Is this the future of public transportation?
Can ride-sharing apps replace mass transportation? One Texas town is about to find out.
The city of Arlington, Texas is abandoning its 4-year-old bus program for the ride-sharing company Via, a service that operates similarly to Uber and Lyft, CBS This Morning reported.
Rather than waiting at a traditional bus stop, residents with a smartphone can use the Via app to get picked up on-demand by one of the company’s 10 Mercedes-Benz vans for commutes based in the city’s downtown.
Prices for the service run similarly to a bus or metro ride in most major cities – users in Arlington can summon one of the vehicles for a flat fee of $3, or obtain a weekly pass for $10.
To make the rides more affordable, Via partnered with the city government to subsidize fees and Arlington is contributing a third of the cost at the amount of $322,500. The remaining will be funded by the Federal Transit Administration, making this new initiative very much public transportation.
“We are at the beginning of an exciting transportation technology revolution,” Mayor Jeff Williams said at a press conference in December. “And Arlington’s Via Rideshare Pilot Program is the latest example of our City’s willingness to explore innovative transportation technology solutions for our residents, employees, students and visitors.”
“Via is thrilled to be partnering with the City of Arlington to launch the first ever fully dynamic on-demand public transportation solution,” Via CEO and co-founder Daniel Ramot said in a statement. “With Via’s technology and Arlington’s commitment to innovation, we are reimagining the future of transportation.”
Via first launched in New York City in 2013 and has been working to close the gap between itself and competitors like Uber and Lyft. In addition to Arlington and New York, the company operates in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
Asked by CBS if bus and rail systems were outdated, Mayor Williams said, “Absolutely. I think with the new technology that’s coming on you’re going to see very little light rail built because this is so much cheaper.”