Features
13 Apr 19

LA brings riders back to public transport

‘If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain’ goes the saying. In terms of public transit many Northern American cities are facing the same dilemma. Most cities experience a significant drop in public transit ridership, forcing the cities to find creative ways to attract passengers. 

Los Angeles has launched a remarkable initiative to fulfil this prophecy. The LA Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) teamed up with Via, a ridesharing startup (2012) for a new pilot project. During the one-year pilot reduced-fare shared rides will be offered if they begin or end at three rail stations, being 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.

Albeit Via can be seen as yet another ridehailing service of the ilk of Uber and Lyft, Via is different. The startup only offers shared rides, uniting various riders who are heading in the same general direction. Therefore, the choice for the partnership of LA Metro with the on-demand shuttle service of Via is not surprising. It fits in the goal of the LA Metro to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicle trips in LA region. Every shuttle could take 3 to 6 passengers heading in the same direction, taking the same number of cars off the roads.

The service of Via has two major advantages: (1) it is more sustainable than single-used ridehailing vehicles, (2) it can bring the price per ride down. Hence Via offers a sustainable and economic alternative last- and first-mile solution, especially when used to bring its riders to and take them from public transit stations. 

Public transit 4ALL

Additionally, LA Metro will subsidise the cost of each ride, making the rides more affordable and connecting riders with public transit. Moreover, riders who are already registered with Metro’s low-income fare programme, can even ride for free. To enhance the connection between public transit and Via’s ridesharing service, riders who input their LA metro TAP card during the creation of the account will ride for only $1.75 compared to $3.75.

To make the service even more available, the shared rides cannot only be booked via a smartphone application, but also by calling Via’s call centre, which also offers translation services. And to not leave anyone out, Via offers ramp-equipped vehicles for wheelchair riders. 

To optimise the service and service its riders the most, LA Metro will use the data provided by Via to check how riders use the service and to adapt the service accordingly.

In the end, the partnership could solve the first- and last-mile issues making it hard for people to get to and out public transit stations. And hence bringing riders who are now pulled out public transit by ridehailing companies among others back to the transit stations. 

Via is already in use in Chicago, Washington DC and New York in the USA, while the platform of Via is used by Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority to power the city’s pick-up service. In Europe Via’s platform is used by Arriva Bus in Kent, UK. 

Authored by: Fien Van den steen