The city of Arlington is trying to stave off the stigma of being the largest city in the United States without public transportation. Less the a month before discontinuing its single bus line, the Metro Arlington Xpress, the city launched one of the nation's first public microtransit projects to provide rides between Interstate 20 and Interstate 30.
Getting around on Via, the New York City startup providing the service, works a lot like getting an Uber or Lyft. Riders open up an app when they want a ride, wait for a bit as the service pairs them with other riders looking for similar trips and then get picked up in one of Via's six-passenger Mercedes vans. Trips cost $3, no matter the distance, but pick-up and drop-off have to happen within Via's Arlington service area, which will be rolled out in three steps.
Starting Monday, passengers can get rides within an area that includes Globe Life Park, Six Flags, AT&T Stadium, the University of Texas at Arlington and Arlington Memorial Hospital. That covers most of the reasons one might have for going to Arlington. It also includes the Trinity Railway Express' CentrePort Station at D/FW International Airport. In January, areas to the northeast and south of the entertainment district will begin service, to be joined by the final service area, which includes Medical City Arlington and the Parks Mall, sometime in the spring or summer.
"Arlington’s Via ride-share pilot program is the latest example of our city’s willingness to explore innovative transportation technology solutions for our residents, employees, students and visitors,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said during Via's launch in downtown Arlington on Monday.
In theory, Arlington's new service might be a decent way around paying for parking and potentially driving home drunk from Rangers and Cowboys games. But that's just too good to be true.
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Via will stop taking ride requests at 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, leaving Rangers fans hoping to see anything past the bottom of the sixth during night games out of luck. The service won'toperate Sundays, leaving Cowboys fans out in the cold.
Although Via isn't ticking all the boxes riders might want from a public transportation service in Arlington, the city is trying something unique. Daniel Ramot, Via’s CEO and co-founder, said his company's partnership with Arlington makes the city the first in the United States to have completely on-demand public transportation.
"With Via’s technology and Arlington’s commitment to innovation, we are reimagining the future of transportation," Ramot said.
Via's contract with the city of Arlington is for one year, with four one-year renewal options. In the partnership's first year of operation, the city will contribute $322,500 to the cost of the program, about one-third of the total tab. A Federal Transit Administration grant will cover the rest of the cost. Data collected from the program will help the city plan its next public transportation move, the city said.