A future of better connections to frequent transit service and improved mobility for people who live and work in Rainier Beach, Skyway, Tukwila, and Renton arrives Tuesday, August 10 with the expansion of Via to Transit.
Via to Transit is an on-demand pilot service connecting riders to and from select hubs in their community. Via to Transit originally launched in 2019 in collaboration with Via, a leader in TransitTech, and has continued to expand access to affordable, efficient, and equitable transportation in King County. People who live, work, or go to school within the specified service areas can download the Via app or call 206-258-7739 and request a ride from Via to Transit to connect to buses and trains or get to select community hubs like grocery stores, parks, libraries, healthcare, and more.
“We are committed to expanding mobility options for communities that have lacked reliable transit,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Via to Transit provides greater choices for areas that have unmet transportation needs, connecting riders to the light rail and bus transit network from points across Renton, Tukwila, Skyway, and Rainier Beach.”
Via to Transit will serve some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the county; 66% of residents are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color, 37% were born abroad, and 45% speak a language other than English at home. Metro’s Mobility Framework— which helps the agency adapt to the changing transportation landscape in an equitable and sustainable way— identified these core neighborhoods as areas of opportunity due to their difficulty to serve with fixed-route services, and high unmet need for affordable access to public transit.
Metro has worked closely with these communities to understand their needs. Residents have expressed strong support for an on-demand flexible service and have helped identify which community and transit hubs are most important to serve to increase access.
“The expansion of this service is the result of outreach by Metro to understand what we could do to meet the mobility needs of the people in these communities,” said Christina O’Claire, Metro’s Mobility Director. “Our focus is to ensure that our riders are able to access work, school, the services they depend on, and the activities they enjoy.”
“Equitable access to transit is at the core of Via’s mission, and our long-term partnership with King County Metro is a perfect example of the way that technology can help connect communities to jobs, healthcare, and educational opportunities,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “We are proud to work with the team at King County Metro to continue to redefine public transit so that it best meets the changing needs of residents”
Via to Transit will be available in four service areas: Othello, Rainier Beach/Skyway, Renton Highlands, and Tukwila. One end of a trip must be a designated hub for the service area.
“The residents of Skyway have been calling for better transit in their community,” said King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, whose district includes Skyway, a diverse community located in unincorporated King County. “This new service will help provide the community with increased mobility and access to opportunity.”
The expanded Via to Transit is a pilot program and is budgeted through December 2022. The funding for the pilot was approved as part of the 2021-2022 King County Budget.
Since its launch in 2019, Via to Transit has provided flexible, on-demand rides to and from Link light rail stations in southeast Seattle and Tukwila. In its first year, Via to Transit served nearly 800 rides per day and received an average ride rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Customers credit Via to Transit with drastically reducing commute time, increasing personal safety in accessing transit, greater access to the region without needing to own a car, and more independence for young or disabled riders.
Metro and Via are continuing to build on of the success of the initial Via to Transit pilot and respond to customer feedback to increase the service’s safety, sustainability, and equity. Via to Transit will be rolling out a mostly hybrid vehicle fleet to reduce the services’ environmental impact, bike racks will be available to those who request one, and new vehicle wraps, lights, and numbers will make them easier to see, particularly for riders with limited sight and those riding at night. We’re also planning to continue rolling out new features over the course of the pilot, including new safety enhancements, and capabilities to make it easier for families with kids to ride.
The cost for Via to Transit is the same as riding the bus: $2.75 adult, $1.50 ORCA LIFT and youth, $1.00 RRFP, free for children 5 and under—and there is no extra cost transferring between your bus or light rail, and Via. You can pay using your ORCA card, a Transit GO Ticket, or using a credit/debit card in the Via app/call center. Accommodations can be made for riders with disabilities.