Via-Cupertino: New On-Demand Shuttle

Lawrence Fan

On June 18, 2019, the Cupertino City Council approved funding for an experimental, on-demand shuttle service to reduce traffic and air pollution. Set to begin operating in November, this pilot program will provide citizens with accessible and affordable transportation across the city.

The pilot program is designed to be affordable with an initial one-way fare of $5, and students and elders are eligible for a discounted fare of $2.50. Frequent commuters can opt for a weekly pass, which costs $17, or a monthly pass, which costs $60. These passes allow for up to four rides a day. 

The shuttle service is operational anywhere in Cupertino and serves several locations outside of Cupertino, including the Sunnyvale Caltrain Station and the Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara. It runs six days a week, and service hours are 6 a.m. to 8p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

The current cost of creating this program is expected to total $1.16 million, but if the demand for the service is low, the city may lower ride prices, which could drive costs up to $1.75 million. After 18 months, the City Council will evaluate the program’s success and discuss options moving forward.

The city is partnering with the company Via, which will provide both the vehicles and logistics of the program. Via was chosen over competitors because it is the only vendor that offers both the on-demand technology and management needed for shuttle service. Cupertino City Council members considered partnering with Uber or Lyft, but negative feedback from the Mountain View Transportation Management Association deterred them from doing so.

Residents as young as 14 can ride the shuttles, so Cupertino High School students can benefit from the program. Students who currently use Uber or Lyft for transportation can now use a cheaper and safer alternative, and students can travel longer distances with more ease. Many students at Cupertino are optimistic about this service, and see it as a benefit for the city. 

“Unquestionably, I think it’s up to snuff, it’s neat because it’s very serviceable,” said Junior Alexander Wang, who often walks for his commutes. 

However, there are also potential drawbacks of this pilot program. One potential problem is that service hours are limited, so late-night and weekend commuters do not have access to the service. On top of that, the shuttle service only serves within the boundaries of Cupertino, with the exception of a few locations. This means that residents with farther destinations can not use this service.

Said Wang, “I don’t see myself using it anytime soon… I don’t know if some of the problems outweigh the benefits.”