Courtesy / VIA
What will the Decade of Mobility look like in San Antonio? Let’s use our imagination.
Picture a modern era for San Antonio and Bexar County. A time when commutes are faster, public transit is easier to use, roads are less crowded, the air is cleaner, and trips are so frequent that you don’t even have to consult a schedule because your ride arrives every 10 minutes.
It’s a place where you have more options for your trip each day – and more opportunities because of the economic development and job growth that follow transit growth. A time when parking fees aren’t part of your budget because it’s so much more convenient to take transit to work, school, appointments, shopping – wherever you need to go. Days when walking to the nearest VIA stop means enjoying safer, more walkable neighborhoods, better sidewalk connections, and cleaner air because alternative-fueled buses are carrying more people and cutting down on emissions while they do it.
If you take public transit, or know someone who does, you’ve probably already daydreamed about it. Or if you’ve sat in traffic and stared at miles of red brake lights ahead of you, you likely have some ideas. In many ways, that era has already begun – just in time, too.
A few months shy of the new year, former San Antonio City Councilman Rey Saldaña was sworn in as VIA’s new board chairman and delivered a vision for the future of mobility in our region.
To kick off his tenure, Saldaña declared that the next 10 years would be the “Decade of Mobility” with a community-led charge toward a completely reimagined transit system – one that addresses the priorities our community identified through years of community conversations about how to make it easier to choose and use transit.
It generated new momentum behind the VIA Reimagined Plan, a 10-year roadmap to provide transit options and address the challenges our community identified through the VIA Vision 2040 long-range planning process. That process included hundreds of meetings across the city and thousands of comments from riders and non-riders alike.
Saldaña has been both.
He’s credited with shining a light on the need for better transit options when he parked his car for a month and used VIA exclusively. His experience with long wait times and longer commutes brought to light the challenges VIA customers face daily, and a serious shortfall in VIA’s funding that made it hard to address them.
VIA receives just a half-cent of sales tax funding to operate a system nearly the size of Houston’s, and bigger than Dallas’ and Austin’s – all of which receive a full cent. The penny provided for our Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, was designated for transit in 1977. But for 40 years, half of that penny has been allocated to other projects instead.
The City of San Antonio and Bexar County recently provided additional investments to improve frequency and reliability in the VIA system. More buses and operators and more frequent routes in all 10 Council districts over the past two years have delivered significant increases in ridership. It proves the adage that just as location is the most important factor in real estate, frequency is key for a successful transit system.
By the time the Decade of Mobility dawns in January 2020, VIA will have put millions of dollars in new investments toward delivering the system we’ve been planning for. Making the dream a reality, however, will take more. Much more.
Delivering the transportation options that our community envisions requires a reimagined approach to how mobility is prioritized and funded. The status quo of underfunding public transportation in our region has to change with the times.
That’s why VIA continues to work with local, regional, and state partners to leverage existing funding and explore new resources to deliver on the promise and potential of VIA Reimagined.
Whether you take public transportation today, look forward to a day when it’s your best option, or support transit solutions that help clear the way for your vehicle to share the road, VIA Reimagined will benefit us all.
Let’s help our community realize a more mobile future with better bus service, high-frequency routes, and modern conveniences that will make public transit the backbone of our modern future. Attend one of our open houses, request a presentation for your office, or visit us online to learn more about VIA Reimagined and provide your input. Find more information about the plan and an open house near you at VIAinfo.net/Reimagined.