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children board school bus

Via’s algorithms will help New York City optimize routes for 150,000 students traveling on 9,000 bus routes every day.

By Brian Blum, ISRAEL21c

School-bus pickups in New York City are about to get smarter, thanks to Israeli-founded mobility startup Via.

The company’s “Via for Schools” system was selected by the New York City Department of Education to automate school-bus routing.

Via’s algorithms optimize which route a bus should travel and can update routes based on real-time data such as street closures and traffic, making operations more efficient and less expensive.

Via’s system for schools also includes a mobile app for parents and students that lets them know when their bus will arrive. That’s similar to the service offered by fellow Israeli mobility app Moovit, which displays where a public transportation vehicle is on its route based on precise GPS tracking.

Via CEO Daniel Ramot called the partnership “a new standard of excellence in school transportation.”

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza added that working with Via will help the Department of Education “get it right this year.”

There’s a lot to get right: the NYC Department of Education is the largest school district in the United States, transporting some 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes every day.

Via for Schools will know when to send a bus to a student’s home (for example, for special education and disabled students) and when students will meet at a central bus stop.

Launched in 2012 with headquarters in New York and R&D in Israel, Via’s initial model allowed taxi drivers to offer shared rides. In New York City, each ride is $5 plus tax, charged to the rider’s credit card via the app. The company based its idea on Israel’s “shared taxis” in Tel Aviv and to and from Ben-Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, company cofounder Oren Shoval told ISRAEL21c.

Via has since raised $387 million and added public transportation to its software offerings; the technology is now used in 50 markets across the world, including the Los Angeles Metro, Transport for London and Germany’s Berliner Verkehsbetriebe.

Via also has a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz to offer on-demand shared vans dubbed “ViaVans.”