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Jersey City Boosts Ride-Sharing Service Amid Rising Demand

Jersey City, N.J., is putting more vehicles on the streets to address the rising demand for the Via ride-sharing program. The increased funding of $2.8 million will allow the city to add nine vehicles.

by Joshua Rosario, NJ Advance Media Group / September 22, 2020
A Jersey City Via van on Journal Square on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. TNS

(TNS) — Jersey City, N.J., is doubling down on its investment in its Via transportation service, putting more vehicles on the streets to meet rising demand for the ride-sharing program.

The City Council will vote on a resolution Wednesday to increase the estimated two-year cost for the service — which provides rides in vans and cars for as low as $2 — hiking the city’s investment from almost $3.8 million to $6.6 million. The added funding will allow the city to add nine vehicles to its current fleet of 17.

On Monday, Mayor Steve Fulop unveiled the service’s second quarterly performance report showing an 11% increase in the number of rides. But the coronavirus pandemic and increased demand meant users waited 60% longer for their rides to arrive during the second quarter, data shows. Wait times increased from 13 minutes to nearly 21 minutes.

“We saw a little slippage in wait time due to COVID-19 impact on fleet safety but all in all we are moving in the right direction,” Fulop tweeted.

Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the city is expanding its fleet to meet rising demand for the service.

“The program has continued to be a great success, even throughout the pandemic, reaching the city’s goal of closing transit gaps and offering alternative, more reliable transportation options, which has proven especially beneficial amid COVID,” Wallace-Scalcione said in a statement.

Since the system launched on Feb. 22, more than 75,000 rides have been recorded. Nearly 4,300 riders took more than 39,000 rides between May 23 and Aug. 22

When the city announced the program in September, Fulop said the service would help quell some of the city’s parking problems and bring transportation to areas with fewer options, like Greenville.

While the top destination for riders has been the Journal Square Transportation Center, data shows that Ward F — the Bergen-Lafayette section of the city — is where demand is highest. Ward F had more pickup and dropoff requests than any other ward since the service launched.

Using the Via mobile app — or a phone line for users without access to a smartphone — passengers select a pickup and dropoff location and confirm their ride.

Once a ride is booked, the app will match the rider with other passengers heading in the same direction. The app will send users to a nearby corner, or “virtual bus stop,” to meet and be picked up with an announced wait time.

The service also aims to reduce air pollution by cutting down the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road. The city says its Via fleet, which includes two electric vehicles, prevented an estimated 27,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the air.

©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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