All attention on Alto

Ride share app grows in popularity among teens

Charlotte Traylor

A pristine white Buick Enclave swings into sophomore Mae Zimmer’s driveway. A notification on her app informs Zimmer that her ride has arrived. The car is spotless. Zimmer is kindly greeted by the driver, before departing to her sports practice. But this is not the ordinary Uber or Lyft ride. The car she is about to get into sports the classic Alto emblem. 

With Alto, a membership based ride share app founded in Dallas, Zimmer has guaranteed safety on her ride. The cars are equipped with video cameras, the drivers receive extensive background checks and training and all Alto cars are part of a uniform fleet. 

“I really have only had good experiences using Alto,” Zimmer said. “All my drivers are super nice and some of them are really talkative.” 

Zimmer is not the only student using this rising car service, as the company has  experienced growth in popularity among teens in the Dallas area. The reliability, cleanliness and safety features are enticing and differentiate the service from other services like Uber and Lyft. 

“We have seen a rise in teens riding just in the last week since the start of school,” Alto’s communications manager Emily Bernet said. “A ton of teens like getting dropped off at school and getting picked for their afternoon activities.” 

With busy student and parent schedules, Alto can be a useful tool to travel from point A to point B. Andy Nelson, a part time driver for Alto, drives during the day and has provided such rides.

“I’ve taken teenagers or children to locations,” Nelson said. “In particular, I’ve taken students to the Episcopal School of Dallas.” 

After parties or gatherings, high school and college students also use the service if they are not able to drive.  

“We find that in terms of college students, parents are very encouraging for folks to take Altos, to prevent drinking and driving,” Alto’s Director of Growth and Development James Alden said. “Many people use us because they want to get a safe trip home.”

But in the upcoming months, a new voucher system will be introduced. Hosts of parties can assign Alto rides to guests through a link, controlling transportation, without requiring guests to buy a membership.  

We have seen a rise in teens riding just in the last week since the start of school

Emily Bernet

With this voucher system, Alto is hoping to attract new customers who have not yet purchased a membership. Memberships require a steep cost; therefore, Alto users stem from a higher income bracket. The basic membership cost is 99 dollars per year, with additional fees for each ride. Customers include some teens and families, but Alto is also heavily utilized in the business world. Companies will assign Altos for professionals’ rides to the airport or to work conventions. Alto also is partnered with car dealerships, such as Audi McKinney.

“We have a very robust business to business relationship,” Alden said. “Instead of Audi McKinney giving you a loaner car, it’s less expensive for them to instead send the car owner to and from their home in an Alto.” 

Another up and coming area of growth includes a greater focus on meeting supply and demand. With concerts, sporting events or holidays, Alto can predict ride numbers and dispatch cars accordingly. Drivers are employees, instead of independent contractors, giving Alto this control over demand. The need to master this field has even greater importance, considering the smaller scale of this company compared to other ride share services.

“One of the things that we’ve talked about is that Uber or Lyft might be able to get to you in two minutes, but you might wait a little bit longer, for maybe 10 to 15 minutes, [with Alto],” Bernet said. “But we have set that as a consistent standard with our customers. You can always plan ahead.”

As Alto continues to meet setbacks with promising solutions, their future is bright. It is working on expanding to more cities, including Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin and New York City, while also growing in popularity in their established areas. Currently, Alto can be found in Dallas, Silicon Valley, Houston, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

“I love using Alto when I go to conferences and concerts,” junior Abby Pickens said. “They also have an amazing security app system to ensure it’s safe for you.” 

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