Uber, Lyft Get a Carpool Competitor in D.C.


[quote_right][feature_box title=”TDM TAKEAWAY” title_color=”fff” header_color=”369″]Options that combine ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and tech-enabled ridesharing could serve consumers who desire sustainability and more affordability.[/feature_box][/quote_right]

Boston-based Bridj recently launched limited service between Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. to help fill a niche not being targeted by buses.

Another company, Split, launched just a couple days ago and is similar to Uber and Lyft in that you order a car to your location to taxi you to your destination.

The difference? Split will pick up additional passengers on similar routes to ride along with you. The “carpooling” system helps reduce the costs to passengers and also the number of cars on the road.

Also unlike Uber and Lyft, the app will ask you to walk a short distance (only or block or so) to ensure the car picking you up can continue on its current route in the most efficient way possible. And, most importantly, there is no surge pricing. In fact, the company’s website touts that all rides are always $2 to $8.

split_app1One morning this week, instead of doing my usual one-mile walk to the Metro, I caught a Split. (It’s currently only operating in a portion of D.C. bordered roughly by Georgetown, H Street Northeast, the U Street corridor, and the National Mall.)

One feature of Split people may really enjoy: you know the cost of your ride before you ever make a request. You enter your origin and destination and the cost quoted on the app is what you will pay. There are no changes based on mileage or time. That’s a handy feature when worrying how quickly your fare will increase or whether or not your driver is taking the shortest route.

My quote from 700 M Street NW to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station was only $3.82, with the possibility that other passengers could be picked up along the way. A similar route estimate at the same time from Uber, with no surge pricing, ran roughly $6 to $8.

split_app2Since I commute to Rosslyn, I chose to catch a Split from my house over to the Foggy Bottom Metro and finish up underground. I ordered a car and was instructed, at 7:46 a.m., to walk about half a block for my pickup at 7:50.

My driver picked me up and I hopped in. The ride was very similar to an Uber or Lyft.

Since Split is still new, I did not encounter any extra passengers along the route. But once the app starts to generate more usage, will I still get to my destination in a timely manner? My driver explained that only passengers along my route will be allowable for the driver to pick up. Generally, the app will ask the new passenger to walk a short distance to maximize efficiency.

And it’s not an issue if the person doesn’t show up. The driver told me that maintaining the speed and convenience of Split meant that drivers would only wait a maximum of 30 seconds before hitting the “no show” button and moving on. So, do not try brushing your teeth after you order your Split. You will likely miss your ride.

split_app3I was also curious what would happen if my girlfriend, who lives near me, and I want to catch a Split together. Thankfully, there is an option at the top right of the app to increase the passenger count, which also increases the cost of the ride. My $3.82 fare would have been $5.73 instead. Not bad. Rather than doubling the cost, Split only charges 50 percent extra for an additional passenger, which is still cheaper than the prices I was quoted by Uber.

My only complaint with the system at the moment is the address search looks to be missing a lot of restaurants and key landmarks that most other apps include. For example, I was unable to find the Foggy Bottom Metro in the address lookup. I ended up moving the pin to where the station is located, which is not that handy.

Overall, Split seems to be a very affordable transportation option in D.C. It is very similar to Lyft and Uber, with the promise of reduced prices in exchange for the possibility of having another rider hop into the car with you.

Some will continue to prefer a private car to reach their destination, but Split looks promising for those who want to save a few dollars.

This article was originally published by Arlington Transportation Partners.

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