3 reasons Via is better than Uber and Lyft

New ridesharing company is on a mission to 'transform public transit.'

Rideshare carpoolRideshare carpoolVia allows commuters to share a ride with people going their direction. It fosters 'a sense of community,' according to one review.

If you've ever seen a hybrid van-bus driving through your neighborhood, then you've seen an example of a jitney. It's a wonderful concept: A group of people sharing a ride within a small circle, all getting where they need to go without a lot of hassle.

Via, a company founded by Israelis Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, has brought the concept of the jitney into the present by marrying it with the same ridesharing technology that launched Uber and Lyft into big transportation players. Via uses a smartphone app and proprietary algorithms to determine if a group of its users in the same area are requesting a ride in the same direction. A Sprinter van or luxury SUV (not a van-bus) should arrive within five minutes after a user requests a ride.

"Our goal is to transform public transit from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network," the founders said in a statement.

Even in the crowded ridesharing world, there isn't a ton of direct competition for Via, and after a recent new round of funding for the New York-based company, it's bound to be around for awhile. Here are three reasons we hope it sticks around, and why it's better than Uber or Lyft:

It's more environmentally friendly

A photo posted by RideWithVia (@ridewithvia) on

Via is essentially a carpool, with passengers all from the same area going in the same direction. Just like 10 people taking the shuttle bus from the airport is better for the environment than those people taking 10 taxis, one Via van is better than 10 or 20 Uber cars.

It's affordable, and there are more payment options

For now, Via charges a flat fee of either $5 or $7 per ride, depending if the user pre-paid or not. The price of Uber rides, of course, depends on distance and the time of day. In addition, if you have a commuter benefit card like TransitChek, where money you put onto the card is taken from your paycheck pre-tax, you can use it to pay for Via rides. You can't use those benefits on Uber or Lyft.

It gives you a chance to meet people.

A photo posted by RideWithVia (@ridewithvia) on

Just like car-based ridesharing services are more friendly than taking a cab, Via positions itself as the more pleasant alternative to the bus. Not that we're expecting a party to break out, but the good vibes from a friendly driver will inevitably spread to the passengers, who will all be able to compare and contrast their Via experiences. Also, according to Jonah Bromwich in The New York Times, the fact that passengers need to accommodate the Via van's times and pickup locations fosters "a sense of community among passengers." Who knows, one day we may be hearing about a Via-fueled marriage.

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