ARLINGTON (CBS NEWS) – Public transportation has gotten a 21st century makeover in Arlington. The city is the first in the country to replace public buses with an app.
It was late last year when the city abandoned it’s commuter bus service in favor of a partnership with the ridesharing app company Via. Now, mass transit virtual bus stops are available at the touch of a finger.READ MORE: Mesquite Mayor, Pastor Hosts Prayer Vigil For Murdered Teen Key'Mydre Palmer Anderson
Right now, there are 10 Mercedes Benz vans combing the city, picking up passengers “on demand” for $3 a ride or $10 for a weekly pass. The fees are partially subsidized by the city.
Via General Manager Alex Lavoie explained the service works a little different than Uber or Lyft. “We’re gonna pick you up within a block or two of where you want to get picked up. We’re not gonna pick you up at a few fixed pick locations within the city,” he said. “It’s quite a convenient solution and we think for that reason people will really enjoy it and so far they really have been.”
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As it stands, most of the service main drop-off points are in North Arlington — like the University of Texas at Arlington, City Hall, Arlington Memorial Hospital and the stadiums for the Cowboys and Rangers.
Arlington never had a citywide bus system and doesn’t have rail service like Dallas and Fort Worth, but Mayor Jeff Williams thinks this is a better, more economical choice. “I think that with the new technology coming on you’re gonna see very little light rail built because this is so much cheaper.”
And Williams said the pilot-program could have been easily axed. “If it didn’t work, well we can go on to something else and its fraction of spending $50 million a mile for light rail.” But that isn’t the case. In it’s first month of operation Via provided more than 5,000 rides in the city with customers giving a 97-percent approval rating.MORE NEWS: Downsizing And Simplifying Big Factors In North Texans' Gravitating Toward 'Tiny Homes'
The success means the city will move forward with their plans for a Phase II coverage area, expanding the program to cover 120,000 of it’s residents by June of this year. And if vans are still filling up Via could be citywide in Arlington in the next couple of years.