Arlington County residents may have noticed a rectangular-shaped vehicle with the word “FLARE” written across the side of it, driving up and down the streets this past month.
Officially recognized by the county on Nov. 12, the shuttle—created by FLARE Technology and Services—is providing locals and visitors with an alternative, electric mode of transportation in Arlington.
“I really wanted to do something that would make a huge difference for people,” says FLARE CEO Andres Delgado, who previously manufactured tech accessories for home entertainment systems. “I started thinking about how transportation could make other areas in Arlington more desirable to live. For example, Columbia Pike: It’s cheaper to live there because there’s no Metro, but if you want to live in Clarendon, it will be more expensive because of the surrounding amenities.”
If you choose to take a ride with FLARE, you simply have to download the application and request a ride, which is displayed in real time. The overall business model is vastly different than most ride-sharing companies though, as residents purchase a monthly membership for $19.99 rather than pay for one-time rides. Plus, the drivers must follow a designated route, stopping only at drop-off points.
“We don’t see ourselves as direct competition to driving services, rather complementary,” says Delgado. “Our service is fixed. With Uber, Lyft, they pick you up and drop you off wherever you need to go. For us, it’s a set loop.”
The business model is twofold, focusing on both technological advancements, as well as services. According to Delgado, the company has plans to collect data via the electronic shuttles, and also put sensors on each one to advance the movement toward autonomous vehicles. As for the service aspect, the FLARE team is currently working with local businesses and county organizations to design routes that are strategically and financially beneficial to the community.
There are currently two shuttles available—with five seats and storage space in the back— operating primarily in South Arlington, after morning rush hour and into late afternoon.
Over the course of the next six months, Delgado and co-founder Chris Yeazel are gathering feedback from county officials and residents to improve the company’s business model to better serve the region. According to Delgado, come April 2020, there will be more vehicles on the road operating more consistently throughout the day, eventually providing service in Washington, DC as well.
“This is the way things are moving,” says Delgado. “People are looking for an experience, and there’s a real value in that.”