Arlington's rideshare service Via hits milestones as commuters feel pain at the gas pump
Ridership with Via, the only government subsidized transportation option in Arlington, broke multiple records in June. City and company officials attribute the rise to inflation, surging gas prices and word spreading that the service launched citywide in early 2021.
Tyriek Colston has used Via since high school, when he missed the school bus. Colston doesn't have a car, so he's continued to use Via to get to work on the southside of town. The ride-hailing app operates like Uber or Lyft—however, fare sits between $3 and $5 depending on distance, making it cheaper than their corporate competitors.
"Honestly, if Via didn't exist, I'd probably have to use a different transportation (service) and probably a more expensive one," Colston says.
Riders like Colston are increasingly using the service, especially since early spring when gas prices skyrocketed, says Via co-Chief Operating Officer Alex Lavoie.
“It’s pretty clear, I think, from some of those trends that people are choosing to use transit and specifically on-demand public transit as an alternative in a moment when obviously gas prices have been a challenging dynamic for many people," Lavoie says.
Via has charted steady growth in North Texas since rolling into Arlington. The service launched in a small part of the city in 2017 and replaced a downtown bus line that didn't attract enough riders. The service launched citywide in January 2021. Via drivers have conducted around 1.2 million rides in Arlington since launch.
The service's June ridership totaled nearly 60,000, a record high, according to the city. The service also experienced its highest weekday and Saturday ridership rates in February.
Ann Foss, principal planner with Arlington’s transportation department says there are several factors that have contributed to ridership hikes. Via’s citywide service is relatively young and word about the service is still making its way around town. However, the city has heard anecdotally that people are looking for reprieve from the pump.
“Anecdotally, from what we've been hearing from riders, you know, people are looking at alternatives to driving their personal vehicle because of the high cost of gas or they're, you know, making different choices about when they drive their car or when they use public transportation to be as cost-effective as possible,” Foss says.
Via’s presence made Arlington the first city to operate entirely on microtransit, according to the company’s website. Via drivers have conducted around 1.2 million rides since launch.
The service has since also opened service across North Texas. Via in April launched a partnership with the city of Grand Prairie that offers rides around town and to college campuses including UTA and Tarrant County College. Trinity Metro in Fort Worth offers rides in certain areas of the city through a program called ZipZone.
Denton County replaced some of its bus services with that of Via through a program called GoZone in late 2021.
Lavoie says all North Texas cities have seen ridership growth, especially during the months gas prices have skyrocketed from last summer’s averages.
“We’re seeing this particular brand of on-demand public transit continue to grow and be at all-time high levels,” he says.
Though Via offers services across the region, not all of them connect. Colston says he's grateful for Grand Prairie service, but has to use different apps for each city's service. Booking rides in each city can be tedious, he says, for someone like him who lives near the city borders.
"It's hard to commute from Arlington to literally just down the street because Via doesn't go from Arlington to Grand Prairie," Colston says.
Foss says the city is participating in county discussions with the North Central Texas Council of Governments in order to streamline cross-city services.
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