Whether you’re living with roommates or traveling with friends, splitting bills is the easiest way to cut down on expenses. The same logic can be applied to your commute: when you share the cost of a trip, your wallet will instantly thank you. But how can you save if you don’t have a vehicle or anyone to start a carpool with? Via rideshare may be the exact solution you need.
Before Uber and Lyft were offering shared ride services of their own, Via was the company making rides as accessible as possible to every consumer. Launched in 2012, Via was built for riders who want the affordability of public transportation without giving up the reliability and efficiency of a private car. At the same time, Via offers the same convenience of any other rideshare app, allowing you to request a ride in just a few taps.
This guide will introduce you to the Via rideshare service, how it works, and how you can start riding today.
- What Is Via Rideshare?
- Where Is Via Rideshare Available?
- How Does Via Work?
- How Much Does Via Cost?
- Getting Started With Via Rideshare
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Via Rideshare?
Via is a rideshare service that’s best known for blending public transit and standard car rides. When you request a Via ride, you’ll be matched with a driver who’s headed in your direction. En route to your destination, you’ll share a ride with up to five passengers that your driver may stop to pick up or drop off along their route.
If you’ve ever used UberPool or Lyft Shared, you’ve already experienced a Via-like service. However, Via actually allows minors (aged 13 and up) to ride without adult supervision, as long as they have parent permission. Drivers are always background checked, so safety is a priority.
By sharing your ride with up to three to six other riders — and by meeting your driver on their route instead of having them come to you — you can save plenty of money in the long run. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to help the environment by reducing the number of cars on the road.
Where Is Via Rideshare Available?
The Via rideshare app is available to users in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. However, the company does partner with a few other cities across the United States to offer rides to bus stops, a transit alternative, and other limited services. These additional service areas (known as transit partners) are:
- Arlington, TX
- Birmingham, AL
- Cupertino, CA
- Detroit, MI
- King County, WA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Newton, MA
- Salt Lake County, UT
- Louis, MO
- Tri-Cities, WA
- West Sacramento, CA
Still, only Via’s three primary cities are guaranteed to offer its full range of services.
How Does Via Work?
Just like any ridesharing service, Via allows you to request on-demand rides through your smartphone. All you need to do is open your app, enter your pick-up and drop-off locations, and you’ll soon be matched with a ride. Once you’re matched, your app will direct you to wait at a nearby corner where your driver will pick you up.
Riders may already be in the vehicle when you join in and, if your ride isn’t at full capacity, more may join along the route. When your driver is near your destination, you’ll be dropped off along the route, just a short walk away.
Beyond the standard Via rideshare service, riders in the company’s three main markets can also request a few other types of rides, as follows:
- ViaExpress: ViaExpress is still a shared ride service, but you’ll be taken on a more direct route to your destination. This usually involves taking the highway instead of local roads, so you make fewer stops and get there faster. ViaExpress will only show up as an option if the app finds a faster route than what the standard Via ride would take.
- Private Ride: When you want a ride all to yourself (and your friends) or want to avoid wasting time on mid-trip stops, you can request a private ride through Via. Unlike UberX and standard Lyft rides, Via private rides still require you to meet your driver at a nearby corner instead of right at your preferred pick-up spot. This way, your ride stays affordable and the Via rideshare service stays efficient.
- Shared Taxi: If you’d prefer to be charged by the meter or to ride with a professional driver, you can request a taxi ride through the Via app and meet them at a designated street corner near you. Unlike a regular taxi ride, you may have other riders join you during your trip. If this occurs, you’ll save 40%. But if no one joins, you’ll pay the full taxi fare.
You can also choose wheelchair accessible vehicles at no extra cost by toggling on “Wheelchair Accessible” in your in-app profile.
How Much Does Via Cost?
Via rides are always built to be affordable. Though exact prices will vary between cities — for example, standard Via rides start at just $3.95 in Chicago, but $5 in NYC — the company guarantees low fares based on the same set of factors across all markets.
