“The No. 1 question we get asked is, ‘When are you coming to my part of town?’” said Daniel Ramot, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Via. “We are thrilled to get all of New York sharing affordable Via rides, and do our share to reduce congestion and emissions in our hometown.”
Devin Shacket, 29, an actress who lives in Midtown Manhattan, said that it made sense to ask riders where they want to go. “I really like that idea,” she said. “From a business standpoint, it seems very smart to offer a service people want to use in locations where it will serve them best.”
Via’s expansion in Brooklyn will mean that Chris Lee, 26, a researcher for a real estate company who lives in Cobble Hill, will have another option to get around. Mr. Lee, who has used Via, said he would stick with the subway for his regular commute because it is cheaper, but was likely to use Via when he needed a car.
Via’s crowdsourcing is the latest development in New York City’s rapidly changing transportation landscape, as ride-hail apps have flooded the streets with thousands of black cars and upended the yellow cab industry. Though the new app services have hurt taxi owners and drivers, they have been embraced by many riders, especially in the boroughs outside Manhattan where subway and taxi service is limited. For the first time, in July, more people in the city chose Uber over yellow cabs.
Via started in 2013 with five sport utility vehicles shuttling groups of commuters back and forth from the Upper East Side, where subways are crowded. It offered an unbeatable $5 flat fee around most of Manhattan, south of 125th Street. Soon its cars were also in four neighborhoods in Brooklyn — Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Greenpoint — in Long Island City, Queens, and at the airports.
Via has even sought to get New Yorkers to share their yellow cab rides. In June, Via partnered with a competing taxi app, Curb, to give discounted fares to taxi riders around Manhattan in return for sharing the back seat with a stranger.
Ana Kukoleca, 26, an accountant, said she hoped that Via’s polling of customers would help establish new hubs of service and improve transportation in underserved neighborhoods. Ms. Kukoleca, who lives in Astoria, Queens, said that she had tapped her phone for an Uber or Lyft car, only to have to wait another six to 10 minutes for it to show up.
“I feel it’s the best route to go,” she said. “New York is very much a word-of-mouth city.”