Scott Ball / Rivard Report
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 a.m.to 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 GCR@viainfo.net
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.