The Secret to a Cheap Commute in Silicon Valley
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
It’s a good thing to have better control of your ride.
By Zara Stone
Any denizen of San Francisco knows that it’s annoying as hell to get to the Valley. Sure, if you’re a tech bro you get a sweet door-to-door shuttle, but everyone else has to deal with Caltrain or a traffic heavy commute — that is, if you’re one of the few people who own a car in SF. Otherwise, a one-way Uber trip can cost anything from $40 to $80, and that’s using Uber Pool (where you share the car with someone).
Which is why I’m so in love with Scoop, a carpooling app that saves you money and makes you a little bit greener too. The concept: Many people travel in the same direction, so why not take a space in their car? You get a door-to-door trip for half the cost, and they get their gas paid for.
The app charged me $9 for a trip that would have cost at least $20 using public transport.
Scoop isn’t the first company to attempt carpool apps — previous attempts include Waze’s carpool option, Carzac, and Lyft’s Carpool, now shuttered. But none have really taken off thanks to buggy interfaces or unreliable routes. Scoop’s interface is slick and easy to navigate. And you find out the night before if your ride request has been accepted, giving you time to make other arrangements if needed. For matches that can’t find a return ride home, riders are offered a $50 “get home” payment for peace of mind.
My first ride was hosted by an analyst from a biotech startup who commutes from San Francisco to Palo Alto every morning and says it’s a good way to cover her gas. The app charged me $9 for a trip that would have cost at least $20 using public transport.
Scheduling is simple — enter your desired pickup (from 5 a.m to 9.30 a.m.) and drop-off times. The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll get a match. I’ve had around a 70 percent success rate, but Mor Goldberger, a business operations manager at DoorDash, says her match rate is higher — she regularly commutes from Oakland to San Francisco. “If I matched 100 percent of the time I would do it 100 percent of the time,” she says. “What’s cool is I meet the same people, drivers and passengers, and it’s become a networking thing.” Her favorite match is a Pinterest engineer who discusses the site’s latest updates.
Since launching in 2015, Scoop is now available throughout the Bay Area and downtown Seattle. They’re actively working with cities and businesses to get greener, with partnerships at Cisco and Tesla, and employees get a subsidized fare and the city reduces pollution and traffic. Around 75,000 people have used the system so far, says David Clavens, Scoop’s head of marketing, who sees this as a three-pronged win — for drivers, riders and the environment. “We’re beyond excited that thousands of solo commutes don’t happen every month, keeping our air much cleaner.”
Sure, there are still kinks to be worked out. The return-home payment offer is awesome but doesn’t necessarily cover your whole trip (though they do ask you to use public transport) and it’s usable only once a month. There’s also no payment if your 7 a.m. ride cancels, which can leave you scrambling (there is a $5 credit for a cancellation).
But overall, the service is incredibly peppy — drivers are interested to learn more about you and are often fellow professionals, and anything that makes getting to work a little less painful? An outright win.