VIA, BiblioTech Announce Ride and Read Partnership

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From left: BiblioTech Administrator Laura Cole, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt try out the new BiblioTech library kiosk. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

(From left): BiblioTech Administrator Laura Cole, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt try out the new BiblioTech library kiosk at Centro Plaza. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Instead of taking the bus to the library, residents of Bexar County will soon be able to take the library to the bus.

Branded the Ride and Read initiative, Bexar County’s all-digital public library, BiblioTech, is partnering with VIA Metropolitan Transit to provide public transit users free access to more than 40,000 e-books and other media to enjoy on their bus routes.

At VIA’s Centro Plaza Wednesday morning, representatives from both organizations revealed one of six digital library kiosks to be stationed at various transit centers around the city. The machine looks and functions like an ATM, complete with its own bank of digital books, comics, movies, and more, ready to be downloaded to readers’ tablets, smartphones, and e-readers.

Users simply register at the kiosk or use their existing BiblioTech account and select the titles of their choosing on the touchscreen monitor to be sent to their devices. The system is facilitated by VIA’s recently installed 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which services the county’s entire transit network.

“In the same way we connect people on the roads and highways, BiblioTech connects people to the superhighway of information,” VIA President and CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt told the Rivard Report, explaining the similar missions of the two community partners.

The brainchild of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, BiblioTech became the first all-digital library in the nation when it opened its doors three years ago.

“We created BiblioTech in 2013 with the mission of bridging literacy and technology gaps in San Antonio through our physical branches and online through our digital collections,” Wolff said. BiblioTech now services locations throughout Bexar County including public housing communities, public schools, and military bases, along with the six locations at transit centers soon to be installed.

VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt poses with BiblioTech mascot Techolote. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt poses with BiblioTech mascot Techolote. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

The kiosks will be located at Centro Plaza, VIA’s Downtown Information Center, the Ellis Alley Transit Center, the Medical Center Transit Center, the Crossroads Park & Ride, and the North Star Mall Transit Center. For locations, hours, and contact information for each center, click here.

Stressing the simplicity of the BiblioTech system, Arndt demonstrated how to create an account and use the kiosk.

“If I can use this, anyone can,” Arndt said as he downloaded his first e-book with no trouble.

“We want to get books off of the shelves and into your hands,” BiblioTech administrator Laura Cole said. With more than 93,000 patrons, BiblioTech expects to extend its services to many more residents through its partnership with VIA. Meanwhile, VIA hopes that this additional amenity will make time spent commuting more enjoyable and productive for its riders.

When asked if the Ride and Read program might lead to an increase in engrossed readers missing their stops, Arndt was not concerned.

“I’ve been reading on the bus for years and I’ve never missed a stop,” Arndt said with a chuckle, “but I don’t read Stephen King on the bus.”

BiblioTech membership is free and available to all Bexar County residents. Library cards, though not necessary for the new transit center kiosks, can be obtained at BiblioTech’s physical locations at 3505 Pleasonton Rd. and 2003 South Zarzamora St.


Top image: (From left): BiblioTech Administrator Laura Cole, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt try out the new BiblioTech library kiosk at Centro Plaza.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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BiblioTech Closing Digital Gap in San Antonio

BiblioTech Expands Its Reach to the Westside

VIA to Solicit Feedback on Transit Study at Open Houses

2 thoughts on “VIA, BiblioTech Announce Ride and Read Partnership

  1. Sounds nice on the surface: promoting reading, but too bad they added movies to skew their usage metrics. What they really need at via bus stops are some canopy structures for shade. It always saddens me to see people 100 feet from the bus stop trying to get a sliver of shade from a tree nearby.

  2. David’s comment and the article above reminds me of the following article published by WIRED this July (which identifies San Antonio specifically as an offender):

    Public Transit Riders Want Better Service, Not Free WiFi.


    It seems that San Antonio has doubled-down on the least effective or transformative ideas for improving local transit?

    The WIRED article is based on recent research completed by TransitCenter and supported by the experiences and perceptions of regular local bus riders across US cities. As part of TransitCenter research, a table of the ‘relative importance’ of possible local bus transit service improvements ranks free wifi, power outlets and related offerings (borrowing from new approaches — frequently paid for by private advertising — by necessarily longer wait and journey mass transit platforms such as regional bus and air travel) a dead and distant last.

