UberPOOL launched in Toronto last week. It was tested in Toronto last summer and it’s been available in other cities for awhile, but now it’s officially here.
If you’re not yet familiar with UberPOOL, it basically allows you to share your ride with other people who are headed in the same direction. I’ve heard some people on Twitter complain about route inefficiencies, but I’ve had only positive experiences with it so far.
The disadvantage of this system is that it’s a bit slower. You’re stopping to pick up other people on the way. But the advantages of this system are twofold. First, it’s cheaper, which means it’s already starting to eat into my transit usage. And second, you get to meet new people everywhere you go.
This second piece is really interesting to me, because I place a lot of emphasis on getting to know as many people as I can. That’s one of the reasons I blog every day and one of the reasons I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I get exposed to people that I might otherwise not meet. And I believe there’s huge value in that. I want to sit down and have a coffee with everyone. (Time doesn’t always allow that to happen.)
Because since the beginning of cities, personal connections is one of the things that has made urban life so valuable. Here’s an excerpt from a CityLab article published back in 2013:
“If you look at the interaction patterns of cities,” Pan says, “You will see that they grow super-linearly with population with the same growth rate as productivity, as innovation, as crime, as HIV, as STDs.”
All of those facets of urban life have appeared until now to share a somewhat mysterious mathematical relationship. But this research suggests that this particular super-linear growth rate is directly tied to how dense cities enable us to connect to each other. As cities grow, our connections to each other grow by an exponential factor. And those connections are the root of productivity.
“What really happens when you move to a big city is you get to know a lot of different people, although they are not necessarily your ‘friends,’” Pan says. “These are the people who bring different ideas, bring different opportunities, and meetings with other great people that may help you.”
Clearly there can also be some negative externalities associated with urban life – such as crime and disease. But it’s also clear that for a many people, the benefits far outweigh the potential negatives. Big cities tend to make us more productive. And as we’ve discussed here before, they can also bring us happiness in ways not associated with economic success.
If you’ve used UberPOOL before, I would be curious to hear about your experiences in the comment section below.