It’s Friday, August 9, and a new ride-hailing service makes it more convenient to take the bus.

A government-subsidized ride-hailing service called Via is trying to solve the oh-so-familiar inconveniences of public transit. Taking the bus may be environmentally friendly, but sometimes you wind up needing to transfer to a second bus or walk another half mile to your destination — an understandable deterrent for many.

Via borrows the convenient aspects of the Lyft and Uber model while avoiding their traffic-causing downsides. The service is sort of like if Uber only had a carpool option that took you to and from the nearest transit stop, and you could use your city bus pass to pay for it. Operating in set zones around transit hubs, Via vans pick you up and drop you off within a few blocks of your home.

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So far, Via is only running in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., with beta projects in a few more (including Grist’s hometown of Seattle). The hope is that the service can get more people to take transit, especially in areas where there aren’t a whole lot of transit stops.

Critics of the program point out that it wouldn’t be necessary if public bus services were more far-reaching. Since Via is still ramping up, it remains to be seen whether it actually increases transit ridership, is worth the cost of subsidizing, and overall lives up to the hype.

But is it faster than other options? Check out Grist’s new video, featuring a thrilling race between a Lyft, a bus, and a Via, to find out. There’s a cameo appearance from yours truly.

Miyo McGinn

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