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Breaking barriers: New FTA report finds Via’s software improves access to public transit in Los Angeles and King County

January 12, 2023 (NEW YORK) — A new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) report by the Transportation Sustainability Research Center University of California, Berkeley, reveals that the Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program revolutionized public transit by introducing  technology as a solution to complement and extend traditional public transportation access.

The goal of the (MOD) Sandbox Program was to introduce more affordable, efficient, and equitable access to existing public transit stations through first-and-last mile on-demand public transit. Through a partnership with Via, the leader in TransitTech, LA Metro and King County Metro aimed to reduce private vehicle reliance and to fill the gaps in transit where it was needed most by introducing a flexible solution powered by technology that would enable efficient subsidized rides to-or-from participating transit stations.

The results of the evaluation were astounding, as the project significantly increased mobility in both Los Angeles and King County. A key benefit of the Via services for a significant number of riders in both regions was the decrease in average wait and travel time to-and-from stations. Similarly, survey respondents also reported increased usage of light rail and rated their overall access to activities and stations relatively high.

In Los Angeles, the report found that 20% riders reported an increase in public transit usage versus alternative modes in areas and at stations served by Via. In Seattle, the analyses of mode choice and mode replacement indicated that the Metro Flex service (formerly called Via to Transit) offers a superior travel option to other first-and-last-mile options previously available to riders both in terms of cost and wait and travel times. This is particularly important for low-income families earning less than $50K a year who make up a significant portion of the ridership in both Via services.

Further, the results indicate that the Via-powered first-and-last mile services are especially beneficial for low income riders by increasing affordable access to transit and reducing average travel and wait times. In King County, by integrating the Via payment system with the ORCA card, the Puget Sound region’s fare payment card, ridership increased among low-income populations, unbanked populations, and minority populations. More than 96% of all 231,073 trips since launch were purchased using the ORCA card, demonstrating this payment integration as an important component of the Via service.

Wheelchair-accessible vehicles also improved mobility for riders with disabilities, with 65% of survey respondents noting that these Via-powered services improved their travel times to-and-from transit stations. 

Riders across the services reported they felt safer traveling to and from the stations using Via’s services, with 63% of Los Angeles respondents and 67% of King County respondents stating that they felt more safe or much safer when traveling to-or-from public transit stations.

“Overall, the LA County and Puget Sound First and Last Mile Partnership with Via pilot project conducted a successful MOD Sandbox demonstration that tested a number of innovations and advanced the state of practice with respect to integrating TNC first-and-last-mile service into the broader public transit networks,” summarized the researchers at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center University of California, Berkeley.

The report concludes that  innovative partnership with Via has proven to be a success in increasing mobility, accessibility, and reducing costs for lower-income populations, making public transportation a more viable option for all. The results of this demonstration project offer valuable insights for future public-private partnerships in the transportation industry.

For the full report:

About Via:

Founded in 2012, Via pioneered the TransitTech category by using new technologies to develop public mobility systems — optimizing networks of buses, shuttles, wheelchair accessible vehicles, school buses, autonomous vehicles, and electric vehicles around the globe. Building the world’s most efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation network for all riders — including those with limited mobility, those without smartphones, and unbanked populations — Via works with its partners to lower the costs of public transit while providing transportation options that rival the convenience of a personal car while reducing the environmental impact. At the intersection of transportation and technology, Via is a visionary market leader that combines software innovation with sophisticated service design and operational expertise to fundamentally improve the way the world moves, providing technology in 600 communities and more than 35 countries and counting.