Uber unveiled a new feature of its popular ride service in San Diego Thursday: the company will offer one-way rides across the U.S.-Mexico border, from San Diego to Tijuana.
The service is called UberPASSPORT and promises to make that trip to Mexico “hassle-free.”
The company says it chose to launch the service in San Diego due to the city’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and the frequent use of the border crossing.
The service officially launches on Friday, March 18.
While the Passport service is not round-trip and doesn't offer direct rides from Tijuana back into San Diego, those visiting Tijuana can use Uber to get a ride to the international border, where they can walk across the pedestrian lane and back into the United States.
Uber’s Head of Global Operations, San Diego native Ryan Graves, talked about the product launch Thursday in San Diego at a waterfront press conference. He was joined by Christopher Ballard, general manager for Uber Southern California, as well as San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and representatives from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"This is the first time an Uber trip will cross an international border," Graves said. "That's an amazing thing to experience."
"At Uber we celebrate cities," Graves added. "Today, we have the opportunity to bring two amazing cities together in San Diego and Tijuana together, even closer."
“UberPassport is a new way to facilitate cross-border opportunities by providing reliable and accessible transportation from San Diego to Tijuana,” Ballard said. “Heading to Baja has never been more attainable.”
Ballard noted that since Uber launched in San Diego four years ago, there are now 450,000 riders using the service across San Diego County, and 12,000 driver partners locally.
The company says Passport works via the Uber app. Customers can open the Uber app, select Passport within the vehicle menu and tap to request the ride. Riders must bring all required documentation to cross the border, including a U.S. passport.
UberPASSPORT vehicles seat up to four passengers. The company says the base fare is $4, plus $0.30 per minute and $2.35 per mile. There is an additional $20 border crossing fee for passengers.
That means a trip from North Park to central Tijuana runs about $90, while a trip from downtown San Diego to the TIJ Airport runs about $100. A ride from Pacific Beach to Rosarito would ring in at around $160.
To avoid a language barrier, riders can request to be paired up with an English-speaking driver within Tijuana via the company’s UberENGLISH feature.
Passport service is one-way only, so the return trip from Tijuana to San Diego is not included. Asked why the service doesn't return to San Diego, an Uber representative noted that this is a pilot launch and that the company hopes to develop the product further to perhaps include a round-trip option in the future.
Instead, to return to the U.S., riders can request an Uber to the international border via the company’s local service in Tijuana. Riders can request a ride from their location in Tijuana, and then enter “TJ Border Pickup” as the drop-off destination in their request.
The Uber will drop the rider off at the San Ysidro International Border Crossing. From there, travelers can use the pedestrian lane to cross back into the U.S. on foot. Once on the U.S. side, riders can request an Uber in San Diego to travel to their final destination, the company says.
There are obvious “logistical challenges” in crossing to San Diego from Mexico that don't present themselves when going southbound, according to spokeswoman Tatiana Winograd.
Uber said Passport riders should remember that certain items can’t be brought into Mexico, including alcohol, drugs, firearms, fireworks, fish and wildlife, prepared food products, meat, fruits and vegetables, gold and plants. There are also some restrictions on the value of purchased goods that passengers are allowed to bring into Mexico, as seen in this Customs Declarations form.
The company plans to make further announcements on its Passport service on social media via its Twitter accounts @uber_SD and @uber_tijuana.
Faulconer said San Diego is excited to be the first-ever “cross-border Uber city.”
“I think the launch of this new option is going to pay tremendous dividends to San Diegans and for our families and for our economy," he said. "This highlights the best of what San Diego has to offer by using one the world’s most innovative apps to bridge countries, businesses and families in a way that has never been done before."
Graves says Uber operates in nearly 400 cities and 70 countries worldwide.