Two New VIA Prímo Routes Coming in 2018

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A customer waits for the bus at the Madla Transit Center. Photo by Joan Vinson.

About two and a half years after VIA Metropolitan Transit launched its first Prímo bus line, the mass transit company is seeking community input before launching two new Prímo lines along Military Drive and Zarzamora Street in the spring and fall of 2018 respectively.

The proposed route, a $64 million South/West Corridor project will consist of two separate lines. One will run east to west along Military Drive from Brooks Transit Center, near Brooks City Base, to the Kelly-Lackland (Kel-Lac) Transit Center. The other one will run north to south along Zarzamora Street from Crossroads Park and Ride at Wonderland of the Americas Mall (formerly known as Crossroads Mall) to Madla Transit Center, just south of South Park Mall. Construction on the new lines will begin in 2017 and are slated to begin service in 2018.

The existing VIA Prímo 100 route runs along Fredericksburg Road from downtown San Antonio to the South Texas Medical Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The Prímo bus lines are faster, more efficient transportation routes, VIA officials said. The idea is to get as many people as possible to where they want to go in the least amount of time, saving time and energy.

The South/West corridor. Image courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The South/West corridor. Image courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The VIA Prímo 100 route is approximately 20 miles in length and serves 16 stations along its corridor. A bus arrives at every one of those stations every 10 to 15 minutes, and takes passengers to their destination at a travel time 15 to 20% faster than the regular VIA routes.

The original 16 Prímo 100 route buses are 60-feet long, as opposed to the standard 40-foot long VIA buses. The slinky-like centers of the Prímo buses make for tighter turns. Powered by compressed natural gas, the buses save on fuel costs while reducing toxic emissions. Over the last year VIA has begun employing premium 40-foot diesel hybrid buses, similar to VIA’s express buses, on the corridor to provide flexibility for the fleet at peak-times.




The South/West Corridor line will have 18 buses, including a mix of the premium 40-feet long buses and the distinct 60-feet long buses.

The Military Drive Primo Route. Image courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The Military Drive Primo Route. Image courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The stations along the Fredericksburg Road Prímo route are larger and more hi-tech than the standard bus stops. Prímo stations have passenger waiting platforms and digital screens that inform passengers in real time of when the next bus is scheduled to arrive.

The Zarzamora Street Primo route. Image courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The Zarzamora Street Primo route. Image courtesy of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The South/West Corridor will include Prímo stations and “next generation” stations that are lit up during the night. VIA Strategic Planner Christina Castano said VIA plans to implement more night-lit stations.

“We want to make sure that … customers feel safe when they’re along the South/West Corridor,” Christina Castano said.

Open-house meetings are scheduled throughout the next two weeks and community members are encouraged to provide input for the Prímo route. The placement of transit stations along the South/West Corridor are not set in stone. Since the Mission’s World Heritage designation, Castano said VIA has set aside money in the Prímo budget to include a station that provides easy access to the South San Antonio Missions.

“We anticipate that (a Mission stop) is something that is going to bubble up to the top,” she said.

As of now, Castano said tourists using VIA buses to get to the Missions use the Roosevelt route from downtown.

Each of the 16 existing Prímo buses are equipped with technology that change traffic lights to keep the buses on schedule.

“It is essentially a mechanism where the bus talks to a transit light. If a bus is running late it will hold the green light so that the bus can get through the intersection,” Castano said.

She said the technology has ensured about 11% increase in on-time performance.

VIA Prímo 100 is the only route that offers wireless internet (WiFi) to customers, but that is changing Sept. 1 when WiFi will be implemented throughout the VIA fleet.

Here are the next open house meetings:

(Tonight) Thursday, Aug. 27

  • 6 – 8 a.m. at the Kel-Lac Transit Center, 7183 U.S. Highway 90 West

Thursday, Aug. 27

  • 4 – 6 p.m. at the Crossroads Park and Ride, 151 Crossroads Blvd.

Tuesday, Sept. 1

  • 5 – 7 p.m. at the Mission Library, 3134 Roosevelt Ave.

Wednesday, Sept. 2

  • 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Last Chance Ministries, 404 Brady Blvd.

Wednesday, Sept. 2

  • 5 – 7 p.m. at the Harlandale High School Cafeteria, 114 E. Gerald Ave.

Thursday, Sept. 3

  • 5 – 7 p.m. at the Deco Building Foyer, 1800 Fredericksburg Rd.


*Featured/top image: A customer waits for the bus at the Madla Transit Center. Photo by Joan Vinson. 

Related Stories:

VIA Primo Service: Mixed Reviews From Residents

Transportation Pieces Take Shape for VIA, Comprehensive Plan

VIA Transit: The Least Likely Choice of Airport Travelers

Lone Star Rail Officials Ask VIA Board for $500,000

13 thoughts on “Two New VIA Prímo Routes Coming in 2018

  1. I like that the proposed two new Primo routes cover about 10 times the distance that the proposed street car routes would have covered at only one-fifth of the cost. Maybe if they take that street car money they could build 8 or 10 new Primo routes and public transport in this town might actually start to be a viable alternative for some people.

