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On-demand shuttle startup makes South American debut in Brazil

This post is also available in: esEspañol (Spanish)

Contxto – Nowadays, transportation apps aren’t only convenient but trendy, Via being no exception. With support from Daimler, the young New York-based company just launched services for the first time in South America in Goiânia, Brazil.

Who is Via?

As a company, Via offers rideshares at a low-cost. Operations began in 2012 with the majority of business centered around New York City, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Recently, officials secured US$250 million from Daimler to expand coverage.

Via collaborated with public transportation operator, HP Transportes Colectivos, to secure this expansion in Goiânia. Together, they created CityBus 2.0. In other words, Via worked diligently with local public transportation operators to introduce a new and improved shuttle system. This sort of partnership is the first of its kind in Latin America.

via GIPHY

How does Via work?

Like other ride-hailing or carpooling applications, everything is powered through your handy smartphone. Users in Goiânia can request pickups in 11 districts around the city for a base fare of R$2.50, or about US$0.68. That’s pretty cheap. The app also calculates the distance and shows the fare, which can be paid with card or cash.

A 14-seater Mercedes-Benz van will soon arrive once you place your order. Currently, Via employs 30 drivers capable of making up to 3,500 daily trips. Brazilian operators will also be able to work for Via and use their own shuttles to extend service. In that sense, it operates like Uber or Lyft in terms of onboarding additional personnel, which can be great for the economy.

Is there competition?

Via isn’t the only startup offering impromptu transportation options in Latin America. Just in Brazil alone, small taxi-based services exist with Bussi not to mention the recent female-only rideshare application for heightened security.

We can’t forget about the ubiquitous Uber or Chinese powerhouse Didi that just purchased Brazilian ride-hailing app 99, either. With clear intentions to gain assets in Latin America, Didi may present the most competition in the region if you ask me, especially since they’re giving Uber a run for its money.

Regardless of the regional rivalry, Brazil’s reception of Via seems overall positive. According to Via, over 15,000 people downloaded the new CityBus 2.0 app in the first week alone. Surely, I imagine this number will steadily rise.

Conclusion

To be honest, I believe most carpooling or ride-hailing apps function the same way. Yes, they save you money while curbing carbon emissions, which is great for your wallet as well as the environment.

But let me be clear – I think Via has an interesting business model in terms of working alongside public transportation authorities. What other companies are going out of the way to cooperate with local agencies?

Depending on the locality, public transportation tends to be either really good or really bad. In that regard, it’s interesting how a private company like Via can “fill in the void” by providing innovative transportation solutions while offering employment opportunities to the local community.

-JA

Jacob Atkins
Jacob Atkins is a journalist specializing in Latin America. He studied journalism and international relations at American University in Washington, D.C. and has previously reported from Chile, Ecuador, Haiti and Mexico. When he isn't writing he's most likely hiking or drawing.

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