In partnership with City of Seattle and thanks to the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), King County Metro extended the Via to Transit pilot with public mobility provider Via for a second year, from June 22 to April 2021. The start date of Via to Transit’s second year of service coincides with Metro’s ramp-up of fixed route service.
In its first year, Via to Transit was a flexible, on-demand shuttle service that provided rides to and from five transit hubs in southeast Seattle and Tukwila, solving the first-, last-mile challenge for around 800 daily riders since it launched in April 2019. In year two, Via to Transit will serve the three transit hubs shown to be in areas where needs are greatest — Rainier Beach, Othello, and Tukwila International Boulevard light rail stations — which have also shown to offer the most rides per service hour.
Before concluding the Via to Transit pilot on March 23, in response to COVID-19, Metro and the City of Seattle were overwhelmed with positive feedback from customers. Riders not only rated the service 4.8 stars out of five on the Via app, but wrote more than 200 letters advocating for Via to Transit to continue.
Customers credited Via to Transit with drastically reduced commute time, increased personal safety versus walking to transit, greater access to the region without needing to own a car, and more independence for young or disabled riders.
Convenience of the service also was also attractive to riders. Via boasted an average wait time of nine minutes and an average in-vehicle time of seven minutes. Connected service areas drew a larger pool of drivers since they can serve both service areas, which reduced customer wait time and increased service efficiency.
Metro launched Via to Transit in April 2019 as a 12-month research project in partnership with Sound Transit, the City of Seattle, and Via Transportation and with support from the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility On Demand Sandbox Grant. The expiration of the voter-approved STBD at the end of the year, which funds a majority of Via to Transit’s service, coupled with Metro’s lost revenue due to COVID-19 means that Via’s second year launches in a different landscape.
Even in a budget constrained environment, Metro and City of Seattle are committed to providing mobility options in all parts of the region, and Via to Transit is one example of this commitment, especially given its proven track record of providing access to jobs, school, childcare, and more. With some cuts to bus service in place, reliable connections to transit hubs will be more important than ever. As restrictions are relaxed and ridership demand grows, Metro will continue to adjust service levels as resources allow.