    What TransitCenter ranks much higher for improving local bus service (in order) is:

    1. increased bus speeds (accomplished through traffic priority and faster boarding / on-board fare collection approaches);

    2. decreased waiting time (accomplished through traffic priority and increased bus speeds and frequency of service);

    3. decreased fares (fare collection in San Antonio has dropped in recent years as fares have increased — with strange denomination fares and ticketing approaches slowing existing services and discouraging ridership);

    4. adequate waiting shelters at stops protecting riders from the elements (sun and rain and traffic);

    5. clearly posted real-time and accurate information (countdown clocks, etc) about bus services at stops;

    6. elimination of bus transfers where possible (more direct routing to key destinations as well as alternatives including cycling and walking to and from and between stations);

    7. a tap payment or annual pass flash approach (cheapest to implement and maintain) to help speed boarding;

    8. buses with enough seating for all (accomplished through greater frequency and reliability of buses as well as alternatives including cycling and walking to and from and between stations);

    9. reducing walking time to bus stops (accomplished through safe and pedestrian prioritizing street crossings near bus stops, as well as boarding as close as possible to key destinations including at shopfronts in some cases within parking lots);

    10. decreasing bus delays (including with tap payment or annual pass flash approaches on board);

    11. improving sidewalks and planting shade trees along the lengths of bus routes and paths to stations (to support walking to and between stops and stations; shade trees at VIA and near stops have been planned since at least 2002).


    The full report is available here:

    As a local VIA bus rider, I’ve advocated for nearly all of the eleven priority suggestions above through various San Antonio channels and without the support of TransitCenter research until recently but simply based on my experiences as a VIA passenger and my experiences using local transit elsewhere.

    Including based on the latest decisions, I don’t gain the sense that current VIA and other public leadership shares the perspective of regular and fare-paying local bus use or understanding of how to improve services from a passenger viewpoint or user experience (UX) — or based on national and global research and best practices and innovations, including in cities that San Antonio benchmarks against or otherwise desires to connect with.

    I’m not opposed to BiblioTech expansion, but I miss the County’s commitment — hinted towards nearly exactly this time last year — to supporting greater BCycle bike share integration with VIA Transit. Local bus and bike share integration has been implemented with success in other US as well as global cities and could lead to a better functioning VIA Transit system as well as a better integrated and more healthy, safe, fun and inviting San Antonio. As suggested last year, such integration would likely also help ‘save’ or improve SA BCycle — increasing ridership and membership as well as advertising and sponsorship opportunities for this publicly supported (federal, state, county and local) transport system.

    A dual VIA / BCycle annual membership (as easy as the current VIA EZ Ride annual pass sticker on the current BCycle membership card or keychain card) could be established this year and at low cost, improving both systems as well as potentially increasing access to BiblioTech resources. In contrast, long planned BCycle stations at VIA’s Centro Plaza and Five Points Transit Hub (planned in 2012 and 2014 respectively) have not been built — nor have the BiblioTech locations west (Dr Richard Romo) and south but bikeable been provided BCycle stations. Related, there’s no BCycle at the City’s Cafe College or UTSA’s downtown campus (including UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures – a Smithsonian affiliate).

    I’m in favor of expanded and improved BiblioTech and VIA Transit services, but the approach of kiosks at currently isolated and isolating VIA transfer centers seems distant from if not opposite of the County’s priority last year of VIA improvement (and related BiblioTech access improvement) through BCycle expansion and integration. More critically, the approach is not in keeping with the service improvements that actual local bus riders value and that research and practices elsewhere support.

    The BiblioTech kiosks are on order, but hopefully the County, City, UTSA and VIA and other partners will now move to help better integrate BCycle with VIA Transit and Bibliotech and other ‘smart’ local infrastructure — as well as otherwise move to address the priority local bus service improvements detailed by TransitCenter and other sources.

    Such efforts relate to the desire to achieve in 2016 and 2017 aspects of SATomorrow and VIAVision 2040 planning as well as the City’s VisionZero goals and new $13m Smart Cities Initiative. There’s the chance to shape 2017 Bond programming as well as SA300 works around these compatible but currently separate aims.

    As the recent WIRED article and related TransitCenter research suggests and other US and global cities have grasped, ‘smart’ is being better connected and integrated and more mobile (including through more pleasant walking and biking) — not killing time at isolated transit centers waiting for irregular buses as the only way out, free wifi and digital library materials or not.

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