Nirenberg, Wolff Tap Outgoing Council Member Rey Saldaña for VIA Board Chair

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
(From left) Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg listen as outgoing Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) formally accepts the role of VIA Chair.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(From left) Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg listen as outgoing Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) formally accepts the role of VIA Chair.

Rey Saldaña, who is completing his fourth and final term on San Antonio’s City Council, is Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s choice to lead the VIA Metropolitan Transit board.

While the VIA board elects its chair, the mayor and county judge endorse a candidate for the spot. Saldaña, whose last day as District 4 councilman, is Wednesday, would replace Hope Andrade as chair. Nirenberg and Wolff announced their selection Tuesday afternoon at a Westside transit hub, one of the projects Andrade oversaw during her five years leading the board.

Nirenberg said Saldaña was a natural choice to head VIA’s board as transportation planning and policies will be a focus of his second term.

“During his eight stellar years as a City Councilman for District 4, Rey has been a consistent and successful champion for VIA and transportation as a whole,” Nirenberg said. “Rey understands the importance of getting more people to ride the bus and attracting choice riders. For all these reasons, I think you will join me in believing that Rey is the perfect choice to follow Hope in the role of VIA board chair.”

As a councilman, Saldaña demonstrated his commitment to public transportation by taking the bus to work for a month. Since 2017, he has served as chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, where he advocated for a City budget increase for VIA.

Since 1977, VIA has been funded by a half-cent sales tax approved by voters, while transit systems in other large Texas cities receive far more funding. VIA received $4.3 million from the City budget for fiscal year 2018 and $10 million in 2019, money used mostly to increase frequency on its routes. VIA’s budget for fiscal year 2019 is $238.9 million.

Saldaña said one his main goals if he is confirmed as the board’s chair is to make 2020 “the decade of mobility” by increasing funding and access to both current and future riders.

“The story of VIA is the story of many San Antonio residents,” he said. “It started from behind and it’s expected to go as far as any other transit agency in the state with less.

“We know that the VIA system is underfunded, and it impacts that future rider that says, ‘I want VIA to be that transit system that is blowing me past traffic.’ We are going to lay down our claim on this decade and get people moving in this city in more ways than one.”

Saldaña has been working for education advocacy nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas since earlier this year as his fourth and final Council term wound down.

In his position as VIA chair, he said his first priority is to talk to the people who will use VIA to get a sense of what they need.

“When they say that I need something to make this better, it’s usually not just a lever change, it’s a system-wide change,” Saldaña said. “That is why I think I am going to get on a journey of talking to riders and our drivers to ensure that I know what they need to do their job more efficiently. If we are going to be successful in bringing more funding to VIA, it’s going to be at the permission of the San Antonio resident.”

At Tuesday’s event, the mayor and county judge also honored Andrade, who is stepping down later this month.

“She stayed at a time of real personal sacrifice to continue in this demanding role,” Nirenberg said. “Our community owes her a huge debt of gratitude for her service.”

Andrade originally announced that she would step down January 2018, citing personal reasons. She has served as VIA’s board chair since 2014. She is one of three chairs of ConnectSA, a nonprofit formed to develop a comprehensive transportation plan for San Antonio. VIA figures prominently in that plan.

“He is someone with vision and passion for this community and a deep seeded understanding of VIA’s mission and what we do,” Andrade said of Saldaña. “He is a proven leader.”

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick contributed to this report.

10 thoughts on “Nirenberg, Wolff Tap Outgoing Council Member Rey Saldaña for VIA Board Chair

  1. Im a Saldana fan and think his heart is in the right place. However, citing riding the bus for 30 days as a qualification as a board member is a bit of a slap in the face to a lot of San Antonians. Here’s to a new era for VIA. Perhaps privatization can lead to better data-driven routes for the real people of this town

  2. Not impressed. Riding a bus makes you qualified?? I was at a city non-profit meeting where Saldaña had no idea what was going on-to the point where a fellow council member of the same non-profit when he asked a question of the member sharply replied it was discussed at an earlier meeting.

    And….so much for RN not having another term of city insiders in important positions. One step forward, two steps back. Strike one.

    Talking g to riders and drivers to get an understanding of VIA? Wow! In a era of data that’s what we use? Where is Saldana’s expertise/training/experience in public transit? VIA is a major component of the transportation plan-and scooters and bike lanes were last mile parts of the plan! Where are people w expertise in public transportation? I guess the city will rely on one of RN’s biggest advocates-Henry Cisneros -and his infrastructure firm.-and who is a chairman of the transportation task force. Strike two.

    The biggest take away is that he will be dealing with funding and increasing that -and ridership. Hold on to your wallets. SA does not have downtown as a major employment center like Houston and Dallas-we are so spread out that public transportation to all major employment centers w employees from all over the city is not efficient and time/saving for those who might use VIA. You will need those with the best expertise and experience. Strike three.

    • Well Anne, sounds like you are the expert on transportation and VIA in particular.
      Why don’t you call Nelson and Ron and tell them YOU should be Chair of the VIA Board.
      That will solve EVERYTHING.
      And thank you for your service.

      • If you read correctly you will see I advocate for someone with real expertise; questioning the qualifications for the person taking over this position and other board members is not out of line…but seems to have touched a nerve. Having a heart for transportation and riding the bus aren’t really typical job requirements unless they come w expertise and experience. I prefer a well qualified, not necessarily well connected, person in this position. Business as usual in SA. You’re welcome!

        • It’s explanatory and yes we need a qualified candidate who knows the necessity of the peoples transportation everyday not just to and from work in 30 days let’s be realistic this swap was already awaiting for Saldana people wake up.

          • Agreed. The outgoing chairperson was abundantly qualified. More back room deals at city hall.

  3. Let us, for the first time, break down & examine the implications & consequences for that typical bus rider, as well as for our struggling middle/working class citizen, that “vision” which slides by w/o knowing what it really means. There are a lot of “visions” out there heavily facilitating & subsidizing a built environment, metroplex agenda, where “success” is measured simply in business terms rather than in socioeconomic terms. We are so successful as a city we “enjoy” the distinction of being a nationally ranked economically segregated city. This is a “vision” which has actually come to pass, for many reasons never discussed. Stop the rhetoric.

  4. Saldana has had a heart for the public transportation issue for years. He has been the greatest champion for Via on city council in recent memory. This is a great choice and I wouldn’t be upset at all to see him elected by the board.

  5. If the city would use its $10m to fund Uber rides for residents they could move 400,000 riders assuming a $25 fare for each ride. If you used all of VIA’s budget you could fund over 13m rides!! The city needs to start thinking in an innovative way to solve their mass transit needs. If they want to stick with their old, tired model they can start by replacing the large buses that travel with few passengers with surreys/large vans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *