Until bus service arrived in 2013, Arlington, Texas was the largest city in the nation without public transportation. Residents have repeatedly voted against measures that would bring mass transit to the area and now the city is killing its bus service in favor of a ridesharing startup.
Via lets riders book a trip in a Mercedes-Benz van through an app, or, if someone doesn’t have a smartphone, through a dial-in number, according to a press release from the city of Arlington. Passengers will be picked up at nearby locations or at their home—there are no fixed schedules or routes. Each trip is $3 and riders can buy a week pass for $10, according to TechCrunch.
The city has a contract for one year with the option to renew it four times for the same amount of time, according to the press release. The City Council apparently plans to use data collected through the service to help inform its transit plans down the line.
“We are at the beginning of an exciting transportation technology revolution,” Arlington Major Jeff Williams said. “And Arlington’s Via Rideshare Pilot Program is the latest example of our City’s willingness to explore innovative transportation technology solutions for our residents, employees, students and visitors.”
Expanding ridesharing options in a city is not a necessarily insidious thing to do, but to do so at the cost of affordable, public alternatives marks a disconcerting step towards the governance of tech companies. It also reinforces Silicon Valley’s mission to solve social issues through technology when, in this instance, better city planning would best resolve the problem.
While Arlington residents themselves have repeatedly voted against measures that would bring public transportation efforts to the city—and instead flushed money into fixing up the city’s stadium—it is still important for locals to have sustainable, low-cost transit options. For residents without smartphones, relying on a dial-in number for on-demand trips sounds like a nightmarish way to get around.