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Uberpooling your way to cheap rides

This morning on my way into the office I ran into a friend who lives in my building (downtown). She works in midtown and so I asked her how she gets into the office. She told me that she either takes the subway or an Uber, but that increasingly she has been taking Uber, particularly on the way home.

We then started talking costs and she told me that what she does is carpool with a friend from work using UberPOOL. They live nearby and so what they do is leave from the same place at night (the office) and then select a midpoint location between their homes for the drop-off. After splitting their portion of the fare, the ride costs her about $3.25.

As she was telling me this, I couldn’t help but think to myself: Wow, this is massively disruptive to transit. That is the same cost as taking the subway. So why take transit? With the subway, there may be a speed argument in certain instances, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case with some of Toronto’s streetcar lines (such as the King line). It’s faster to walk.

However, there are obviously geographic limits to how far you can go in an UberPOOL before your costs greatly exceed taking transit. But as Uber and other similar services continue to bring down the price of a ride (eventually the labor cost component will disappear), how big does that area get?

All of this – including my own mobility patterns – has got me thinking yet again about the role of transit in the city of tomorrow. 

One segment that continues to be underserved is the regional scale. Here in the Greater Toronto Area, we are working on that by transforming our commuter rail service into a two-way all-day Regional Express Rail service. Today that strikes me as being hugely valuable. And unless driverless vehicles somehow solve our traffic problem, it will likely remain that way.

I would love to get your thoughts in the comments below.

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