LA Metro Is Offering Car Rides For The Price Of A Bus Ticket

LA Metro has partnered with the private ride-hail company Via to offer cheap on-demand car rides to and from three transit stops. (Courtesy of Via)

A new, cheap way of getting to and from transit is coming to Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has partnered with private ride-hailing service Via to offer affordable car rides to and from three busy transit stops in El Monte, Artesia and North Hollywood within the boundaries of a set service area.

Rides for TAP card users, Metro's universal transit payment system, cost $1.75, the same as a regular Metro fare if users register their TAP number with the company. Non-TAP card users will be charged $3.75 and those enrolled in Metro's low-income fare discount program, LIFE, can ride for free.

The year-long pilot program, first announced in 2017 and funded in part by a $1.35 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, is intended to help bridge the so-called first and last mile gap between transit hubs and people's final destinations.

The service areas for Via ride-hail around three LA transit stops. (LA Metro)

Getting people to and from transit in L.A.'s characteristic suburban sprawl has proven challenging even as the agency pours billions into new transit lines. According to a study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, less than a quarter of L.A. County's population live in walking distance to a train or rapid bus stop.

The pilot service also makes on-demand car rides more accessible for disadvantaged communities where residents may be unable to afford services like Uber or Lyft, or unable to use the apps due to lack of smart phone or credit card.

Cars for the program can be summoned using the Via app or by calling the company from any phone and giving a location. Rides can be paid for using credit card, debit card or a prepaid cash card and the call center will offer translation services for non-English speakers.

Metro is also working on a micro-transit pilot which is set to launch later this year, again partnering with private on-demand ride-hailing companies to offer subsidized shared rides in vanpools. Locations and fares for this program have yet to be determined, but Metro has indicated costs would be more expensive than the standard $1.75 fare, but cheaper than other ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft.

L.A. Metro, like transit agencies nationwide, has seen ridership drop for the last five years, despite massive investments in the system.

Recent research correlated the drop in transit in many cities to the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, though the picture in L.A. may be more complicated. A UCLA study conducted for the Southern California Association of Governments last year concluded that increased car ownership, particularly among low-income immigrants who have made up the core of Metro's ridership, was the biggest single factor in the decline.