Ride-share company Via expands to Arlington

WASHINGTON — Ride-sharing company Via, which operates its high-tech, carpooling-with-strangers service in Chicago, New York and D.C., has expanded to Arlington, Virginia.

Via launched in D.C. in 2016, originally promoting itself as a public transportation alternative during Metro’s SafeTrack service cuts, and said since its launch in the District, it has provided more than 1.6 million shared rides.

Via works similar to Uber and Lyft in that riders use an app to set up their pickup time, location and destination, but unlike ride-hailing services, the ride is not solely yours. Others with similar destinations on your route will be picked up along the way.

Algorithms take over from there. Lots of them.

“The location you will be picked up, which vehicle is the best one for your trip, who you will be sharing your trip with and what route your vehicle should take,” are controlled by the app’s brain, Alex Lavoie, head of Via’s U.S. operations, told WTOP.

“For many trips, the number of potential options, or algorithms that are considered, is greater than 10,000, so making these selections correctly is really important to a rider’s experience in a shared ride,” Lavoie said.

Via does not pick you up at your front door like Uber and Lyft do. Riders are directed to the nearest convenient intersection — what Via calls “virtual bus stops” — for pickup to keep the route tight and eliminate excessive detours.

Via’s benefits are arguably environmental. By pooling several people in one ride, it reduces the number of individual vehicles riders would take on their own, reducing emissions and maybe cutting down a bit on traffic congestion.

Who is Via for, besides people who don’t mind spending time in a car with strangers?

“One of our core use cases is definitely the commuting use case, so people going to and from work,” Lavoie said

“But we also are seeing an increasingly growing amount of people who use it to take trips during the day. Maybe they’re getting around to go to meetings. And we see more folks who use it at night or on weekends in more casual use cases.”

Via is also cheaper than ride hailing services with a flat rate per trip rather than basing prices on distance.

Via is now available throughout much of Arlington County, 24/7, and will extend service to Reagan National Airport in coming months.

Via says for its Arlington launch, every shared ride starting or ending in Arlington will be capped at $4.

To date, Via said it has provided more than 35 million shared rides in its markets in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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