“Think of Via as a bus that’s smart enough to come when you want it and where you want it,” the company boasts on its website.
Fresh off a $100 million investment round in the spring, the company is embarking on aggressive expansion efforts — and saw a window of opportunity in the service disruptions caused by Metro’s SafeTrack initiative, which entails slowed service and station shutdowns systemwide over the next 10 months. Metro said Red Line ridership was down 30 to 40 percent Monday as riders scrambled to find alternatives to reduced service.
“We thought we would try to ease the pain somewhat and make an investment and try to support these commuters,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and chief executive officer of Via, in an interview Monday. “We just wanted to get out there and offer some service to commuters who are being impacted by this week’s SafeTrack.”
The cheap rides will be available during weekday rush hours, from 6 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Via will not operate outside those timeframes.
Ramot says the company has about 200 drivers in the District so far.
Unlike UberX and standard Lyft service, Via does not operate door to door. Rather, it requires customers to be picked up at “virtual bus stops” determined via an algorithm, usually within a block of their desired pickup location.
Via also operates in New York City, where rides cost $5, and in Chicago, where it charges $3.95.
Ramot said the discounted fares in the District were likely to last at least through the end of summer.
“The more demand there is, the longer we’ll be able to keep them,” he said.