Metro Transit is recognized as a “Leader in Equity-focused Transit Expansion” in the inaugural set of Via Impact Awards, a prize honoring cities and transit agencies that have delivered exceptional mobility services to their communities. The city of St. Louis has committed to providing convenient and equitable transit options which greatly expand local residents’ access to jobs, schools, and other essential destinations, unlocking work and education opportunities across the city.
Like other public transit providers, Metro has faced evolving mobility needs due to COVID-19. To better adapt to changing ridership, Metro launched “Via Metro STL”, an on-demand microtransit service, in a partnership with Via, in June 2020. The service, part of the City’s efforts to improve the accessibility of public transit, fill the first-and-last-mile gaps, and limit the need for private vehicle use throughout the region.
Getting to know St. Louis.
Equity has always been top of mind for Metro when considering where and how to allocate transit services. Their goal is to serve all corners of the city while making public transit accessible, especially for community members who live out of reach of major bus or rail hubs. When expanding transit availability with Via Metro STL, Metro prioritized investments in communities where residents generally have lower incomes or have been historically underserved by high-quality transportation options.
Since launch, the service has offered convenient, low-wait time transportation for residents who need it most, now serving nearly 300K residents, a majority of whom identify as people of color, across 50 square miles. A recent Metro rider survey reveals improved regional access:
- Nearly 80% of riders’ annual household income is less than $50k, and 17% of riders report they wouldn't have made a trip if Via Metro STL wasn’t an option. Many riders say “it’s the only source of transportation” they have.
- 87% of survey respondents shared that they do not own a personal vehicle. The majority of riders use Via Metro STL to commute to/from work while 50% depend on the service to take care of daily errands like accessing medical care and schools.
- 59% of riders report having shorter travel times than before Via Metro STL. Riders often share their appreciation for “very direct routing”.
3 service zones for diverse transit needs.
Via Metro STL covers three distinct zones, which demonstrate microtransit’s ability to address a wide range of mobility needs.
In the South zone, Via Metro STL encourages transit use by providing seamless connections to Metro’s broader network. In the North zone, Via Metro STL provides overnight service for shift workers who need rides during hours with limited fixed-route service. In November 2021, Via Metro STL was expanded to West St. Louis county to better meet the needs of the west-to-east commute pattern. With this zone, riders can reach hospitals and transit hubs in the east downtown area and travel across the county more easily.
With a flat price of two dollars, passengers can travel anywhere within a given service zone. Seventy-five percent of riders begin or end their trips at existing transit stations such as Shrewsbury MetroLink Station, North County Transit Center, Ballas Transit Center. Additionally, more than 15% of riders use the service to commute overnight.
An equitable service built for all.
Since launch, Via Metro STL has completed 46,000 rides, with an outstanding average rider rating of 4.8/5. It’s proven to be nimble, too — throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Via Metro STL quickly adopted health and safety measures and seamlessly absorbed ridership from fixed route bus lines that were suspended by Metro STL. When designing zone expansions, local transit leaders made sure investments are truly going to serve communities most in need of accessible, affordable, and car-free travel options. As one rider reported, “Without Via Metro STL in my area, I’d be walking everywhere because there are no buses or trains and I can’t afford cabs or Ubers.” Wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) are available to residents as part of the Via Metro STL service, providing essential access to 10% of riders with limited mobility and who rely on public transportation. Some frequent riders have shared the benefits the service has brought to their daily lives:
- “I am able to get where I need, at a cost I can actually afford.”
- “There aren’t buses where I live, so I would have to walk 6 miles to get on a bus to get to work 20 miles away. It saves me a lot of walking. I don’t think I would keep my job without it.”
- “[The service] is reliable and gets me to transfer points where some buses I have to wait for an hour. There isn't a bunch of stopping; [the route] is direct - it just makes things more convenient.”
- “Via STL Metro helps me get to appointments that I couldn't have gotten to otherwise.”
Via Metro STL has brought overwhelmingly positive impacts on people’s lives, connecting them with more job and education opportunities, enabling them to get wherever they need with enhanced traveling experience, and most importantly, it’s a truly equitable transit option that serves all. Way to go, Via STL Metro!