Apple's Hometown to Launch On-Demand Public Transit Service in Partnership With Via

Apple's Hometown to Launch On-Demand Public Transit Service in Partnership With Via

Author: Eric Walz   

The city of Cupertino, California, which is the home of tech giant Apple, is launching a new on-demand public transit system together with on-demand transportation company Via. New York-based Via is working to reinvent public transit from a rigid system of fixed routes and schedules to a dynamic, on-demand network similar to how people hail a ride with Uber.

Unlike traditional public transit bus service that run on a fixed schedule, Via allows riders to hail a shared ride whenever they need to. Residents of Cupertino will be able to hail a shuttle directly from the Via smartphone app. The service will also provide more convenient connections to local rail service CalTrain, which runs from Silicon Valley to San Francisco.

The service will launch on Oct 29 in a 18-month pilot program.

The goal of the service is to make public transportation more comfortable, convenient and affordable, similar to how Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Via is a close competitor to Uber in cities. City leaders in Cupertino hope to encourage residents to leave their private vehicles at home, reducing traffic congestion in the city.

"This partnership with Via is the next generation of what public transportation can be, allowing us to increase mobility while taking a step toward our larger goal of reducing traffic congestion across Cupertino," said Mayor Steven Scharf. 

Via's platform uses advanced algorithms to enable multiple riders to seamlessly share the same vehicle.Once a customer requests a ride through the Via app, the algorithm instantly finds a vehicle that best matches their route. The technology directs passengers to a nearby "virtual bus stop" within a short walking distance for easier pick up and drop off, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without inconvenient fixed routes and bus schedules that take longer.

"Via's powerful technology is seamlessly integrating with public transit infrastructure around the globe, redefining the way people get around cities," said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. "We're delighted to join forces with city leadership to bring this cutting-edge, on-demand shuttle system to Cupertino, providing residents with a convenient, affordable, and congestion-reducing dynamic transportation alternative."

The on-demand transit network will span the entire 11 square mile city, with an additional satellite zone surrounding the Sunnyvale CalTrain station for commuters. The Sunnyvale station the next town over is one of the busiest train stations in Silicon Valley and a popular pick-up and dropoff point for Uber and Lyft rides.

The service will launch with six Cupertino-branded Mercedes Benz Metris passenger vans. Each van seats six people in addition to a driver. The fleet will eventually be expanded to 10 vehicles. The fleet will also include a wheelchair accessible vehicle in compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Avis Budget Group will manage the fleet and maintain the vehicles.


Apple's sprawling "spaceship" campus in Cupertino is named Apple Park.

On-Demand Public Transit a Solution for Cupertino's Traffic Problems

Although many Bay Area residents are used to California's traffic woes, Cupertino residents experience some of the worst traffic in Silicon Valley, especially after Apple completed its new $5 billion Spaceship campus where thousands of employees work. Getting across the city during peak times can be painfully slow and the city is exploring alternative options to ease traffic.

In April, The Mercury News reported that Apple offered to spend $9.7 million for five bike and pedestrian improvement projects in Cupertino. In exchange, Apple asked the Cupertino city council to drop plans to change the city's business license tax from a flat fee with a progressive rate based on total square footage to one based on the number of people a business employs. Apple is the city's largest employer with 24,000 workers and is often blamed for increasing traffic within the city.

Cupertino got the idea for the tax from the nearby city of Mountain View, the hometown of Google, where voters passed an employee business tax in November 2018. The tax is designed to make tech companies that contribute to local traffic congestion and other environmental impacts pay for solutions.

Cupertino residents will be charged $5 per ride, with weekly and monthly passes available for just $17 a week and $60 a month.Via's service will operate Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Via now has more than 80 launched and pending deployments in over 20 countries, providing more than 60 million rides to date. The company operates in the United States and Europe through its joint venture with Mercedes-Benz Vans, ViaVan

In addition to Cupertino, Via operates in New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC, providing over 1.5 million rides per month.

Via's on-demand public transportation service first launched in New York City in Sept 2013. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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