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LA Metro launches low-cost ride-share pilot

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and a private-sector partner have launched a yearlong pilot project to offer shared, on-demand rides serving three Metro rail stations. The ride-hailing service “has been designed for those who have been excluded from using existing services,” Metro said. “A goal of the partnership is to extend the benefits of on-demand services to a wider audience and to make it easier for riders to connect with a growing Metro system.”

Metro’s private-sector partner is Via, a 2012 start-up, with U.S. operations in New York City, Chicago and Washington D.C., established to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft. The pilot project allows Metro riders to hail shared rides to or from three stations: Artesia, El Monte and North Hollywood Stations. Riders can summon rides with Via’s smartphone app or by calling Via, which will provide a nearby intersection where riders can meet their rides. Each ride begins or ends at one of the three stations within a defined service area around each station. Via takes multiple passengers heading in the same direction and books them into a shared vehicle.

“This new service will be more affordable than typical ride-hailing services, thanks to Metro subsidizing the cost of each ride,” Metro said. “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 create an account and hail a ride either through Via’s app or by calling Via’s call center. Via will accept payment by credit, debit or pre-paid card. These features allow passengers without smartphones or bank accounts to use the service. The call center has translation services available.

Via’s service will also be fully wheelchair accessible, with special vehicles “able to accommodate those who are non-ambulatory, allowing many to finally use an on-demand, ride-hailing service,” Metro said.

The $2.5 million pilot is funded in part by a $1.35 million Federal Transit Administration “Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration Program” grant. “The shared rides are a key distinction from other ride-hailing services and are in line Metro’s Vision 2028 Strategic Plan to reduce single-occupancy car trips,” Mtro noted. “This partnership with Via will also provide Metro with data on how riders use the service. That will help Metro measure the success of this partnership and help [support] future innovations at Metro.”

“Our goal at Metro, as part of our Vision 2028 Strategic Plan, is to provide high-quality mobility options for all riders, regardless of socioeconomic status or disability,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “This is an exciting partnership, and we believe this service will offer a truly innovative, affordable and accessible service to L.A. County to better serve Metro riders’ first/last-mile needs.”

“Via’s technology is redefining mobility across the globe, and we are thrilled to partner with LA Metro, an innovation-forward agency, to provide residents with a convenient and affordable transportation alternative,” said Daniel Ramot, CEO and co-founder of Via. “Via’s powerful passenger-matching and vehicle-routing algorithm is the solution to solving first/last mile [problems] and seamlessly connects customers with these three transit hubs in their communities.”

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