Jersey City’s Via service dubbed a success

Pandemic fails to slow transportation progress

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has called Via Jersey City a major success for the community, citing record-breaking ridership and its effectiveness at closing transit deserts in local neighborhoods.

The first municipally subsidized rideshare program in the state costs $2 a ride and was launched in February to help residents in neighborhoods where public transit is scarce.

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According to city data, the pandemic hasn’t negatively impacted the service. From Aug. 24 through Nov. 20 ridership eclipsed pre-pandemic levels with a 78 percent increase.

Due to demand, the city’s Via fleet expanded in the third quarter from 17 to 26 vehicles, including electric vehicles.

“Despite launching right as the pandemic struck, Via Jersey City is breaking ridership records and connecting the exact communities we targeted with more affordable service to close transit gaps, increased access to jobs and education, improved connectivity, among countless other opportunities,” Fulop said.

“The data shows our low income and diverse populations are benefiting most. Via is one of many examples of how we are addressing the most stubborn of issues that urban areas traditionally face by taking an outside-the-box approach to overcome these difficulties and improve quality of life for our community.”

According to the city, most Via riders originate from the west and south sides of Jersey City, with top destinations being key transportation hubs and shopping and business districts.

In the third quarter, Ward F had the highest pickup requests with 22,612, and the second-highest drop off requests with 20,637, according to the city.

“We partnered with Via to expand and improve transportation options throughout the city, with a focus on neighborhoods that had inadequate service,” said former Business Administrator Brian Platt. “Via JC continues to meet and exceed our ridership, efficiency, and quality of service goals.”

Exceeding expectations

The city set a goal of 1,000 completed rides per week when the service launched.

In the third quarter Via Jersey city had a peak of 1,200 rides completed in a single day and more than 6,000 rides completed in the final week of the quarter in November.

Despite launching the rideshare system as the pandemic struck, Via drivers have completed more tan 138,000 rides, with high utilization rates and decreasing wait times, according to city-released data.

In Jersey City, low income and minority groups make up a majority of the riders, based on a rider survey.

Preliminary results show that more than half of all participants fall into the income bracket of $50,000 or under, and those who identify as Black or African American make up nearly half of riders at 47.3 percent.

“The initial survey results speak to the success of Via JC in serving the people who have historically been underserved by transit,” said Director of Transportation Planning Barkha Patel. “We are committed to improving mobility in Jersey City by making it easy for residents to use more efficient and sustainable modes of transportation like Via.”

“Mayor Fulop and his team have set an example for municipalities across the country as they take on unprecedented social and economic challenges and work tirelessly to improve quality of life for those with the greatest need,” said Daniel Ramot, CEO and cofounder of Via.

“This starts with providing accessible and equitable public transportation, and we are proud to see the clear, positive impact that on-demand public transit, powered by Via’s technology, is having on the community in Jersey City.”

In fact, during the pandemic, the city’s partnership with Via extended beyond public transportation. Via drivers were recruited to help deliver meals to families in need as the city experienced a 300 percent increase in demand for Meals on Wheels due to the pandemic.

Environmental impact 

Some of the program’s fleet are made up of fully electric vehicles, and the city seeks to increase the number of electric vehicles in the upcoming years.

Via also maximizes routes by connecting riders to their final destinations and reduces trips taken by single-occupancy vehicles, helping to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

According to the city, nearly 2,500 gallons of gas and 54,000 miles of driving were avoided in just the third quarter of this year as was roughly 48,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

 

 

 

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