On September 24, the Birmingham City Council approved the Via Microtransit pilot program. Via Microtransit is an on-demand shared ride service that will complement and extend public transportation for select areas of the city of Birmingham as part of a six-month microtransit pilot. The service area for the program will focus on connecting “high need and underserved” communities with work, education, entertainment venues, health and government services in the city for an affordable, flat fee of $1.50.
The Community Foundation awarded a grant of up to $500,000 for the launch as well as a robust front-end community engagement effort to drive broad awareness and use of the service in the pilot stage. Our Catalyst Fund donors provided the majority of the grant with additional support coming from the Foundation’s proactive grant funding. This supplemental funding will allow opportunities for additional vehicles to be added to meet demand and ensure success of the pilot project. With Via and the City of Birmingham, the Foundation will be monitoring indicators such as rider numbers, rider locations and quality of service to evaluate the pilot’s success. Mayor Woodfin has already committed to pursue additional funding in the city’s next fiscal year budget. A strong pilot will demonstrate that the service meets residents’ needs, and is critical to expanding the service and securing ongoing operational funding in the city’s budget.
It is because of our donors and community partners that can we begin to provide transportation that can connect people to better economic opportunities. In our community conversations throughout 2018, we heard over and over from people that better transportation systems are a critical priority. We believe that Via can provide affordable, reliable and accessible transit options for high-need, under served residents and lead to a smoother pathway for economic opportunity for all.