The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is testing a new program with the goal of making public transit easier to use for those who need it while enticing others who have considered using it to follow through.
In late January, Metro launched a 12-month pilot program with ride-sharing company Via in which commuters can hail a ride to and from public transit hubs for a low-cost, flat fee.
While most ride-hailing services allow riders to be picked up and dropped off nearly anywhere, those looking to hail a ride from Via can only do so within one of the three test service zones.
Those zones include the downtown Burbank and Hollywood Burbank Airport South Metrolink stations as well as the North Hollywood Red Line station in one of the zones. The other zones are an area around the Artesia Metro Blue Line station in Compton and around the El Monte Station.
The goal of the project is to help commuters with the first-mile, last-mile portions of their commute and to get more people out of their vehicles and using public transportation, said Emma Huang, a project manager at Metro who is overseeing the project.
In addition, she said Metro officials wanted a ride-sharing service that was accessible to more people, including those with disabilities, people with low incomes and those who do not have a smartphone.
Huang said passengers can either use Via’s mobile app or call the company at (619) 731-0710 to book a ride.
“[The pilot program] is really trying to leverage what public transit views as the positive of transportation-network companies, but to make sure that it complements public transit,” Huang said.
This ride-sharing service is different from the conventional services offered by other transportation-network companies, such as Lyft and Uber.
Via’s hours of operation are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Huang said passengers who are looking to get a ride in one of the designated transit hubs must be within the zones outlined by Metro and Via. Alternatively, anyone who hails a ride from any of the stations can be dropped off anywhere within the other designated zones.
Additionally, every ride booked with Via is a shared ride, which means commuters will be sharing their rides with other people.
“By making all of these rides shared, we can be more efficient and allow to offer these rides at an affordable rate,” said Obinna Emenike, general manager of partner cities for Via.
The Via rates are cheaper than the rates offered by other transportation-network companies. A one-way ride to or from one of the transit hubs is a flat rate of $3.75. However, that fare can drop to $1.75 if a commuter registers their account with a Metro TAP card.
Additionally, those who participate in Metro’s LIFE rider-relief program can ride for free.
Although it has only been a few months since the pilot first launched, Huang said Metro’s partnership is off to a good start.
“So far, we’re able to see that there’s a potential need outside of the current zones we have, especially in the North Hollywood area,” she said. “We have also seen that there is a core group of users using the service, which is great.”