Split, a ride-hailing startup, is expanding its coverage area to include three D.C. neighborhoods it says are underserved by local transportation: Glover Park, Woodley Park and Catholic University.
The D.C.-based company announced the service additions Tuesday, growing a coverage area that includes the core of downtown, H Street Northeast, Nats Park, Georgetown, Petworth and other neighborhoods. The expanded coverage map can be seen below:
CEO Ario Keshani says the expansion allows Split to further position itself as a player in District transportation. Split charges a base fare of $2, with an additional dollar charged for every mile driven — comparable to Uber and Lyft, but without the $5 minimum.
Customers request a ride, head to a designated pickup zone (usually just a block or so away, the company says) and grab a seat. The driver picks up and drops off passengers along the way. The pickup and drop-off locations are arranged beforehand to optimize the trip.
Keshani says he wants to make prices competitive for Metro riders too — who pay at least $2.15 per trip during peak fare times — in addition to users of ride-hailing services.
“I don’t want to say that we’re a competitor to Metro,” Keshani said. “We’re all Metro users. We all believe in the really big value that Metro brings to the city.”
“[Split] fits into the landscape,” he added.
Split’s last expansion came in August, when the coverage area grew to include Mt. Pleasant and Petworth. When the company launched in the spring, coverage was limited to the central core of the city. Now, Keshani is eyeing others parts of D.C. — Ivy City, Anacostia and Tenleytown — in addition to Northern Virginia.
“When I think of Glover Park I think of big apartment buildings where people kind of have to own cars, or they have to catch the bus,” Keshani said. “When you think of Eckington or Edgewood, there is public transportation, but it’s not necessarily super well connected … If you want to go from Catholic to DuPont, you can take the Red Line but you’re gonna sit for a while on it. That was the kind of thinking we were using.”
Split also will be launching an Android app in December; an iOS app is already available.
Keshani says tens of thousands have used the service, which has about a hundred regular drivers. He wouldn’t go into the specifics of the company’s funding, but said it’s in the eight figures.
Split has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with Uber, which boasts that more than 8 million users have used the services of more than 160,000 drivers in nearly 300 cities worldwide. It also will have to contend with uberPOOL and the coming launch of Lyft Line, slated for Thursday.
But unlike the established services, Keshani says his is a neighborhood-driven carpooling community, where riders hop in and hop out from designated pickup and drop-off locations. It’s similar to the carpool options, touted as alternatives for passengers willing to share a ride and split the fare.
The driver has a chance to pick up multiple passengers throughout the trip, giving him or her the opportunity to earn more money, Keshani said. If a minimum trip fare isn’t met, the company will compensate the driver accordingly.
“We believe that they should make a good wage, a good income,” Keshani said. “They shouldn’t be living, working like crazy just so they can make enough money to barely put food in the table.”
The eventual goal, Keshani said, is to foster a steady stream of pick-ups and drop-offs. Lest you think this sounds like another tried and true transit option, rest assured, the comparison has already been made — when an Uber CEO described his dream trip.
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) August 24, 2015
“There is a very real similarity between what we do and buses,” Keshani said, drawing comparisons to mini-buses seen in some foreign countries, where “the algorithm is in the driver’s mind.”
“These are kind of like these dollar vans.”