VIA Seeks Public Input on Proposed Downtown Route Changes

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Bus stop number 61639 at Cento Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

VIA Metropolitan Transit bus stop number 61639 at Centro Plaza.

VIA Metropolitan Transit will host a public meeting on Thursday, March 3 at 6 p.m. to gather community feedback regarding a number of proposed route changes predominantly in the city's urban core.

The meeting will take place at VIA Metro Center, 1021 San Pedro Ave., which is accessible by Bus Routes 3 and 4. A Spanish translator will also be present, and all community members are encouraged to attend.

VIA service planners are proposing changes to the following routes: 7 Sightseer Special; 22 Hays Frequent; 42 Roosevelt; 70 Cesar Chavez; 301 Red Circulator; 305 Blue Circulator; 333 The E; and 614 Hidden Cove/Kel-Lac.

In addition to those potential service changes, minor schedule adjustments for the following routes will also be discussed: 9, 10, 14, 22, 43, 44, 70, 79, and 640.

For an interactive map of all VIA bus routes, click here.

The March 3 meeting will feature a presentation detailing the potential route, or branch, adjustments with time after the presentation for attendees to give their feedback.

VIA makes service revisions about three times a year to account for changes in ridership demand patterns and cost-effectiveness, said Arturo Herrera, VIA senior service planner. The revisions this time around are mainly focused in the downtown area, but areas such as the Mission Reach and the Southside will also be discussed.

The process of altering the downtown branches, Herrera said, began about a year and a half ago when VIA began receiving requests from residents and business owners in the urban core for a "special, branded service that better connects all of the attractions in the area."

Popular destinations such as the Pearl, the Museum Reach, and South Town continue to draw more residents and visitors alike year after year, creating more of a necessity to accommodate those preferring to use public transit between destinations. That's why VIA service planners are proposing to consolidate the Sightseer Special, Blue Circulator, and the E into one branch that would provide services between the McNay Art Museum and the Blue Star Arts Complex.

"So, we're still hitting all of the same attractions, but the benefit to riders is the fact that we're going to be hitting more attractions with a more consistent schedule," Herrera said.

Currently, the Sightseer Special travels as far north as the Witte Museum and as far south as Alamo Plaza, the Blue Circulator runs between South Town and the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, and the E line services a short two-mile loop between Rivercenter Mall, the Tobin, La Villita and everything in between.

The E line, a pilot program funded partially by the City and Centro San Antonio, is the city's only free branch that runs every 10 minutes from 6 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday. Surveying riders over the course of the year since its implementation, Herrera said, has shown that people want the route to hit more destinations as well as function seven days a week.

Consolidating the three lines into one, Herrera said, will hopefully be an answer to all of those requests, and will provide a more streamlined route to and from popular destinations with more regular hours, including a service between the Pearl and Blue Star that would operate from 8-11 p.m. every 20 minutes.

The adjustments overall would hopefully "increase productivity and efficiency" in transit, he added.

In the wake of the recent World Heritage designation of the city's five Spanish-colonial missions, VIA service planners are also proposing to extend a 30-minute service down to all of the missions that would function from 9 5 p.m., seven days a week.

Currently, the Route 42 branch provides services with access to Mission Concepción, Mission San José, and the Alamo, but a potential "mission trail service" would include stops at Mission San Juan and Mission Espada, an area that is currently under construction. Until construction ends, the "mission trail service" would extend as far as Mission San Juan, Herrera said.

Other proposed route changes to be addressed at the meeting include extending the Red Circulator west to serve central plaza and a slight adjustment in Route 614 to provide service to Pearsall Park.

The propositions and community feedback from the March 3 meeting will be reviewed by the VIA Board of Trustees on Tuesday, March 22, and the final changes will be officially implemented on Monday, June 6.

Comments on the route changes may be submitted at the public meeting or in writing. Written comments may be mailed to: Community Relations - June Service Changes c/o VIA Metropolitan Transit, 800 W. Myrtle, San Antonio, Texas 78212, or by email at

All comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 4  in order to be included in the public hearing record.


