Metro has just completed half a year of service in our partnership with Via (an on-demand, shared ride service). We have made exciting strides in the numbers, reaching 1,600 rides per week, a tenfold increase since the first week of service. El Monte has now surpassed North Hollywood as the most popular zone.
For those of you just hearing about our partnership, a little background:
Metro’s partnership with Via is funded in part by a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration Grant. The goals of this pilot are to test the viability of using on-demand technology to connect people to Metro’s transit system (current and new customers) and to open the benefits of transportation network companies (TNCs) to more people by making the service more accessible.
For those of you who haven’t used the service yet:
Did you know that you can get FREE RIDES to or from select Metro and Metrolink stations this summer?
Service runs between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays. The rides are shared with other Metro patrons to reduce congestion and pollution.
If you’re traveling to or from the area shown in blue below, just download the app or call 1 (833) 917-0697 to book a ride. You don’t need a credit card or bank account, and wheelchair accessible vehicles are available.
One of the pilot program goals is to test whether an on-demand service can make it easier for customers to get to and from transit and create a more seamless travel experience.
To test this, OEI interns Oceana Gilliam and Leah Blue took Via for a test ride. Here is what they had to say about their experience:
We were hungry, so we decided to test the Via service en route from Metro’s Red Line to Porto’s Bakery in Burbank — a beloved restaurant for Southern Californians.
Our ride using the Via rideshare service was nothing short of excellent. At approximately 9:30 am, we exited the North Hollywood Station and opened the Via app, which has a very user-friendly interface. Using the Via app, we were directed to our pickup location in the park-and-ride across the street from the station— it was a quick walk and easily seen from the station exit.
After ordering the ride, the app provided us with a photograph of the driver, a vehicle description and a license plate number. We waited in the pick-up location with another rider. Since Via is a shared-ride service, it pools people who are traveling in the same direction into the same vehicle. After approximately seven minutes our driver arrived right on time. We and the other carpool rider were greeted by a friendly driver with a clean car.
While traveling to Porto’s, the Via app showed us our current location, the destination, the estimated arrival time and even the other pooled rider’s drop-off location. Our driver dropped us off right in front of Porto’s on Magnolia Blvd. We ordered a quick breakfast and then requested a Via ride back to the North Hollywood Station. After about a five-minute wait, we were on our way. Like the first driver, the second driver was friendly, informative and had a clean car.
Both trips were quick, smooth, and above all else, safe. Via provided constant real-time updates, which was helpful. Both Via drivers were friendly and happy to answer any questions that we had. It was very easy to spot the vehicles for pickup using the app in addition to the large Via logo on the side of the car. The signage at the pick-up location was also easy to read and helpful.
Overall, we had a great experience using Via and encourage others to take advantage of this convenient, easy-to-use service for their first and last mile trips.
Leah Blue (left) is an Administrative Intern with the Office of Extraordinary Innovation and Oceana Gilliam (right) was an Intern with the Office of Extraordinary Innovation before recently finishing her Master’s and landing a full time job!
Marie Sullivan is a Transportation Planning Manager and Innovation Fellow with the Office of Extraordinary Innovation
is it possible to expand the hours? A lot of folks are getting off work late nowadays, and bus services reduce or cut mostly after PM peak. Therefore if you expand the hours from currently 8pm to 9/10pm would be helpful. The waiting time needs to be improved because it is much longer than Uber/ Lyft rides, so maybe better utilize vehicles to max capacity for each ride may help a bit.
would be nice to see Via service in Long Beach, especially since the Blue Line closures have messed up travel times
I wonder if these services are actually needed even as we keep seeing service cuts (peak period cuts on the Gold, Blue, and Expo lines, bus service hours that have not been increased since the recession’s cuts). According to a Metro fact sheet, the El Monte Station is the largest bus-only transit center west of Chicago. I wonder why Via is needed in such a transit-rich area during 6am-8pm. It would seem to make more sense if the service were offered when there were fewer buses around, like from 8pm-6am.
It’s great to read the article knowing that the author enjoyed a trip on Via that would have otherwise been a Burbank Bus + walking trip. The Noho-Burbank Airport bus is pretty convenient and much better than the Super Shuttle option that it replaced.
I use Via all the time on my way to work. It’s a great service. I ride from North Hollywood station to Burbank next to Bob Hope airport. The trip is always fast and smooth. It only takes a couple of minutes to request a ride. You can’t miss a big Via logo on both sides of a car. You can’t beat a free ride for now. My only complaint is that some people got lost finding a Via car when requested a ride. Your trip might delay for a bit. I wish I had an option not to pool with someone.
I initially liked Via, but the service in El Monte has declined. The service is supposed to be a “last mile” solution for Metro customers, but some Via riders are cheating the system. They will schedule a pickup from wherever to the El Monte Metro Station, but not use Metro. Instead, they will hop out the ride and immediately hail another Via ride to take them to their true destination. This is frustrating to Metro customers who have to experience delayed Via pickups. I think this also contributes to the unpredictable ride ETAs. I lstart my commute at the same time each morning Mon-Fri, but some days ETAs are 5 mins and others 20+ mins. It’s not traffc congestion either. How is waiting 20 mins a convenience or solution for the “last mile?” I would also like Via to actually start charging for the service to get rid of all the freeloaders clogging the system. I was a paying customer before they tried this free ride promotion. Imagine that- a customer who wants to pay for good service instead of free lackluster service!
I’ve also noticed that I cannot access the system during off hours such as 1-2 pm (says no rides are available and to try later). An easy fix would be to either verify a TAP card was used (like the parking payment system) or to prevent someone from hailing consecutive Via rides within 2 or 3 hours or so.
Or… maybe take the Metro Bus down the street?? nvm. Keep on providing incentives to not take the bus. Yall clearly don’t care about providing bus service anyway.
It’s hard to tell whether upping bus service on Magnolia to a relatively frequent level (every 15 min) would bolster ridership at the same or better cost than this Via thing. If I can recall, bus service is every 45-1hr there and land use in the area doesn’t help (lots of low density).
thats the same mindset that Metro has been operating on for decades which has resulted in service cuts of 1% every year. We’ve lost over 10% of service hours since Measure R was passed in 2008 which just magnified ridership loss across the system. Magnolia is a thriving business corridor and links North Hollywood with Burbank. It’s one of the few streets in the Valley that can be conducive to transit.
No service to Pasadena, the rest of the San Gabriel Valley or Santa Monica. It is disappointing and the sad reality is that these locations have connection problems with Metro Rail.
Until Metro actually cleans up the bus, makes bus lanes, and reintroduces express buses, it will be a huge no.