A Tale Of 3 Cities: Using Transit to Expand Economic Opportunity

Register for our upcoming webinar to learn about the impact microtransit could make in your city. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

1:00pm - 2:00pm EASTERN

There’s little doubt that public transportation can be a catalyst to kick a local economy into high gear. However, for many cities, investing many millions of dollars to build a conventional railroad or bus network may seem daunting — and the results too far off, after a years- or decades-long planning process — to meet their communities’ immediate needs.

Capital-light and quick-to-launch services, like on-demand microtransit, can be an appealing alternative. But does microtransit deliver the same kind of powerhouse economic impact as traditional transit? Join Casey Gifford, Senior Planner at King County Metro,, John Lancaster, Chief Development Officer at Memphis Area Transit Authority, and Olivia Blahut, Director at Via, and hear how microtransit has increased access to jobs, schools, and healthcare by more than 40% in transit-rich cities like Seattle, Washington and Memphis, Tennessee, and smaller rural communities like Wilson, North Carolina.



Olivia Blahut,
Director, Via

In her role on the Product Marketing team at Via, Olivia works with Via’s partners to help them successfully adopt and use Via’s TransitTech platform, and amplifies stories about the impact that our partners have on their communities. Previously, she led the East Coast Partnerships team at Via, where she worked with partners to establish innovative transit services. Prior to Via, Olivia was an Engagement Manager at the Seurat Group, where she led projects for Fortune 500 companies and early-stage startups. She helped clients develop proprietary insights and launch data-informed go-to-market strategies.


Casey Gifford 
Senior Planner, King County Metro’s Innovative Mobility Program
Casey is a leader in implementing public-private partnerships that leverage emerging mobility services and new technologies to improve regional mobility, advance equity, improve the environment, and support thriving communities. Casey led the development, implementation, and evaluation of Metro’s Via to Transit first-and-last mile pilot, as well as the rebrand of this service into a consolidated on-demand network called Metro Flex. She has worked closely with riders and community groups to ensure innovative services are not only available to all riders, but also prioritize those with the greatest unmet needs, including people of color, low-income riders, people with disabilities, and English-language learners. Casey is a former Fulbright Fellow with a Masters in Urban Planning and Management from Aalborg University


John Lancaster 
Chief Development Officer, Memphis Area Transit Authority 

John Lancaster, AICP, is the Chief Development Officer at Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), overseeing the planning, scheduling, capital projects, and implementation of MATA’s mobility programs. In addition, John has led efforts to obtain various FTA grants to fund MATA’s mobility program and other capital projects. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a BS in construction and a Master’s in city and regional planning. John is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and has over 30 years of experience in construction and transit planning. He has worked at MATA for the past 23 years.


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