public favor. If you don’t mind the fewer passengers to start, sticking with Lyft could prove beneficial in the long haul.
Similarly to both uberPOOL and Lyft Line, this New York-based ride-sharing app has been taking hold of some of the market share for commute drivers in DC. Via essentially makes you, the driver, work as a small public transit car, moving along popular commuter lines like the Red Line. It only operates from 6am-10am and from 4pm-8pm, but commuters are now provided with a safe, comfortable and affordable alternative to the Metro within district limits.
Pros: You get guaranteed rates when you drive for Via. The payout for Via during rush hour is considerably higher than with most other rideshare apps. Since the folks who use the app are professionals and business people on their commutes, the customer interactions are easier and generally happier. The commission is also lower than that of both Uber and Lyft, meaning you keep a lot more of the money you earn while driving.
Cons: You still don’t have the sheer number of users that Uber does. Other than that, you do not have the flexibility to drive whenever you’d like as you would with other rideshare services.
Have any opinions on uberPOOL, Lyft Line or Via? Let us know with a comment!