By Sandy Smith.
Another U.S. city is experimenting with low-cost ride-sharing as a way to expand both its reach and its ridership.
This time, it’s Los Angeles. According to a report in Railway Age, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) has chosen Via, a shared-ride startup launched in 2012, as its partner in a one-year pilot project that will offer reduced-fare shared rides that either begin or end at three rail stations.
The three stations are: Artesia on the Blue Line LRT; and two terminal stations, El Monte on the I-10 busway and North Hollywood on the Red Line subway. Via is a ride-hailing service like Lyft and Uber, but unlike those two services, it offers only shared rides in which multiple riders heading in the same general direction are booked into a single vehicle.
“This new service will be more affordable than typical ride-hailing services, thanks to Metro subsidizing the cost of each ride,” LA Metro said in a news release. “Riders who are registered with Metro’s low-income fare program, LIFE, can ride for free. Riders who input TAP cards during account creation will ride for $1.75, and riders without TAP cards can ride for $3.75.” Riders can book rides to and from the three stations using either a smartphone app or by calling Via’s call center. The telephone option allows riders without smartphones to use the service. The call center offers translation services as well. Riders can pay for their rides with credit, debit or prepaid cards. Riders using wheelchairs can also use the service, which offers ramp-equipped vehicles.
The announcement also noted that the partnership with a shared-ride provider advances L.A. Metro’s “Vision 2028 Strategic Plan” goal of reducing the number of single-occupant vehicle trips in the Los Angeles region. Metro will use data provided by Via on how riders use the service to determine whether and how to expand it.
The pilot project is being funded by a $1.35 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox Demonstration Program.