Wheels in Motion

New ride-hailing service arrives in Austin — but it’s not like Uber

New ride-hailing service arrives in Austin — but it’s not like Uber

Via Ride-sharing service launches Pickup in Austin
Pickup will be free for a limited time. Via/Facebook

Austin’s Capital Metro Transportation Authority is teaming up with ride-hailing startup Via — which boasts that it’s establishing “the public transit system of the future” — to test a ride-hailing service in Austin. Unlike ride-hailing operators Uber and Lyft, which returned to Austin on May 29 after a one-year absence, the new service is more carpool than cab.

In partnership with Via, Capital Metro is set to launch a ride-hailing transit service called Pickup on June 6. The new service will let riders — through a mobile app — arrange on-demand trips in Austin’s Mueller, Windsor Park, and Coronado Hills neighborhoods. The service zone extends from the intersection of Manor Road and Airport Boulevard to the I-35 access road north of Rutherford Lane.

“We’re committed to taking advantage of every opportunity we can to improve the way we move people around Central Texas,” Linda Watson, president and CEO of Cap Metro, said in announcing Pickup.

The Pickup service will run 9 am to 6 pm Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. During the pilot phase, it will be available at no charge for a limited time.

After downloading the Pickup app and setting up an account, a rider can request a time and pickup point and set a destination. That journey will be matched with other travelers heading to the same location; Cap Metro says a Pickup vehicle will arrive within 15 minutes.

Initially, Pickup will operate two vehicles, each capable of holding as many as nine passengers, Cap Metro spokeswoman Mariette Hummel says.

Capital Metro collaborated with Via to create the Pickup app. Via operates on-demand ridesharing platforms in New York City; Chicago; and Washington, D.C., and licenses its technology to transportation providers around the world.

“For now, Pickup is our only planned endeavor in Austin, and we’re fully committed to making our partnership with Cap Metro a success and growing Pickup’s service,” Via spokeswoman Gabby McCaig tells CultureMap. “In the longer term, Austin is obviously a growing city with tremendous transportation needs, and we’re always open to considering new ways to bring efficient transit solutions to the area.”

In a 2016 news release, Via said it’s “creating the public transit system of the future.”

“With existing transportation infrastructure straining and in some cases failing to meet rising demand across the globe, Via’s dynamic bus system offers cities a smart solution to traffic congestion and emissions,” Via says.

In other markets, a Via user books a ride through the company’s app. Then, the company’s algorithms match the rider with a close-by route already being served by a Via driver and going in the rider’s direction. Via says the average wait time is five minutes.

The company says its on-demand system in those cities allows passengers “to be picked up and dropped off in an endless stream without taking riders out of their way to accommodate other passengers.”

Israeli entrepreneurs Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval founded Via in 2012 and launched their service in New York the following year. To date, the New York-based company has provided more than 15 million rides.