Founded in 1979, Via is a brand that is easily recognized. Via is best known as a private, nonprofit organization that provides on-demand, wheelchair accessible, door-through-door, driver-assisted paratransit services; travel training; and regional mobility options information and referral assistance. Operating in over 30 communities in five counties, Via served almost 3,000 individuals in 2016. Our paratransit program provided close to 130,000 trips. We have nearly 300 employees and over 160 vehicles.
What might be less obvious is the fact that Via is more than a decades-old nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting access, independence and self-sufficiency for people with limited mobility. We are also a thriving social enterprise that earns income through programs that support those facing low mobility.
Why social enterprise?
As the available pool of money from federal, state, and local governments remains stagnant or decreases, and competition for revenue from foundations and private donations becomes more challenging, many nonprofits are seeking sustainability through social enterprise. The social enterprise model challenges nonprofits to think in a more precise business frame of mind—one that includes a commitment to the nonprofit’s mission and purpose.
Via has operated as a social enterprise business model for over two decades. In 2016, Via’s earned income contracts provided over one million trips and generated almost $800,000 in net revenue, which offset the operating losses of the mission services: paratransit, travel training, and mobility options programs.
As a nonprofit organization, Via ensures that all profits from the earned-income contracts are reinvested to enhance our mission services, to nurture the well-being of our organization, to reinforce our commitment to the communities we serve and to make our organization’s vision a reality.
Via’s three largest earned-income contracts—the Hop, Access-a-Ride, and Call-n-Ride—are transportation programs Via provides under contract with RTD, CU-Boulder and the City of Boulder. They generate revenue to support our mission services.
Via is one of four vendors for RTD operating Access-a-Ride services in the Denver Metropolitan area. Similar to Via Paratransit in many ways, Access-a-Ride services are offered to people with physical or cognitive disabilities. We also operate Call-N-Ride services under a similar contract with RTD in Longmont, Broomfield, and other metro communities. Call-N-Ride services address issues of low mobility for those who have little or no access to any effective means of transportation.
If you’ve ridden the HOP to Pearl Street, the University of Colorado Boulder, or 29th Street–you’ve ridden with Via. Via has been operating the HOP, under an agreement with the City of Boulder and RTD since its inception back in 1994. We are now working closely with the City and other parties to refresh the routing of the HOP and increase ridership and relevance to the community.
The HOP is not simply the circular route that connects the University to downtown Boulder and the 29th Street Mall. During the school year, we work with the University of Colorado Boulder to operate Late Night Transit routes to help ensure the safety of our CU student population. In addition, the HOP 2 Chautauqua program provides free transit service from downtown Boulder to the Colorado Music Festival and Chautauqua Summer Series events. This year, we won the opportunity to implement the highly successful Park to Park Chautauqua Shuttle pilot, which provided satellite parking and free shuttle service to and from Chautauqua, as part of the Chautauqua Access Management Plan (CAMP) project. CAMP explored ways to create a better visitor experience while reducing vehicular and parking impacts on neighbors and the area’s natural and cultural resources. The HOP has been and continues to be a vital community transit solution for the City of Boulder.
In early 2017, in an effort to expand our earned income potential while maintaining our commitment to our mission, we launched a program with TRU Community Care to provide transportation to and from their new PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) facility in Lafayette. TRU’s PACE program coordinates and provides all needed preventive, primary, acute, and long-term care services so that older individuals can continue living safely in their community. In the future, we hope to work with other medical facilities, clinics, and hospitals to provide similar services to our community members who need specialized transportation services.
Training and Fleet Maintenance
Via’s Professional Development team is recognized for its training and certification programs for professional bus drivers. In collaboration with CASTA (Colorado Association of Transit Agencies), Via offers in-classroom training at other transportation facilities or Via’s headquarters in Boulder, CO.
In August 2017, Via began offering the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driving to the general public. Through this certified course, drivers can improve basic skills and refresh their driving knowledge. The eight-hour course is designed to give drivers of any age and experience the practical knowledge and techniques needed to avoid collisions and traffic violations. Most insurance companies recognize this course and many of them offer premium discounts to those who complete it. To learn more about our defensive driving program please email Dale Binkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Via’s headquarters in Boulder, we operate a maintenance facility for our fleet of buses and vans, which has enough capacity to provide maintenance services for other fleets. The 11,000 square foot service area includes three drive-through service bays and three single bays with vehicle lifts. The maintenance facility has an attached drive-through automated bus wash. The fenced-parking area accommodates over 100 buses and vans and is secured with access gates and a security camera system. This facility is staffed by certified mechanics.