Palo Alto launches its own ride-sharing app with 4 new Teslas
PALO ALTO — There’s no need to call Uber or Lyft the next weekday trip you want to take to Stanford Mall, California Avenue restaurants or anywhere else in Palo Alto — the city now has a fleet of Teslas ready to crash at a moment’s notice. . Yes, Teslas.
Palo Alto Link is this tech city’s foray into the carpool space, trying to disrupt the titans that have struggled in recent years to keep a base of happy riders and drivers by offering anyone a brand-new Tesla — or a minivan, for that matter. , a Toyota Sienna – can be picked up and dropped off anywhere in the city, whether it’s a hospital, a trip to the mall, a trip to the park or a simple curiosity with a Tesla.
The ride-sharing app is easy to use, works like Uber or Lyft, and is the city’s response to calls from residents to return to a popular shuttle service that was shut down in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. April 7, but fares won’t break the bank: As little as $3.50 to get anywhere in the city, discounts for students, seniors, the disabled and others drop the cost to just $1. Currently, the service operates from Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m
City Transportation Manager Nate Baird said the Palo Alto Link will be more useful than a fixed-route shuttle.
“It really has the potential to expand transit options for a lot of residents because transit really serves those who are within a quarter mile of bus stops,” Baird said. “For many people in our city, it is a step forward to have a service available at any cross street in the city.”
Palo Alto Link, operated by Via Transportations Inc., a global mass transit and transit technology company, isn’t the first in the city to bring ride-sharing technology to the public sector. The tech company has partnered with cities across the U.S., including Jersey City, New Jersey; Sarasota County, Florida; and Arlington, Virginia. Cupertino also partnered with Via to create the Cupertino Shuttle, which recently announced that it will expand its service to Santa Clara and North San Jose office parks starting in April.
Palo Alto Link and others are not like their private-sector competitors, Baird said. The service is an 18-month pilot program approved by the City Council to replace the shuttle service, using Measure B funds earmarked for innovative transit ideas. So it’s not permanent. And Baird said users should expect to travel with others. Riders also book rides by phone and pay in cash.
“There are many things local government can provide to ensure access for as many people as possible, while the private sector doesn’t have to provide excellent service to everyone, it just has to make a profit,” Baird said.
Palo Alto Link currently has a fleet of 10 vehicles, four Teslas, three wheelchair accessible Toyota Siennas and three Siennas with interior bike racks. When you book a ride on the app, the service works similar to carpooling, where Via’s algorithm groups riders as needed. Since the program began on Tuesday, there have been no problems so far, and there has already been good feedback from competitors, Baird said.
At a recent council meeting, Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada said Palo Alto Link is part of the city’s revitalization and “is ushering in a new era of public transportation in Palo Alto.”
“It will be interesting to see how people react to this new resource,” Shikada said. “I look forward to the information that will inform travel needs and priorities within the city over the next 18 months.”
To Baird, it’s clear that Palo Alto Link is the new way for cities to accommodate riders who find it difficult to get to work or go to the store using traditional public transportation. While the public sector hasn’t offered services like this before, he says it’s a step in the right direction as people are used to booking and sharing rides online or on their phones.
The cons? Rides are limited to within Palo Alto, and the ride share has only 10 vehicles in its fleet. Baird said the city is prepared to adjust accordingly as more travel data becomes available, but he did not say whether that would mean adding new vehicles.
Uber’s California transit agency partnership manager Chris Margaronis did not address Via or Palo Alto Link in a statement to this news organization, but noted the ride-sharing company’s own contributions in the public sector.
“Uber supports transportation agencies in California and the nation by providing access to its driver network when transit agencies need it most,” said Margaronis. “We work to bridge the first/last mile gap, support agencies when their buses or trains experience service disruptions, and help agencies with their paratransit services to increase mobility options for aging populations and people with disabilities. We welcome cities that want to expand transportation options, and if they’re struggling, Uber is here to help.”
Baird sees the future in Palo Alto Link.
“On-demand carpool transit can really help some of the cities that have started experimenting,” Baird said. “It’s a natural evolution of technology. Technology is often driven by the private sector, and government doesn’t get to try things out very often because it involves a lot more risk. Now that Uber and Lyft have been available for a while and we’ve been using those apps all the time, it’s a very convenient way to serve a lot of the users we want to reach.”