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App Of The Day: Via Is Not Just A Road In Rome

Perhaps new, interesting smartphone apps are like buses: you wait ages and then three come along at once. Regardless, I just became aware of this not so new, but growing application from New York. I can’t use the app here (though I have used another public transport app Moovit that deserves its own post).

Even though it’s only running in New York, of course it’s got an Israeli connection. The company behind it is the brainchild of two Israelis and it’s based on something that works here in Israel without smartphones. The “monit sherut” taxi-bus system.

Here’s a little introduction to the sherut in Israel:

Sherut Photo credit: Flickr  user Flitzy
Sherut Photo credit: Flickr user Flitzy

Using a sherut in Israel is incredibly simple, however for Western tourists it can seem bizarre for something so simple to be operating in such an advanced country because the sherut works very much like you would expect public transport to work in the third world!

Sheruts will stop anywhere along their route so if you are not starting from a bus station, flag it down with your hand. The driver will stop if he has space, and if not, will normally indicate this by waving his hand.

The app in New York, called Via (ridewithvia.com) lets you call for a car which may already have people on board and  which will take you, maybe with a stop or two on the way, to where you want to go. The friend in NYC I heard about it from has told me it’s changed her life! “Proper cars and lovely drivers for FIVE BUCKS”.

If you do sign up, use my friend’s code karen6y6 and you’ll get a $10 credit (and so will she).

Unsurprisingly one finds that the creators are Israeli (NYT link):

Via, the creation of two Israeli businessmen, is modeled on a fleet of privately owned commuter vans that shadow bus routes in Tel Aviv. In September 2013, the service was introduced in New York, with virtually no marketing to announce its arrival.

It initially ran only between the Upper East Side and Midtown during morning and evening rush hours. Now, Via operates in Manhattan between 32nd and 110th Streets, on weekdays from 6:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. It charges a flat $5 for each of the first five rides; the rate stays the same if rides are bought in advance. If not, the fee increases to $7.

The company has not seen the explosive growth of competitors like Uber and Lyft. Daniel Ramot, Via’s chief executive, said that because Via depended on multiple passengers hailing and sharing the same vehicle, the coordination was more intensive, which has made Via more cautious about expanding. But Mr. Ramot pointed out that there was no shortage of people who need rides within Via’s area of operation, where density ensures that many riders will have nearby destinations.

Let me know if you’re in NYC and try the app. Sounds like a great idea. Don’t forget the code karen6y6 to get yourself $10 credit!

Via ride share app new york webpage snap

About the author

Picture of Brian of London

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.
Picture of Brian of London

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.
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