A June 29 article in the Jersey City News (“Via’s first quarter data exceeds expectations”) discussed Jersey City’s rideshare partnership with Via. More than 35,000 rides were completed between February and May, but similar programs have had trouble in other cities.
In view of the program’s popularity, the NJ Sierra Club’s Transportation Committee wanted to learn more. With the much-appreciated help of Ward E Councilman James Solomon, we set up a meeting with Jersey City staff, who filled us in.
They described some impressive successes. Via’s Jersey City launch was one of the company’s most successful. Importantly for environmental reasons, Via’s drivers spend very little time driving without passengers. And the program has made it easier for thousands in Jersey City to access the PATH and light rail.
Still, there are concerns we hope the city takes to heart. During weeks with the most riders, average wait times have been closer to 20 minutes, rather than the goal of 15 minutes. As traffic returns to normal, wait times and over subscription may be an issue. Will Via have to increase fares in response, as has happened elsewhere?
Most of all, the program shows the huge demand for mass transit in Jersey City. The program was launched to address complaints about bus service – that it’s too slow, and there’s not enough of it.
Jersey City does not run buses, but its hands are not tied. The city should add bus lanes to speed up the most-used bus routes. Although harder politically than a rideshare service, this would benefit even more people.
Only two years ago, Mayor Fulop was discussing a network of bus-only routes to benefit Jersey City’s many bus riders (https://twitter.com/StevenFulop/status/981952421407744000). Since then, Jersey City has shown it can be a leader in sustainable transportation by expanding its network of protected bike lanes. Why not add bus lanes to the mix?
Matt Bewley, Ward E resident