Ride-sharing is growing ever more popular, and one city in Texas is jumping on the trend by replacing its public bus service with on-demand commuter vans.
Arlington, Texas has swapped its city buses for 10 vans from Via, a ridesharing company based in New York. Instead of taking a bus to stops along a prescribed route, Via vans transport passengers to their desired destination, as long as it’s within a qualified service area.
The service promises to pick up passengers within a block or two of where they are, and will take them to popular spots like downtown and the city’s entertainment district. Rides cost a flat rate of $3, or riders can get a weekly pass for $10. These fees are subsidized by the city, making Via more affordable for riders.
Responding to a CBS This Morning reporter’s suggestion that buses and light rail trains are “passé”, Arlington mayor Jeff Williams said, “Absolutely.”
Cost is a major reason why, at least in the Arlington mayor’s eyes, ridesharing is the future of public transportation. The city will pay around one third of the project cost, to the tune of $322,500. The Federal Transit Administration will make up the rest. According to Williams, it would cost $50 million per mile for a light rail service.
Arlington residents seem to be taking to the Via vans, but the service’s longevity remains to be seen. However, as The Verge points out, other US cities have adopted similar programs, so it’s a movement that appears to be gaining momentum.
Coming up with ways to provide affordable, easy-to-access transportation isn’t a challenge limited to traditional ride-hailing services as we know it (with a human driver behind the wheel). Companies like Uber and Waymo, among others, are developing self-driving cars that pick up passengers on-demand.
Will any one way win out, or will our transportation future be an amalgam of various apps, services and technologies? Right now, it looks like the latter is in the lead.