Arlington, Texas Replaces Public Transit with Ride-Share

Arlington is the first large city in the nation to ditch public transit for a private ride-sharing service. A pilot program operated by Via Transportation has operated successfully since launching service in December, charging riders $3.

3 minute read

March 7, 2018, 1:00 PM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Arlington, Texas

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[Updated 4/14/2018] CBS This Morning's transportation reporter, Kris Van Cleave, reports from Arlington, Texas, population 393,000; third largest in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and the largest in the nation without conventional public transit service.

New York-based Via Transportation began service in December, replacing the Metro ArlingtonXpress or MAX, operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the city's only "fixed-route bus line that has run between UT Arlington and a commuter rail station near Dallas-Fort Worth airport since 2013," reported Laura Bliss for City Lab last November.

"Customers can book a seat in a six-passenger Mercedes-Benz van through the Via app, and Via’s sophisticated technology will match them with others going their way," according to the city's blog on the Van Cleave's report, which also features a video of the CBS report. "Rides are $3 per person, per trip, or customers can purchase a ViaPass for $10 a week."

"We're going to pick you up within a block or two of where you want to get picked up. We're not going to pick you up at a few fixed pickup locations within the city," said Alex Lavoie, U.S. general manager for Via.

Via only services a designated area around the entertainment district within the 99-square-mile city. "The city is planning on expanding the program to cover 120,000 of its residents by this summer, and if they are filling up the Via vans, they look to go citywide in the next couple of years," according to the city.

Mayor Jeff Williams acknowledged that it's a pilot program, and if it doesn't work, "we can go onto something else. And it's a fraction of spending $50 million a mile for light rail." But so far, it seems to be working out, according to Van Cleave. "In its first month, Via provided more than 5,000 rides at a 97 percent customer approval rating."

Williams, a big fan of technology, was quoted in a post last August about transportation in The Metroplex. touting Milo driver-less shuttles that would soon begin transporting customers from parking lots to major destinations in the entertainment district. "It's phenomenal when you think about that technology is here," said Williams. 

Arlington residents have not placed a high priority on conventional public transit judging by their voting record. "[V]oters have turned down transit bond measures three times since 1979, preferring to fund stadium revamps instead," observed City Lab's Bliss. Before the Max was launched in 2013, "Arlington was the largest city in the country with no mass transit at all."

West Sacramento, Calif.

As noted in a post last November, Via will also be launching service in West Sacramento, California, served by the Yolo County Transportation District. "The pilot program will cost about $700,000, funded by a grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and voter-approved city innovation funds," reported Ellen Garrison for the Sacramento Bee on Nov. 8, 2017.

Unlike Arlington, Yolobus will continue to serve the city, but perhaps in a more efficient manner.

"Mayor Christopher Cabaldon .. sees the systems as complementary," wrote Garrison. "If the city could run fewer 'ghost buses,' or routes with very few riders, and beef up the main routes, it could make public transit more profitable and reliable, he said." 

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