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5 key themes on the future of transit from the San Diego Innovative Transit Summit

On the ground at the Innovative Transit Summit, forward-thinking transit leaders swapped solutions to common problems and built a shared vision for the future.

Elspeth Green •
berkovits breakout session cropped

At Via, we learn so much from our city and transit agency partners — and we try to pay that knowledge forward, in the form of case studies, webinars, think-pieces, etc. But sometimes, the best way to foster conversation, and solve common problems, is to physically get together, share some food, and share some stories. So that’s what we did in San Diego this week.

We hosted 45 leaders from 27 organizations at a day-long summit on using technology to bring the future of transit in reach on the West Coast. Some were Via partners, using our technology and services to enhance everything from transit planning to paratransit operations. Others were forward-thinking municipal and transit leaders looking to learn from real-life stories of peer organizations addressing similar challenges.

Discussion returned to several central questions throughout the day: 

  • How do we effectively drive ridership growth while maintaining an excellent rider experience — especially admit budget constraints?
  • How do we enhance and expand paratransit options, improving rider quality of life, while also improving service efficiency?
  • How should we approach service evolution over time? When is it the right time to expand a zone, integrate paratransit, deploy a multimodal booking app? How do we measure the success of the changes we do implement?
  • How do we approach fleet electrification, a key component of sustainability initiatives, with limited infrastructure and constrained resources?
  • How do we secure ongoing funding for our projects past the pilot phase? How can service data best be leveraged to apply for new grants and other funding sources?

Ride along with us as we take you through a very exciting day of transit talk.


Keynote: The (Near) Future of Transportation


  • Rashidi Barnes, CEO, Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority (Tri Delta Transit)
  • Shaina Quinn, Program Manager, Utah Transit Authority (UTA)
  • Mike Rimoin, Innovative Mobility Lead, King County Metro (KCM)


Themes: Ridership growth vs. rider experience, service evolution

Kicking the day off with an ambitious keynote panel on the future of transit, our partners at Tri Delta, UTA, and KCM situated their longstanding microtransit services within their agencies’ broader transit ecosystem and overarching goals. Speakers discussed how these services had evolved over time, typically starting as pilot projects before growing into integral components of their region’s transit networks. 

Most notable were the holistic transit improvements — in terms of overall network ridership and coverage — seen as the result of investing in tech-powered transit. UTA saw 23% growth in fixed-route ridership in 2022 due to initiatives including frequency enhancements, route detours for better access, and improved first- and last-mile connections facilitated by the microtransit service. Tri Delta has seen explosive growth in microtransit ridership: 142% year over year.


Cost Effective Solutions for Real Transit Challenges


  • Robin Quintanilla, Supervising Transit Planner, LADOT
  • Jason Crompton, Senior Transportation Planner, City of Chandler, Arizona
  • Dan Berkovits, Vice President, Via Strategies


Themes: Ridership growth vs. rider experience, grants and ongoing funding

Next up, our partners at LADOT and the City of Chandler spoke on tailoring cost-effective solutions to very specific rider needs and use cases, while Via’s own Dan Berkovits dove into  approaches for integrated service design and how to measure success. LADOT and Chandler sought to solve very different transit challenges: LADOT wanted to offer a general alternative to car travel in some of Los Angeles’ most gridlocked neighborhoods, while Chandler focused on providing an alternative transit option for students. 

As Dan went on to explain, service design is never a one-size-fits-all solution, but must take into account not only a transit provider’s goals, but the specific outcomes they want to see. LADOT’s service, LAnow, was designed to decrease reliance on private cars — and metrics related to transit connections and mode preference prove its success. 41% of riders use LAnow to connect to other forms of transit, while 44% reported they would have traveled in a single-occupancy vehicle if the service were not available.

Service goals and outcomes also have a bearing on funding, as the case of Chandler illustrated. Initially funded by a school-focused grant, Chandler Flex’s success with the broader community prompted them to work with Via to identify a broader range of funding options going forward. Their team has already secured a $1 million federal earmark, and is waiting on the results of an ATTAIN grant application, both of which would help sustain and expand the service. 


Connected Tech for Connected Transit


  • Mike Rimoin, Innovative Mobility Lead, King County Metro
  • Joe Martin, Via Partner Success Manager, High Valley Transit


Themes: Ridership growth vs. rider experience

Mike from KCM was back, joined by Via’s Joe Martin, to discuss how technology can better connect microtransit with the rest of the transit network. Both spoke about Via's Mode Preference technology, which prevents cannibalization of fixed route services by microtransit and ensures agency resources are used as efficiently as possible. How? When switched on,  Mode Preference can prioritize fixed-route transit by directing riders to take the bus, rather than a microtransit trip, when a bus journey is reasonably convenient for the rider (e.g., requires only a short walk, a short wait, and no transfers). 

Joe Martin discussed his work with High Valley Transit, where Via technology and operations power the entire transit network: fixed-route buses, microtransit, and paratransit. Using the same integrated tech as KCM, High Valley has achieved a 47% growth in fixed-route ridership, as well as a 60% efficiency gain from commingling microtransit and paratransit.


Funding Strategies


  • Gustavo Gomez, Transportation Planner, Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC)
  • Danielle Kochman, Mobility Planning Manager, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)


Themes: Grants and ongoing funding

After lunch, it was time for an eagerly-awaited panel on funding strategies featuring speakers from two councils of government: the Imperial County Transit Commission and the San Diego Association of Governments. They discussed strategies for identifying unique features of the population served and service goals, and how to use those to apply for specific grants and programs. Then they provided a list of 10 California-specific programs that attendees should research to fund their own future services. 


Celebration! UTA reaches 1,000,000* ride milestone

*Technically, it was 997,700 at the time of the celebration, but we called it close enough for a toast! We took a mid-day break to celebrate Shaina and the rest of the UTA team as their service achieved this remarkable milestone after five strong years. With this record, they became the first Via partner on the West Coast to serve more than 1 million microtransit rides! 


Breakout Session A: A Step-by-Step Guide to Service Design and KPIs


berkovits breakout session cropped

Themes: Ridership growth vs. rider experience, service evolution

Participants in this breakout session discussed key considerations for microtransit service design in communities with an existing fixed-route network. Zone selection, algorithm customization, goal-setting, and identification of critical KPIs for integrated services emerged as major points of discussion as participants shared challenges and opportunities within their own communities.


Breakout Session B: ADA Paratransit, Dial-a-Ride, and Commingling

Themes: Expanded/alternative paratransit options

Attendees of this breakout session explored options for improving paratransit with a mix of technological and operational approaches. The group discussed the complete spectrum of paratransit and paratransit-adjacent services — from core ADA service to various overflow programs and non-ADA dial-a-ride services — and how commingling technology can improve both efficiency and the rider experience.


Breakout Session C: Community and Stakeholder Engagement

community engagement breakout

Themes: Ridership growth vs. rider experience, service evolution

This breakout session focused on simplifying the complex business of stakeholder engagement and consensus-building for transit projects. The group discussed specific strategies for rider education — at public meetings, senior centers, and other forums — and feedback gathering through focus groups, surveys, and stakeholder interviews.


What’s next?

We’re taking this show on the road — we’ve already held workshops in New York, Seattle, and Texas, and we’ll be headed to Chicago in July. Any city or transit agency in the Midwest is welcome to attend.

If you’re interested in attending a regional workshop, reach out to to get the latest info on what’s up next. 

Elspeth Green avatar
Elspeth Green

Via Resource Editor