Photo of elected officials and community leaders wearing surgical masks in front of a Via to Transit vehicle.

Program Expands in South King County to Offer Rides to Transit Centers and More

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Beginning Aug. 10, more residents in South King County will be able to get rides to transportation hubs for buses, trains, and other locations after King County Metro expanded a pilot service program to provide for Rainier Beach, Skyway, Renton Highlands, and Tukwila.

Similar to the way Uber and Lyft operate, residents living in Othello, Rainier Beach, Skyway, Renton Highlands, and Tukwila will now be able to request a ride from a vehicle in King County’s pilot program, called Via to Transit, in order to commute to the light rail, bus networks, and other locations that are designated by the program.

“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 division director in a statement. “Our focus is to ensure that our riders are able to access work, school, the services they depend on, and the activities they enjoy.”

In addition to providing for residents, the program is also available to people who work or study in the areas of operation. The cost of a ride is equivalent to bus fares at $2.75 for adults, $1.50 for ORCA LIFT and for youth, while children 5 years old and under are able to ride for free. Riders are charged no extra cost when transferring between bus or light rail, and the ride service. 

The main guideline for a commute is that one end of the trip must be to a destination recognized by the program.

Via to Transit was launched in 2019 to provide rides in Southeast Seattle and Tukwila after the County found these areas lacked affordable access to public transit. In its first year of operating, the program completed close to 800 rides a day. King County funding for the program, as it exists today, is scheduled to extend to December of 2022. 

Hours of operation vary based on the location but in most areas — with the exception of Renton Highlands where the program begins at 8 a.m. and stops operating at 6 p.m.— rides will be available between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. and end between 12:00 and 1:00 a.m.

In each location, riders will be able to ride to different local hubs for transportation or other destinations such as libraries, parks, and grocery stores. In Othello, the program connects to the Link light rail station whereas in other locations such as Renton Highlands, riders are able to access Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Renton Highlands Library, Bartell’s and QFC, and the Renton Transit Center.

Similar to other ride sharing services, Via to Transit is on-demand and individuals living, working, or studying in the areas of service can call a ride by downloading the program’s app or calling 206-258-7739.

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

📸 Featured Image: Elected officials and community leaders at the Skyway launch of the Via to Transit on-demand ride service expansion. (Photo: Thomas Hawthorne, King County Metro)

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