More Via vans could hit city streets in the future as ridership continues to increase on Jersey City’s new subsidized on-demand public transportation service, which has been an “unprecedented” success, according to Mayor Steven Fulop at a press conference on Tuesday, March 10.
The service, which had a soft launch on Feb. 25, already gets hundreds of riders per day and has provided more than 5,000 rides, with more than 700 rides daily serving nearly 1,000 riders, according to Via CEO and Founder Daniel Ramot.
“We sought after an innovative solution to help fill our transit gaps and to further our overall vision of creating greater mobility, and therefore greater opportunities, for all residents,” Fulop said. “Via has proven to be the right solution, with record-breaking user numbers in just the first two weeks of operation. The results show that this is a more affordable option and often provides residents with more direct routes and closer drop-off points compared to the less reliable NJ Transit bus system.”
Filling the gap
According to officials, top routes and rider feedback indicate that residents and visitors are using the service to fill the gaps in the existing public transit infrastructure for both commuting and leisure purposes with an increasing number of both new and repeat riders.
Ridership is strong during commuter hours, with approximately 30 percent of trips to or from core transit hubs. Throughout the day, the service has a high volume of rides to major commercial destinations with average wait times between 12 and 15 minutes.
“We are proud to partner with Mayor Fulop and Jersey City to meaningfully extend Jersey City’s public transit infrastructure,” Ramot said. “In deploying Via’s on-demand transit solution, Jersey City is providing residents an affordable, efficient, and convenient transportation option that connects communities while reducing congestion and emissions. We are thrilled to see the service has been well received and is making great progress toward achieving its goals in its first days of operation.”
The service, which provides 15 vans on unfixed routes throughout the city, was purpose-built to complement and extend Jersey City’s existing public transit infrastructure while filling the gaps in areas that need it, particularly in the northern and southern areas of the city, which suffer from little access to public transit.
“We were spending upwards of $275 a week on ride-hailing services to commute to and from work, using nearly 40 percent of our total income,” said Via rider Sara Parliman. “Attempting to use the light rail was a challenge, as we walked three miles a day, doubling our commute time. Via has changed it all, and spending only $10 a week on commuting has been life-changing. I had been looking to buy a car for a while, but now I see no need.”
A greener option
The city said that the program will help keep cars off city streets as more people opt for the ride-share option.
Currently, two of the 15 Via vans are electric Kia Niros which seat four people.
Jersey City Business Administrator Brian Platt said the city aims to move toward an entirely electric fleet in the future, but he said currently a limiting factor is the size of electric vehicles on the market today, which are smaller than the 13 other vehicles in the Jersey City Via fleet which each seat six people.
App or phone
Passengers can use the Via mobile app, or if they don’t have smartphones, call (201) 514-6228 to select a pickup and dropoff location within the service zone and confirm their rides.
Once a ride is booked, Via’s technology matches multiple passengers headed in the same direction into one of the purple vans and directs passengers to a nearby corner, or “virtual bus stop.”
The app will display the driver’s name, vehicle model, and license plate number to help riders locate their rides.
Via’s technology routes vehicles in real-time, minimizing detours through the use of virtual bus stops to reduce congestion and emissions while providing a highly-efficient rider experience, according to the city.
At launch, all rides throughout the entire service zone have special pricing of $1 per ride.
Starting on March 21, standard pricing will be introduced, and passengers will book a ride to or from the Central Zone, including Downtown and Journal Square at a flat rate of $2.
Riders can book a ride anywhere within the outer service zone starting at $2 plus $0.50 per mile.
The service operates Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Riders can also request a wheelchair accessible vehicle in-app or by calling. They can also request vehicles with a car seat.