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Uber gears up for Paris Olympics by offering free cruises across the Seine and discounts to ease the load on public transport networks

Miguel Medina—AFP/Getty Images

Less than two months away, the Paris Olympics is expected to attract over 15 million visitors to the French capital—nearly a third more than it usually gets in the summer—placing a heavy burden on its public transport networks.

But city authorities aren’t the only ones preparing for the deluge of visitors. Ride-hailing company Uber is also gearing up to help people get around Paris during the games.

What is Uber doing?

The American company, which operates in 70 countries, is offering cruises across Paris’s Seine river free of charge from July 12 to August 3 to meet heightened transport demand, Reuters reported Wednesday.


Uber expects roughly 40,000 drivers to take passengers from different parts of Paris during the Olympics.

The company’s dynamic pricing model will remain in place, which sets cab fares based on real-time demand and supply. However, Uber will dole out promotions for those traveling from popular locations such as airports and train stations. It'll also offer a special experience called "Uber Bubbles" for those looking to escape the city center for a champagne tasting in Paris's outskirts.

Uber will offer drivers more if they make trips to certain areas of Paris during a specific time of the day. It will also constantly update its maps to keep up with road closures and congestion.

The ride-share company said it is all set to deal with the incoming visitors as its app is “approved for use throughout Paris, with the Préfecture de Police granting Uber drivers access to the most restricted areas of the city."

"Our plan will help support the public transport network and give millions of people an accessible and reliable way to get around the city," Laureline Serieys, Uber's general manager in France, said in a statement.

Will it help?

Unsurprisingly, Paris gets busy during the summer. Traffic is banned in parts of the city center area—and Uber's presence will help improve access around the city.

While Paris's public transport system is well-connected and can handle the usual stream of tourists, this year presents a more serious challenge—and its aging infrastructure will only add to the strain.

Paris plans to nearly double ticket prices for those buying new transport passes during the Olympics between July and September. That’s unlike past games, such as London’s in 2012, when the U.K. capital made public transport free for visitors.

While Uber’s revved-up operations may help, the city’s efforts will likely be more important.

There have been positive signals on that front as political pressure has built up in the lead-up to the Olympics, with French politicians saying they are confident in the capital city’s ability to host and manage public transportation for its visitors.

This summer, unlike others, the level of public transport service on busier lines will go up instead of falling, by about 15%. To match that, Paris’s transport operator in the city also teed up hiring plans.

How the train system makes it through the summer rush will be something for local authorities and future Olympics host cities to note.

Update, May 29, 2024: This article has been updated with additional information and a quote from Uber.

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