*Top image: Bus stop number 61639 at Centro Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

VIA’s Blue Route: ‘Sneak Preview’ of a Broadway-Blue Star Line

VIA Transit: The Least Likely Choice of Airport Travelers

VIA’s Blue Route Connects Southtown to Pearl Through Jan. 2

Commentary: VIA Should Expand the Free ‘E’ Route

3 thoughts on “VIA Seeks Public Input on Proposed Downtown Route Changes

  1. It’s tough to follow exactly what VIA plans to do (it doesn’t seem that they truly want public input about planned route changes) – from the continued crazy naming of routes to VIA’s images in the article above to the text descriptions (no images) on VIA’s website posted today:

    From VIA’s images and text descriptions it seems to me that with planned changes VIA is still failing to make the new Centro transit center a ‘centro’ or central station for most riders, under-serving current and potential local and visiting riders in the process.

    At least it doesn’t appear that the planned route changes will make it easy to travel from Centro Plaza to (other?) popular spots in greater downtown – which VIA emphasizes with their post as King William and Pearl.

    Add to this short list of popular greater downtown spots for visitors and locals that could be reached from Centro Plaza through slight changes to the proposed and existing routes:

    – Avenida Guadalupe (one mile southwest of Centro Plaza, which the proposed east-west red circulator could extend to – running Commerce to Colorado/Brazos to Guadalupe to Frio back to Centro Plaza. Riders not wanting to go this ‘far’ west could wait or transfer at Centro Plaza)

    – Tucker’s Cozy Korner / Alamo City Music (half mile east of Bowie St & Houston – which the proposed east-west circulator could extend to by continuing east on Houston Street and looping back north on Cherry to Nolan to Bonham to 4th St to Alamo St south to Alamo Plaza – adding numerous hotels and Megabus to the route in the process. Riders not wanting to go this ‘far’ east could wait or transfer at Alamo Plaza.

    – Tower of Americas/ ITC, Alamodome, Amtrak, Carver, Dignowity Park, Hays St Bridge / Alamo Beer Co (which could be reached by running the PRIMO 100 route south on Tower of Americas Way from Market – adding a stop near the Tower – before continuing east on Montana St – stopping within the long dormant Robert Thompson Transit Center to add Amtrak and the Alamodome – and then heading north on Hackberry to Lamar west to Chestnut south – looping Ellis Alley Transit Center before continuing west on Houston. Currently most PRIMO buses stand for longer stretches at Ellis Alley, to the loss of better transit options within and to the inner east side. This would add roughly 3 miles to the current PRIMO route).

    – Similarly, the existing 17 route (which passes through Centro Plaza before continuing express to Crossroads/UTSA main/The Rim as the 93 or 94 bus) could also be adjusted to run Tower of Americas Way south from Market to Montana St east to Cherry St north to Commerce Street west (before continuing express to Randolph Park-n-Ride/Toyota Field/Rackspace) to improve links with offerings along Commerce St including St. Paul’s Square and hotels while also helping to re-activate Robert Thompson as a transit center and Cherry St as a walking and biking route).

    – Five Points, N. Main St, N. St Mary’s, Pearl, Downtown, Blue Star, UTSA (which could be accomplished by extending the holiday season blue route to continue southwest on Alamo St to Frio north to Centro Plaza and further north to Flores south to Euclid west to N. St Mary’s to Grayson. This would add roughly 3 miles to the route, and the now circular route could be run in both directions from Centro – a south route to Blue Star/King Williams and a north route to Five Points / N. Main / N. St Mary’s & Pearl, including connecting with the proposed so-called ‘cultural’ loop north along N. St. Mary’s).

    VIA needs regular, expanded and overlapping greater downtown loop routes such as suggested above to mix local and visiting riders, connect places that people go to, support key public and private investment and encourage new investment where it is needed / where space is defined primarily by vacant buildings and lots and unused surface parking.

    This is what the color coded trolley routes of San Antonio’s recent past (red, blue, green, yellow and purple) helped accomplish (on the inner eastside, in Southtown, on Probandt, on N. Flores, etc) when the River Walk was shorter, VIA ridership by visitors and locals was higher, the fare structure and approach was simpler, route names and vehicle markings were clearer, transfer options were better and waits weren’t as long.

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