Metro pursuing a partnership with Via to offer shared rides to select transit stations

Metro is working diligently to build out our rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) system to help riders quickly get where they’re going. But what if you don’t live or work near a BRT or train station? What if there is no frequent, reliable bus option to get there? What if you don’t feel safe or comfortable walking there?

Metro is pursuing a partnership with Via, a provider of on-demand shared rides, to offer service to and from three transit stations in Los Angeles County. The service will be affordable, equitable and accessible to everyone. This pilot program will launch in summer 2018 and will operate for 12 months. It is funded in part by a $1.35-million Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstrations grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Via will match passengers with other riders going their way to the same transit station. Anyone can use the service, including people without smartphones. The cost of the ride should be less than a similar privately operated and funded service.

Metro and Via will ensure that the service is affordable, equitable and compliant with the transit requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Metro will provide a call center that allows customers to request a ride without using a smartphone. Customers who use wheelchairs or need additional support getting into and out of their rides will be able to request rides that meet their individual needs. Customers without bank accounts will have options for payment. We’ll have more details on payment as the pilot program gets closer to launching.

To emphasize, the rides will be:

Shared. Customers will share rides with other passengers going to the same station.

Affordable. Metro will cover some of the cost of getting to and from the transit station.

Accessible. Customers with disabilities including those with service animals, wheelchairs or other mobility aids or who need additional assistance to board and exit vehicles will be able to request rides that meet their needs.

On-Demand. Customers will be able to request a ride to and from participating transit stations either by using Via’s smartphone app or by calling the call-center.

A few other questions you may have:

What will it be like to use this service?

Pretty much like using any other ride-hailing service’s pooled ride features.

What stations will be selected for the 12 month pilot? How are they selected?

We are currently working to identify the three stations for the pilot and aim to select stations in areas where people need better options to get to and from train or BRT stations.

How is this different from microtransit?

Unlike microtransit, which typically uses vehicles like shuttle buses or vans, the Metro-Via service will use Via drivers’ own vehicles, which are mostly regular sedans and SUVs. 

What’s the MOD Sandbox Program?

The MOD Sandbox Program is part of a larger effort at the FTA to encourage transit agencies and communities to try new mobility tools such as smart phone apps, bike- and car-sharing, and demand-responsive bus and van services. MOD projects can help improve mobility, particularly for people who lack access to a car.

Who is Via?

First launched in New York City in 2013, the Via platform currently operates in New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C., providing over 1.5 million rides per month. Via also licenses its on-demand transit technology.

Who does the project team consist of?

Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation is working with Via and transit agencies in L.A. County and the Puget Sound region. Metro’s local partners include the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Foothill Transit and Access Services. The Puget Sound partners, who will operate a similar pilot program, are Sound Transit and King County Transit. Metro’s research team includes the DC-based Eno Center for Transportation, UCLA and the University of Washington. At the federal level, a team of Booz Allen Hamilton and the UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center will evaluate the project, as well as the 10 other projects that are participating in the FTA Sandbox program.

2 replies

  1. This is very exciting! I can’t wait to give this a try since I often use a combination of ride-share and active transportation options to connect to stations when the buses stop running. I hope that they choose stations along the Green, Blue, Expo, and Gold lines to offer connections.

  2. How many more operator hours would $1.3M allow? How much headway could we reduce on major routes instead?

    If I’m already in an Uber/Lyft, the cost to take it to my ultimate destination instead of a Metro stop is marginal. Metro does not run the core service often enough to make this experiment useful, and if they did then we wouldn’t need microtransit in the first place.