No matter what city you’re in, the final cost of your Via ride will depend on how far you’re going, when you’re riding, and which service you choose. Standard Via rides are the most affordable option, followed by ViaExpress, then Private Rides. Shared Taxi rides can be more or less expensive depending on your local taxi rates and whether or not someone joins your ride.
Via also charges extra for every passenger in your party, unless you request the Private Ride service, which will only cost more if you have five or more people.
Tipping at least 15% is custom for all rides (more if the service is particularly good), and a $1 tip is automatically added to most Shared Taxi rides.
Much like Uber and Lyft, Via may charge extra fees for drop-offs at special destinations (like Chicago’s Navy Pier), though you’ll always see these fees upfront before you ride. You can see real-time rates in your Via app. A $3 fee may also apply for no-shows and cancellations, which is actually $2 cheaper than Uber cancellation fees.
Even based on all these factors, you’ll still get a competitive price and won’t have to deal with the notoriously high surge pricing that Uber requires during times of high demand. Plus, if you want to save more, you have options like:
- Using a Via promo code on your first ride
- Referring new riders as a current user
- Purchasing a ViaPass, which gets you weekly or monthly access to unlimited rides for a flat fee within a designated zone, or discounted rides for trips outside the eligible area
- Using an eligible Commuter Benefits Card instead of your credit card to pay
Getting Started With Via Rideshare
When you’re ready to sign up for Via, all you need to do is download the Via app on your iPhone or Android, tap “Sign Up,” and follow the prompts to create an account. This will include providing your first name, last name, and email, and verifying your phone number.
Once your account is all set up, you’re ready to request a ride. If you haven’t provided your payment information already, tap on the menu icon in the upper left corner of your screen and select the “Billing” tab to enter your credit card details.
Then, head back to your home screen and move your map around until the blue marker is at your desired pick-up location. Tap “Set Pickup.” Then, move your map again until the orange market is at your desired drop-off location and tap “Set Drop Off.” Available ride types should appear. Review estimated arrival times and prices, choose the ride type that you’d like, and tap “Book This Ride” to finalize your request.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Via rideshare service brings a unique twist to ridesharing by focusing on ultra-affordable rides first. Learn more about how you can reduce carbon emissions while saving money with Via. These are the answers to three common questions:
Is Via available 24/7?
Via is available 24/7 in its primary markets — N.Y.C., Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — but in cities that simply have partnerships with Via, there are usually limited hours of operation. In these limited markets, Via is usually still available from early morning to late night, so its services are still likely to be available when you need them. However, Via operations are currently suspended in some markets due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What is the difference between Via and ViaVan?
ViaVan, another arm of the parent company Via Transportation, Inc., works almost exactly like the U.S. rideshare service, only it was built for European users in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Vans. ViaVan also offers electric fleets in some markets. This separate app is available in cities like London, Milton Keynes, Amsterdam, and Berlin.
Can I make money by driving with Via?
Absolutely. The rideshare company takes driver applications on a rolling basis for both its primary markets and partner cities. Via drivers are all independent contractors, which means, once you’re approved, you’ll get the perks of a flexible schedule just like Uber drivers and Lyft drivers. Many drivers actually prefer working with Via because the app takes a lower commission fee from every ride, which may mean higher earnings for you.
Save by Sharing
Choosing Via as your go-to rideshare services is a great way to save money on a comfortable ride, even if you just need a quick lift to the closest public transit station. With guaranteed low prices, Via makes on-demand transportation consistently affordable, so you won’t have to empty your wallet just to get to your destination.
The platform even offers a great alternative to rideshare apps. It offers private rides in addition to shared rides for when you want to maximize comfort or have some extra cash to spare.
If Via isn’t available in your area yet but you still want to reap the benefits of shared rides, read our guide to vanpools to learn how to save on your commute, all while sharing rides with familiar faces each day.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.