Transit on Tap: Turning the Wheels on San Antonio’s Transportation Future

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
Cars, bikes, scooters, and people all occupy the streets of downtown San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Cars, bikes, scooters, and people all occupy the streets of downtown San Antonio.

We often hear that San Antonio lacks agency to plan for the 21st century when it comes to mobility and transportation. We also hear that young professionals should take on more leadership roles and get involved in the community to spur progressive change.

The members of ReadySAGo, a transit-oriented civic engagement organization, are listening. We’re passionate about San Antonio and finding ways to get involved and help make our city a better place in which to live, work, and play. We believe that for San Antonio to become a 21st-century city, we must gather, educate, and activate its citizens in order to move viable transportation initiatives forward.

Tasked with tackling the issue of transportation and coming up with ways to move the needle in a positive direction, our seven-member group organized the Transit on Tap event series centered on the current state of multimodal transportation options in the city.

Last month, more than 80 people attended our inaugural event at Freetail Brewing Co. focused on bikes and scooters in the urban core. The event was moderated by Brian Dillard, the City of San Antonio’s chief innovation officer, and featured panelists Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), Blue Ducks Scooters Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Houston, SATX Social Ride Founder Jeffrey Moore, and Tina Beecham, leader of Black Girls Do Bike San Antonio.

To view a live stream recording of our inaugural event, click here.

The turnout indicates that San Antonio residents, especially millennials and young professionals, are hungry for these conversations. One main takeaway of the night was that scooter riders can now relate to cyclists who advocate for protected and designated lanes meant for micro-mobility.

“Scooters have changed my quality of life as I used to live on the Northside of San Antonio and I used to drive to work every single day,” said Beto Altamirano, CEO of CityFlag, which created the mobile app for the City’s 311 services. “I moved downtown…[and] now I ride my scooter everywhere, but now I also feel a lot of empathy toward cyclists.”

Altamirano said citizens must consider all angles of the problems scooters pose, such as creating safety hazards for pedestrians and cluttering sidewalks, and find creative ways to solve them. For example, he and his team updated the 311 app to now allow residents to report scooter-related issues to their local government, he said.

The event also featured leaders from the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO), the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Department’s Vision Zero, VIA Metropolitan Transit, and the Texas Department of Transportation, who handed out pertinent information to attendees at stakeholder tables. Blue Duck Scooters brought its most recent model on which attendees could take a spin.

Members of the ReadySAGo team pose with panelists from the inaugural Transit on Tap event at Freetail Brewing Co.

Courtesy / Bethany Terrell

Members of the ReadySAGo team pose with panelists from the inaugural Transit on Tap event at Freetail Brewing Co.

Already the seventh-largest city in the U.S., San Antonio is projected to become home to an additional 1 million residents by 2040, and several transportation advocacy groups already are actively planning for the future.

While we were concocting the idea for ReadySAGo, we met with representatives from VIA, AAMPO, TCI, and Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s office. With different agendas and public meetings taking place concurrently, these stakeholders said, residents are not showing up in great numbers and messages are often lost. We also kept hearing that residents get the impression that the various organizations are operating in silos.

ConnectSA, the nonprofit Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Nirenberg created last year, will seek broad-based community input on the future of transit in San Antonio, and ultimately, put a plan on the ballot for voters to approve. Light rail, streetcars, scooters all are technologies or initiatives the City has grappled with in recent years. Some have seen success; others, not so much.

ConnectSA in December unveiled its proposed 28-page multimodal strategy, which includes 25 potential projects for implementation by 2025. A universal app to pay for all transit fares, more than 40 miles of protected bicycle and scooter lanes, and 200 miles of sidewalks are among the many overarching projects featured in the framework.

In the coming months, ConnectSA will hold public forums and town halls, a process that will tap into all 10 City Council districts. ReadySAGo’s members are cyclists, bus riders, commuters, and scooter fans, and we want our voices to be heard.

So we asked ourselves: Where would we go if we wanted to be informed or share information about up-and-coming transit initiatives with the next generation of leaders in San Antonio? The answer was not a board room or corporate headquarters miles away from our jobs. Rather, we mused, if you meet us where we are and hold meetings in active community spaces or popular breweries where we convene after work, we’d be more likely to show up. So, we made it our mission to advocate for innovative change on behalf of existing community transportation organizations in a no-frills environment where people can have honest conversations.

After the success of our inaugural panel discussion, ReadySAGo stands ready to support and enhance ConnectSA’s efforts by enticing the millennial and young professional demographic to join the conversation at popular local breweries and similar venues. We plan to leverage the contacts we have in the cycling community and invite them to end their weekly rides at our event venues.

