Arlington, Texas, is the hyphen in “Dallas-Fort Worth.” It is home to just under 400,000 people, except on certain Sundays when the Dallas Cowboys play at AT&T Stadium, which is located within the city limits. Arlington does not have a public transit system as such. Until recently, it made use of a fleet of chartered buses, but has shifted to a new plan that uses 10 private vans operated by rideshare specialist Via, according to The Verge.
The Via vehicles are far more flexible about where they pick up and drop off passengers. According to the city’s website, “Rideshare is a transportation option that uses a smartphone application and a fleet of rideshare vehicles to provide a service that has no fixed schedules, no fixed routes and an infinite number of on-demand stops. Passengers share their ride and save money.”
The city saves money, too, largely because the Federal Transit Administration is picking up two thirds of the cost of the one year program. It is kicking in the other third — about $322,000. Riders pay a flat $3.00 fee per ride and can schedule a pickup using an app. Usually, the nearest van will meet them within a block or two of their location and deliver them as close as possible to their destination — something the buses used previously could not do.
Arlington mayor Jeff Williams tells CBS This Morning that ridesharing will have a big impact on how cities look at public transportation in the future. “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.” Well, it is cheaper just as long as Uncle Sugar is picking up most of the tab. Riders can buy a weekly pass for $10.00, which is a bargain by any measure.
Via, which began operations in 2013, now offers ridesharing services in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC. It uses good old fashioned gasoline-powered vans driven by good old fashioned human drivers. It’s not about greening the Earth, it’s about moving people from place to place conveniently while making money doing it. Via has just completed a $250 million funding effort led by Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes Benz.
The contract with Via is for one year and has four renewal options of one year each. Via will supply the city of Arlington with usage data to help the city plan for future transportation needs. The service area is limited to certain downtown areas during the first year, but is scheduled to be expanded to cover most of the city in coming years.
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