Visitors and locals will soon be able to take a VIA Metropolitan Transit bus from the Alamo to each of the city's Spanish-colonial Missions along a new bus route through downtown and the Mission Reach.
The new VIVA Missions route will be the first to provide a seamless connection from Alamo Plaza to Missions Concepción, San José, and San Juan. Service to Mission Espada will begin once road construction in the area is completed.
The Missions route is one of three new VIVA routes that will start on Monday, June 6. VIA will launch a fleet of fifteen new, CNG-fueled buses with specialized VIVA route branding, and will implement uniform VIVA signage along each of the routes to invite visitors and locals to explore the Missions and urban core cultural destinations.
The VIVA Missions route will replace route 42 – which only serviced Mission Concepción, Mission San José, and the Alamo – and will provide a 30-minute service from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, to each of the missions.
Riders can pay the $1.30 fare for a single trip, purchase a $2.75 VIVA day pass for unlimited rides all day, or purchase a seven-day VIVA pass for $12.
VIA consolidated the Sightseer Special, Blue Circulator, and the E line to make the new VIVA Culture and VIVA Centro routes. VIVA Culture will provide bus service to a number of the city's historical and cultural institutions along Broadway and Southtown between the McNay Art Museum and the Blue Star Arts Complex. VIVA Centro will connect downtown users to St. Paul Square in the near Eastside and Centro Plaza on the Westside.
The UNESCO designation of the Missions and the Alamo has inspired the City and a number of other stakeholders to create a work plan to transform the area surrounding the Missions into a place that reflects the international gravity of the designation and accommodates the increased volume of visitors. Transportation along the Mission Reach was one of the several concerns illustrated in the plan.
VIA customers have been asking why there isn't bus service to each mission ever since the designation, said VIA's communications manager Lorraine Pulido.
"Now, it's not up to the rider to figure out a strategy of how to get from point A to point B and C, we've done all the work for you so you just have to get on the bus and you're good," Pulido said. "I’m a Southsider, so all of the missions there have always been part of my life, and to be able to visit them all on one bus is so convenient."
The concept for the new routes has been in the works for a while and involved gathering a mixture of community and stakeholder input. VIA service planners started receiving requests from downtown residents and business owners to create a “special, branded service that better connects all of the attractions in the area” more than a year ago, VIA Senior Service Planner Arturo Herrera told the Rivard Report during a public input meeting in February.
VIA has received other feedback about expanding its payment options on the city buses. Riders can pay the $1.30 fare only with exact change. Other cities have upgraded their buses to include credit card readers stationed at the front and in the middle section of buses to accommodate riders without cash. VIA is considering implementing mobile ticketing, Pulido said, allowing users to purchase tickets through an mobile app and show it to a driver on their smartphone.
"We're moving forward with it, but it's still in the developmental stages," she said.
Other changes to go into effect on June 6 are on the following routes: 14 Perrin Beitel Skip, 22 Hays Frequent, 70 Cesar Chavez, and 614 Hidden Cove/Kel-Lac.
For more information about VIA bus schedules, click here.
Top image: The new VIVA route buses will hit the streets on Monday, June 6. Photo courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.