Uber and Lyft are suspending their respective carpooling services in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Uber is suspending Uber Pool in the US and Canada, following an expansion of its paid sick leave policy for drivers. Lyft, meanwhile, is suspending Lyft its carpooling service Shared Rides in “all markets.”
UberPool, the service that matches up to three riders in one car based on their destinations, is one of the cheapest transportation options on the company’s platform. The decision to suspend the service will likely come as welcome news to drivers who often complain about low ratings, an inefficient algorithm, and roundabout directions that tend to annoy riders despite the low fare.
Uber is still mulling pausing carpooling in other markets where it is active
“Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve. With that in mind, we are suspending the Uber Pool service in the United States and Canada,” Andrew Macdonald, senior VP of Uber Rides and Platform, said in a statement. “We remain in close contact with local leaders and will continue to work with them to discourage non-essential travel.”
Uber is still mulling whether to pause carpooling in other markets where it is active. Uber’s regular service, which includes Uber X and Uber Black as well as Uber Eats delivery service, is still operational during the pandemic. San Francisco’s “shelter in place” policy bans most nonessential transportation, but the city is allowing some ride-hailing to serve health care workers and emergency service providers.
Previously, Uber said it would consider suspending the accounts of riders and drivers who have been infected or come in contact with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This follows the company’s recent decision to suspend — and then reinstate — hundreds of accounts in Mexico to prevent the spread of the virus.
Driver groups have been pressuring Uber to suspend pooled rides in response to the “social distancing” advice given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “At a time when health authorities are urging social distancing, app companies should not be packing five strangers in a van,” said Uber and Lyft driver and Independent Drivers Guild organizer Tina Raveneau in a statement on Monday. “For everyone’s health and safety, pool rides have to go.”
Later on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was signing an executive order banning on all carpool trips, restricting all ride-hail trips to one customer per ride. Couples and family members may ride together, but only “real couples,” de Blasio said.
Update March 17th, 12:46PM ET: Added information about Lyft suspending Lyft Line in all markets.
Update March 17th, 3:58PM ET: Added information about NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio banning pooled trips.