Via takes the rideshare concept and applies it to a mass transit model. While Uber and Lyft often only carry one passenger, Via has sharing a ride with others baked in. It’s an interesting model that pitches itself as an alternative
Via works like other ride-hailing apps, but its rides are shared, like an ad-hoc bus route. (Image: Via)
Based on your desired pickup point, the Via app tells you on which corner to wait. This is different from Uber and Lyft, which can put drivers in a tough and time consuming position as they have to negotiate one-way streets and serpentine navigation paths to get to their waiting customers, adding time and more emissions.
According to Andy Ambrosius, Principal of Public Relations for Via, the walk is always within 400 feet of your pickup location, and you won’t have to walk farther to your final destination at drop-off. On its website, Via says that at the most you can expect 3-6 riders in a vehicle depending on its size.
On the home page of the Via app, either type in the address or move the map until the blue marker is situated where you would like to catch Via and press “Set Pickup.”
Setting a drop-off location works the same as setting up a pickup, except the marker on the map is orange. It’s a smart idea to differentiate which screen you are on at a glance. The app will then find available vehicles and connect you to the ones that make the most sense for your ride.
The app will propose at least one option, but there could be more, with different ETAs and prices. After choosing a ride, review the terms and press “Book This Ride”. All the necessary details will pop up on the screen, including the car picking you up and where to catch it. In some cases, the app will give you the address or business name at your pick-up spot to help you find it. Estimated time of arrival and subsequent text messages keep you informed of your driver’s progress.
While Uber and Lyft will schedule specific pickup times in advance, Via is an on-demand service only.
Via’s app will tell you which corner to stand on for pickup, to make the driver’s route more efficient. (Photo: Via)
How far you travel and the number of plus-ones riding with you determines the cost. Via claims on its website that fares start at less than $5 for shorter rides.
In New York City, Via offers the option of a four-week Manhattan ViaPass costing $239 + tax. Beware of no shows and cancellations: You’ll get nicked for a $3 fee.
If you’re in the mood for some solitude, Via does offer a “Private Ride” feature for a bit of a premium. In addition, there’s Airport Service and ViaExpress, when you want a more direct route — if it’s available for the specific ride. There’s also a 1-week L Train ViaPass for $19 + tax.
Besides New York, Via currently operates around the clock in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Other cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, have service limited to certain areas at peak travel times. The company also has partnerships in other markets with public transit providers in as far-flung locales as Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, and Sydney, Australia. Via also recently announced that it would begin managing New York City’s school bus routes.