We encourage you to support our efforts by following us on Instagram and Facebook and keeping an eye out for our second event in April, which will focus on the successes and challenges of our current bus system and the benefits of advocating for advanced rapid transit in the city. We will partner with ConnectSA for our event so residents can learn more about the proposed framework for the city. Simply put, we are here to gather, educate, and activate. Let’s get the wheels turning. It’s time to mobilize. 

Team ReadySAGo is made up of:

  • Domingo Villarreal
  • Michael Terrell
  • Rocío Guenther
  • Robby Brown
  • Marlene Romo Flores
  • Marissa Guzman
  • Raul Botan

12 thoughts on “Transit on Tap: Turning the Wheels on San Antonio’s Transportation Future

  1. Please stop saying San Antonio is the 7th largest city. Metropolitan statistical area is what counts, and San Antonio comes in #24 on that list.

  2. S.A ranks ahead of San Francisco and Boston in city population: 1.5 mil. to 884,000 and 685,000 respectively. However the metropolitan population for S.A. is about 2.4 mil. compared to 4.7 mil. for San Francisco and 4.8 mil. for Boston, a significant difference. We’re really not that large of a city. We need to start being honest with ourselves about where we really are as a city and not deceive ourselves.

  3. Yeaahhhh….. Anyway, scooter riders should have their own personal e scooter, lug it around wherever you go. Even those Tourist! Transit options sure… getting public to utilize is the issue.

  4. I am really thrilled this conversation is happening. I am concerned, however, that the focus is on “young professionals.” How do the 40+ crowd utilize transportation?

  5. Living in Southtown, I would always see tourists and locals alike using our Bcycle bike share program. Now, I rarely see those bikes anymore. I remember when the Rivard Report not too long ago was constantly reporting on the expansion of the Bcycle program with more docks spread out around the downtown core. Now? The Rivard Report pumps out scooter stories almost weekly. I hear nothing of bike share, and I expect it won’t be around for too much longer. That’s a shame. Renting a bike, or simply just walking along our beautiful river are simple ways to navigate around downtown easily.

  6. I find the conversation for public transportation to be a hard one to bridge. I personally don’t use public transportation, and I avoid downtown except for work and the Alamo, and anything within walking distance of either one.

    The conversation, thus far, have been quite one sided, and with a lack of personal responsibility on the part of the general public, it becomes quite contentious. Scooters are scattered everywhere: in the river, at intersections (blocking for pedestrians and handicapped). They ride them irresponsibly and without fear. I’ve had several just run out in front of me as if they own the road. A gentleman rode up when I was parking and just threw it in a parking space. I asked him to please pick it up and put it somewhere more appropriate, and he rudely said “Don’t worry about it. I work for them.” They ride them up and down the Mission Reach, which is marked as a scooter-free zone. There are no penalties to neither the riders nor the companies for all of these discretions, and rules are pointless since they are not enforced.

    VIA rides around with giant buses and low capacities, instead of using their ride history and the city’s current events calendar as a guide to use smaller vehicles. I’ve asked them to put a cover on the bus stops that are used by the residents of my neighborhood and the local businesses. No cover, no bench. This morning, they were huddled against a fence waiting. Keep in mind that in my neighborhood, we have 2 Oxford Houses, an aging community, and we have several developments going in. They’ve changed the status of important routes to my neighborhood, one of which is 641, without telling our residents. We found out by chance, and have worked hard to get our residents notified. One would think that if you are going to push public transportation, you would make it as easy as possible for the people using it.

  7. Besides scooters and dockless bikes, San Antonio needs to provide better public transit options to residents that are at least just as if not more convenient than driving their car. I’m planning on being a part of those 1 million that move to the city, hopefully in the next year, and am concerned about the lack of public transit options. I currently live in San Diego and ride my bike to work, although San Diego isn’t that bike friendly, either. But on my numerous visits to San Antonio, I’ve barely seen any bike infrastructure. Rather, I’ve seen congestion and clogged streets. I’m not too in tune with local city politics, but light rail seems like a good option to pursue, as cities like Denver have transformed themselves from essentially giant parking lots into a much more multi-modal city. Cheers!
    Jack T.
    Transitioning Veteran

  8. Look people, here’s the deal. If SA wants an actual viable public transportation system, the city must get serious about encouraging inner loop density, and stop incentivizing endless outward sprawl. That’s step one. But I don’t think SA wants density or cares to have an actual viable public transportation system. Which is fine, and we can all talk about how bad the traffic is going to get on 1604 and talk about a bunch of VIA bus routes that nobody will ride.

    Can we just be honest and admit SA has no credible plan for public transportation, and SA lacks the civic and political will to create and implement a plan?

    • Continuing to incentivize endless sprawl will continue to contribute to air pollution and keep San Antonio from achieving federal air quality standards. Not to mention that continuing to sprawl will also increase the percentage of income that people spend on their cars and commuting in general

Leave a Reply

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