VIA Teases a Proposed Rapid Transit Corridor Network

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
Via riders arrive at Cento Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The VIA Metropolitan Transit Prímo 103 Zarzamora line will be free to ride on Valentine's Day.

VIA Metropolitan Transit outlined its working plans for a new rapid transit system Wednesday, ideas that resemble those being discussed in ConnectSA’s pursuit of a new multimodal mass transit system.

“We cannot build our way out of congestion,” Jeffrey Arndt, VIA’s president and CEO, said to a room full of City and County officials and transportation leaders. “Let’s talk about the next 40 years when we look at a more mobile future.”

Arndt discussed the proposed rapid transit corridor network in his keynote speech at the 2018 State of Transit meeting. Organized in partnership with the San Antonio Mobility Coalition, the event focused on discussing solutions to the pressing traffic issues facing San Antonio.

Arndt outlined three building blocks in VIA’s long-range plan that require using new technologies to both improve simple services such as paying fares, and finding innovative ways to reach untapped markets in the city’s suburban neighborhoods, for example.

A rapid transit system that increases the frequency of public transportation service is the key to ensuring that traffic congestion and commute times don’t balloon with San Antonio’s projected growth over the coming decades, Arndt said.

Courtesy / VIA Metropolitan Transit

Proposed RTC Network

“This is the system map of a draft plan we have for the proposed … rapid transit,” Arndt said.

The rapid transit lines represent dedicated lanes on which vehicles such as VIA’s Primo Buses could run. Arndt noted that the working proposal, which includes public input gathered through the Vision 2040 Plan and SA Tomorrow, features lines that span each side of the city.

Yet Arndt suggested that it may not simply be Primo buses operating on the new network. He showed a video depicting trackless trains currently being developed in China.

The rapid transit system’s aim would be to increase frequency of service, giving commuters a reliable transportation option. Arndt cited a study from the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization showing that 84 percent of people expressed interest in utilizing public transit if the wait for a vehicle did not extend past 10 minutes. That number drops to 64 percent if the wait is between 10 to 20 minutes, and plummets to 21 percent for a wait between 20 to 30 minutes.

VIA reported that in 2017 only 2 percent of is service had riders waiting for less than 10 minutes. Findings showed that 20 percent waited between 15 to 20 minutes, while 50 percent waited around 30 minutes.

The draft rapid transit system resembles the mass transit plan that San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, both speakers at the State of Transit, are pursuing through ConnectSA. The two recently announced that the new mass transit system would not involve rail components. Instead, they indicated that the vehicles would likely be trackless trains.

Hope Andrade, one of three ConnectSA chairs, spoke after Arndt at the event and stressed the importance of investing in a public transit system now. She said not being able to bid on deals like Amazon’s HQ2 because of a lack of public transit was embarrassing.

“I believe that right now is the time for us to deliver a world-class public transit system deserving of this great city,” Andrade said. “We don’t have any more excuses.”

After the remarks, Arndt told the Rivard Report that multiple opportunities existed for funding the program, which he said would likely come from several different sources, including from the private and public sector.

15 thoughts on “VIA Teases a Proposed Rapid Transit Corridor Network

  1. This article teases a forward thinking approach to mass transit in this city.

    In order for these discussions to transition from innovative ideas into a practical reality, city and county elected leadership would be wise to allow VIA and ConnectSA to command and retain leadership of this project throughout its process and natural conclusion. Any position or credit taken/asserted by elected officials, for or against same, will recede this critical matter back into a political vacuum, stifling the development of public transportation infrastructure we desperately need as a community.

    Real leadership, in this sense, is deferring to those charged with creating the plan, abstaining from advocacy, and allowing one’s vote at council and/or commissioner’s court to ultimately decide the plan’s fate in the end.

  2. IF VIA can deliver on this it would be great BUT, with some current waits of over 30 minutes for REGULAR service, I’m not sure who would trust them on this.

  3. Atlanta, Dallas, D.C., Miami, Sacramento, Seattle all smaller than San Antonio have rail transit.
    San Antonio seems to be stuck on slow moving buses.
    Talk is cheap.

    • Being from the Dallas area, and having enjoyed DART service for several years out to my suburb of PLANO, I Totally Agree With You!!

  4. Why the lack of east-west routes? Shouldn’t 1604, 410, 151, and Wurzbach Parkway be included in rapid transit? Jobs are spread out all over this city, but this map looks like it is catering to a a very dense downtown job center, which really doesn’t exist.

  5. Via should check with Union Pacific about using right-of-way beside their tracks for rapid transit using trackless trains. There should be room for a single lane on each side of the right-of-way, and it would result in much faster movement. Also, Fredericksburg Rd. was proven in the last attempt at Rapid Mass Transit (BRT) to NOT be suitable because it is too narrow through the Deco District to have a dedicated lane. Therefore, we got nicer buses coming more frequently but taking the same 35 minutes to get to/from downtown/Medical Center that the old regular skip bus took. Has anything changed to make the roadway wider in the Deco District since then? No! Using Union Pacific side right-of-way that direction may be the only hope for rapid transit between the Medical Center and downtown.

    • How wide is the row? Under which act was it granted, if you know. It wouldn’t be the 1862 Act, perhaps 1868 or 1875.

    • Union Pacific Walked away from talks with the Lonestar RAil District about 2 years ago. Unless a law is passed by congress forcing Union Pacific to provide passenger rail services, then Commuter Rail is Dead. Long Live Commuter Rail and I love riding trains.

  6. No spokes of this VIA wheel out on Bandera to 1604, or on 151 to 1604? Heckuva lot of traffic I’ve experienced on Bandera at least, but the flyovers are at 410 and 151 for a reason … still, I would love to see trackless trains and / or BaRT vehicles, with under-10 minute wait times, in my future travels.

  7. Love this plan (if it ACTUALLY comes to fruition), but Bandera road has insane traffic and is totally missed by this. Culebra gets pretty bad too.

  8. I want to be optimistic, but VIA and the City and the Chambers and the paper have a track rhecord that should be looked carefully. Does everyone have amnesia? Remember two years ago there were tv commercials with showing VIA light rails traveling down directly in front of Alamo Plaza as well as a plans to build a high rise hotel above the old Dilliard’s store? This wouild have caused the loss of the World Heritage Site designation for the area! Remember when the light rail was proposed to have a terminal in St. Paul Square and included the conflict of interestscandal of the VIA Board President trying to buy land in the area? The Chambers or the Paper have NO credibility when they supported a tax for the Alamodome and promised an NFL team? Where is the team Mr Perez? Next they will be saying the usual nonsense that we we do what they say it will make our city “World Class” or a hollow boast like UTSA is “Top Tier”. what a joke!

Leave a Reply

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