Simplified: The City of Sioux Falls will have a new public transit provider starting in January. While the first step is a smooth transition, new provider Via is bringing new technology and a "rider centric" mentality.
Why it matters
- The city has been talking about changes to public transit for a long time. In recent years, the city has tested on-demand ridership, collected more ridership data, offered free rides to kids, rolled out mobile ticketing at more.
- The contract with the current provider, First Transit/Transdev, ends on Dec. 31, and Via is ready to take the reins starting Jan. 1, 2024 after the city selected them through a "request for proposals" process in September.
- Via, headquartered in New York City, provides transit services for 600 cities. Chief Operating Officer Alex Lavoie told Sioux Falls reporters on Tuesday that Via is focused on accessibility, efficiency and a data-driven approach to public transit – including a mix of fixed route busing and on-demand "microtransit."
"We want to be able to serve as many people as possible in an equitable way while also making sure we're using dollars efficiently," Lavoie said.
Tell me more
Lavoie also noted that Via's data-driven approach to public transit will help Sioux Falls calculate the cost per ride and the accessibility of every route available – key data as the city looks to rework routes.
New technology will also help improve the rider's experience, Lavoie added.
- Via's transit app will be able to help riders plan a route including multiple forms of public transportation, including a combination of fixed routes and on-demand rides.
City Councilor Greg Neitzert – a member of the selection committee that chose Via – said he feels like this new partnership is the first time during his tenure on the council that the city is going to see major improvements in public transit. Neitzert also noted that he got to test out Via's on-demand microtransit during a recent stay in Arlington, TX.
"It was as good as Lyft," Neitzert said.
What happens next?
Via's contract begins at the start of the new year. Planning Director Jeff Eckhoff said the first priority is maintaining consistency for regular riders, but it's likely more changes will come throughout 2024.