This week, Via and Mobike launched a joint Earth Day-inspired initiative allowing Via users in Washington, DC to purchase a 4-week “multi-modal transportation bundle,” dubbed ViaPass, that includes unlimited access to Via rides and Mobike dockless bikes for one upfront fee.
The broad mission of Via and Mobike’s #MyEarthDayCommute challenge is to encourage DC residents to ditch personal vehicles and reduce their carbon footprints.
In an emailed statement, Alex Lavoie, U.S. General Manager at Via, said the company is also “exploring opportunities to collaborate with Mobike in other markets” outside of the DC area.
Some policymakers are increasingly concerned about the concentration of power in a small number of companies, leading to calls for more expansive antitrust policy or stricter regulations across a range of industries. However, government policies create barriers to entry that lead to the market concentration that fuels their consternation.
The most recent example is in Washington D.C., where Mayor Bowser’s office recently said that ride-hailing company Via had 90 days to broaden its coverage areas to comply with a District law. If not, Via would face penalties in the form of fines or even the loss of its license. While the law, and D.C.’s new commitment to enforce it, is designed to ensure more access to ride-haling for all District residents, it is more likely to contribute to higher barriers to entry for ride-hailing companies. These barriers would only further entrench established incumbents.
The new warning stems from officials recently learning that Via’s sphere of operation does not extend to the entire city, with Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River and neighborhoods in the upper Northwest and Northeast falling outside of the sphere. The limited sphere of operation runs afoul of provisions in the Vehicle for Hire Innovation Amendment Act of 2014, which requires ride-hailing companies using digital dispatch to “provide service throughout the entire District.”
Many cities have bus systems, but they’re not always well-utilized by the majority of residents. The city of Arlington, Texas, located just outside Dallas, for example, had a single bus route — and discovered that most of its riders were students at the University of Texas branch there.
So, late last year, Arlington voted to end the route and replaced it with a ridesharing service in December. Like a few communities in the U.S., Arlington went with Via, a technology developer and provider of dynamic on-demand shared rides, to provide the network technology.
Using the Via technology, riders in Arlington are able to get a seat in one of 10 six-passenger vans roving city streets for a $3 fare. Riders who don’t have a smartphone can use a dial-in phone number, which is available in addition to the app.