Texas City Ditches its Buses for Via Ride-Sharing Vans

Subsidizing ride sharing was the cheaper way to go, city officials said.

Ride-sharing services may compete with public transportation in some cities, but in one Texas city, ride sharing is replacing it. Via, a startup with ties to Mercedes-Benz, is replacing bus service in the town of Arlington, reports CBS.

Under a new arrangement with Arlington, Via will deploy 10 of its vans, primarily in the city’s downtown area. Residents will be able to hail the vans using a smartphone app, just like in any other city where Via operates. But the fares will be subsidized, keeping them relatively low. Passengers will pay $3.00 per ride, or $10.00 for a weekly pass.

Arlington mayor Jeff Williams told CBS that subsidizing Via was much cheaper than other potential public-transit projects, such as a light-rail line. The city will contribute $322,500, or about one-third of the project cost. The rest will come from the Federal Transit Administration. Via has a one-year contract with Arlington, with four one-year renewal options. As part of the deal, Via will supply Arlington with data in order to “shape future transportation planning decisions.”

Other cities and towns have experimented with subsidizing ride sharing. In 2016, the town of Summit, New Jersey, began subsidizing Uber as an alternative to building a new parking lot for its commuter-rail station. The city of Altamonte Springs, Florida, has tried to completely eliminate bus service by subsidizing Uber rides. But Via’s vans can carry more people, potentially making them more effective at reducing traffic.

Via was founded in September 2013 and counts New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., among its major markets. Last year, it teamed up with Mercedes to launch an on-demand shuttle service in certain European cities. Mercedes parent Daimler just led a $250 million funding round for the startup.