GRTC hitches a ride with local startup

Matt Donlon launched Uzurv in early 2016. The app reserves Uber and Lyft rides. (Mike Platania)

Matt Donlon launched Uzurv in early 2016. The app reserves Uber and Lyft rides. (Mike Platania)

After finding success piggybacking on popular ridesharing apps, a local startup has won the business of Richmond’s public transit provider.

Uzurv, an app that allows users to reserve rides through services like Uber and Lyft, will take over GRTC’s transportation service for disabled passengers. The program is a one-year pilot, called CARE On-Demand.

Uzurv co-founder Matt Donlon said the company was approached by GRTC in the spring, around the same time GRTC broke the contract with its previous provider. First Transit Inc. has taken over paratransit transportation in the interim.

“Their special care transit wasn’t working the way it was set up,” Donlon said. “They wanted to use us to supplement and pick up the rides that weren’t being tended to. They anticipate around 250 rides per day.”

The program is available exclusively for CARE customers, and will begin Aug. 1. The cost for a CARE On-Demand ride is $6.00, with GRTC picking up to $15 more in cost. Ride reservations can be made as far as 30 days in advance, or as immediately as day-of.

Donlon said Uzurv is training 40 of its highest-rated drivers to be certified to operate as drivers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said the new contract fills a gap that’s been typically slow.

“It’ll fill in rides during a ‘dead’ time. Drivers can now count on good rides all day long,” Donlon said.

“A lot of drivers are saying, ‘I don’t have to work the Fan at midnight anymore.’”

Since launching in early 2016, Uzurv has grown steadily, and recently managed to avoid a regulatory pothole that threatened its operation here in Virginia. It now operates in 141 markets with 37,000 drivers nationwide.

Donlon said the new agreement in Richmond is paving the way for similar growth elsewhere.

“We’ve been contacted by about a dozen cities that want to know more about this,” Donlon said. “But we want to walk before we run. We want to execute this in Richmond and do it well.”

Uzurv and its 17 employees are based in the Hofheimer building at 2818 W. Broad St., sandwiched between the new HofGarden and Peter Chang’s.

Donlon said they may soon be on the move within the city, because of the potential growth of serving transit authorities.

“We could be serving many GRTC types across the country,” he said.

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Raymond Taber

Great company to work with!