Uber to expand carpool service leading up to Super Bowl to ease traffic

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Uber announced Wednesday it will help ease the pain of extra traffic by expanding its discount carpool service, UberPool, from now until the big game. (KGO-TV )

An announcement from Uber Wednesday could help ease the pain of extra traffic leading up to the Super Bowl.

The company is expanding its discount carpool service, UberPool, from now until the big game. The Super Bowl will mean traffic jams, crowded buses and surging Uber prices.

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"In a week like Super Bowl, we're going to experience really big demand because of all the people coming into the city," said Wayne Ting, Bay Area general manager.

Uber's in a unique position. They're the official transportation network of the Super Bowl.

"This is the first time any ride sharing company is partnering with the host committee of the Super Bowl," Ting said.

That means special Uber drop-off and pickup locations at Super Bowl City and Levi's Stadium. And now there's also a new partnership with Caltrain.

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"We're going to call it PoolTrain, where you can take UberPool to and from any Caltrain station," Ting said.

UberPool is the discount carpool option that's normally just in San Francisco, but for Super Bowl week, people outside the city can use it to share rides to and from Caltrain. It could cut fares in half.

"A fantastic first mile, last mile complement to public transportation," Ting added

While the concept of carpooling is simple, at Uber headquarters there's a whole team devoted to the incredibly complicated task of making it work well. It turns out they need more than just drivers and passengers, they need a lot of data.

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"We can say, hey, let's take all these requests that are happening and let's on demand search all of them to figure out, hey, who's going the same way, and who's going the same way best," said Brian Tolkin, UberPool senior product manager.

Uber has always said it's a tech company and indeed, it's turned carpooling into a math problem.

"They're saying, 'which am I more sensitive to? Am I more sensitive to price right now, or am I more sense to time right now?'" Tolkin said.

The goal is a slightly longer trip for a significantly lower fare and as the math gets better the routes get more complicated.

"We pick up the first passenger. We pick up the second passenger, we drop off the first passenger, and then we actually pick up the third passenger before dropping off the second," Tolkin said.

That's one step toward what Uber calls the perpetual trip, carpools chained together so there's always at least one person in the car, meaning the driver's always getting paid. For the team behind that math, the Super Bowl means one thing, more data.

"It's absolutely a great experimentation platform and we're super excited to sort of have this win, win, win," Tolkin added.

Click here for full coverage of Super Bowl 50, and click here to download the ABC7/Waze app to help navigate around the Super Bowl City construction.
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