    • Hi Jim! While I admit streetcar had its faults, I just wanted to point out that the goal of streetcar was to provide an alternative transit option to promote urban density. It was to provide an alternative option for folks who live and work in the urban core and promote development there. Meaning that this bus line covering more distance doesn’t serve to help grow our urban core and create more density there.

      It’s canon that the costs of suburban sprawl are significantly higher than creating more density in our existing urban areas (think of all of the infrastructure that goes into building new roads, new sewage, new power, etc.)–for example, the ramps at 1604 and 281 cost taxpayers like $150 million. San Antonio is one of the most economically segregated and sprawl-affected cities in America and we need to address this issue instead of catering to it with expanding bus lines. It’s a Band-Aid on a tumor.

  2. They didn’t exactly listen when Primo launched…..maybe since there are so many new people things will change. It’s even more critical with limited ROW available down Zarzamora that the community be involved. Hope VIA consolidates bus stops too because all the redundancy of Regular bus stops and separate Primo creates tons of congestion. Just come hang out at Fred/Mary Louise: no consolidation on westbound (HEB) stops and 2 VIA stops closed (1 requested, VIA folded on the 2nd) on eastbound Mary Louise. It’s the only Primo stop which is also a regular VIA bus stop.

  3. Still no north central or north east corridor? Run a route straight up broadway and Austin highway to terminate at the Randolph park and ride!

  4. While I love the idea of Primo coming to the south side because that is my neighborhood, the width of Zarzamora concerns me a little bit. It’s not a very wide street in some places. Are the Primo buses any wider than the older buses? I guess I should attend one of these meetings.

  5. The biggest problem with PRIMO is the length of time wasted with passengers getting onto the bus. Most Rapid Bus Transit systems have automated ticket machines AT THE STATIONS. People buy their tickets BEFORE the bus arrives. Then there are designated entry and exit doors so that people walk on unhindered by stopping to deal with the driver as others walk off. It saves a LOT of time on the route using this kind of system. Inspectors occasionally enter the bus to check tickets, and fines are immediately given to riders who have no valid ticket. The second biggest problem with PRIMO is NOT having designated lanes so that it moves faster than traffic. In other words, a GOOD Rapid Bus Transit system operates just like a light rail system does.

    By the way, the new system VIA chose for its passes was a mistake, too. I observed it just this week on the PRIMO while going downtown. It uses the money box as a pass reader. It takes time to insert the card, let it be read, and then withdraw it. That slows down the bus!! Most transit systems in the world use a system where there are multiple places in the bus where you just quickly lay your pass card against a spot and the card is read and the money deducted from the account (if it is a prepaid card).

    VIA just keeps proving how incompetent it is at providing rapid service.

  6. So stupid. Most of these routes already have decent service, while other parts of the city have nothing.

    For instance, there is ZERO service between I-10 and I-35 on 1604, while the traffic there explodes with growth every single day.

    There is only one route on 1604 between 10 and Northwest Vista College. It runs only once an hour and it is notoriously unreliable. Even before the construction, it always ran extremely late during rush hours.

    There is nothing but express service on I-10 between downtown and 1604. One route stops only once, at Crossroads. The other goes straight from downtown to 1604, no stops at all. Has anyone seen how much business there is along I-10 north of 410? Why is it necessary to use slow services and multiple transfers to get to those businesses?

    Conversely, 410 has zero express runs, only a skip service that takes forever to get between major transit hubs. Why? You need BOTH skip and express service on busy routes like 10, 410, 281, 35 and so on.

    It should be routine for Primo service to run to every post office, hospital, grocery store, major shopping center and especially all of the major college campuses, like UTSA and the Alamo college campuses. The routes should get people to the destinations up to an hour before they open and at least an hour after they close.

    Not running to the UTSA and Alamo College campuses this often and over this long of a time period is especially stupid, short term AND long term.

    First of all, college students tend to have tighter finances than other people, and they’d appreciate a low-cost transit option enough to use it–but only if it ran often enough to make it worth their while. Right now, every Alamo College student can get a bus pass, but most of them never ask for it and fewer still actually use it, because the service is so shoddy. Running the buses out to the campuses every 15 minutes will go a long way to getting them out of their cars and into public transit. This can only help traffic congestion and the environment.

    Second, if they can be hooked on the idea of reliable transit, they will want to keep using it when they graduate. They’ll expect and even demand decent service wherever they are. Experience will have taught them what good service looks like, and they’ll be more willing to make sure everyone has it. When you have a big bloc of people who are used to public transit and are already receptive to using it, you’re going to have more people using it, and that, too, will help the congestion and the environment.

    Grabbing those college students with good service early is a win-win, all the way around.

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