Via plans laid out at Arlington City Council meeting

An Arlington City Council meeting in progress Dec. 5 at Arlington City Hall. Via, a transportation service that uses smartphones to schedule a trip, got approved by the council during a Nov. 7 evening council meeting. Via will be available to select parts of Arlington on Dec. 11.

Director of launch Monica Ceragioli, a representative from Via, laid out the company’s plans for its ride share service during Arlington City Council’s afternoon session on Tuesday.

The council approved an item 8-0 during its Nov. 7 evening meeting that allowed the city manager to execute a contract with Via.

Via is a ride-sharing service that specializes in transporting multiple riders with large vehicles, such as a van. The service will launch Dec. 11, Ceragioli said.

“What really makes us unique is that from the beginning, we’ve been focused on shared rides,” she said. “It’s really our bread and butter.”

The service currently operates in Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C. and is set to launch in London early next year.

Via will operate in Arlington as a pilot project, testing a different type of mass transportation in three phases. The startup phase will be focused on areas such as UTA and downtown Arlington and will expand in the second and third phase.

Council member Charlie Parker asked what the senior citizens who live past Lamar Boulevard were supposed to do when they wanted to visit their doctor. The service’s operational area did not extend past Lamar.

Ceragioli said the area would change accordingly over time based on demand and data, which would be accessible to Arlington through an online portal.

“Our approach in our business has always been to start small,” she said.

Ceragioli and her team had been working with Alicia Winkelblech, assistant director of community development and planning, to develop a plan for the project’s launch.

The service will cost $922,500, but Arlington will only pay $322,500 and the Federal Transit Administration will pay the remainder. Revenue generated from the project will go to expanding it, Winkelblech said.

The service will cost riders a flat $3 fee at launch. The federal funding allows the price to be low, Ceragioli said.

“The goal for the first year is not to be self-sustaining,” she said. “It’s to set up the infrastructure.”

The service will use 10 Mercedes-Benz Metris vans that will be customized to be unique to Arlington.

Via’s partnership with Arlington Handitran will enable the service to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles, Ceragioli said.

A rider interested in using the service would use its app to determine the pickup location and drop-off point. The app will direct the rider to a street corner where a van will meet them. The van will then transport the rider to within a block of their selected destination.

At launch, the service will operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Council member Sheri Capehart said she was excited to start the new project and try something new.

“Fixed routes just don’t work here,” she said.

@colby_farr

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