9 thoughts on “VIA to Introduce Mobile Payment Systems on All Bus Routes

  1. They should have realized this and implemented it as a part of their so-called “Rapid Bus Transit” Primo development along Fredericksburg Rd. They failed in so many ways to really provide RBT. What we really got is a take-the-same-length-of-time-to-get-to-downtown as the old skip bus (35 min for either from my home), newer buses (which for some reason still today do not tell you what the next stop is on the inside screens), and slightly more frequent departures. Two of the important aspects of any true RBT line are 1) Tickets bought in advance rather than on the bus–at machines at the stops or via slap cards/phones, and 2) separate entrance/exit doors for a quick circulation at each stop. Then, they also failed in making it rapid by forcing the bus to go out of the way to the West Side Terminal before going downtown. I hope they have finally dropped their original plan to dead-end it at the West Side Terminal and force people to change to another bus. That would really have ended any pretense of being fast, since it would have made the trip longer in time than the old skip bus!!!

  2. VIA has made a real effort this year to move into the 21st century. Metros around the world have had automated ticketing sites for years. VIA is getting a late start but catching up fast. Congrats to them and San Antonio area residents.
    BTW our bus drivers are great. Helpful and friendly. I hope to become a more frequent rider.
    An area that needs improvement: late night service. Please do an article about whether or not VIA is stepping up service (not park ride)for post Fiesta event travelers.

  3. VIA is very late to this system. They promised reloadable fare cards when they introduced the current paper fare cards. That was three years ago.

    If they’re trying to get choice riders with the mobile app, it’s putting the cart before the horse. They need to make drastic improvements in service. Choice riders won’t spend an hour or more on a bus in place of a 20 minute car ride.

    They also far behind the curve getting CNG vehicles and phasing out the diesel.

    Maybe the previous board is partly to blame for these shortcomings.

  4. Glad to see all these improvements coming! A lot of great work being done at VIA on a very limited budget. I hope we can see the budget increase in the near future to get at what really needs to be done, improved, more frequent service. One disappointing thing is that their website mentions that the single use pass will be a 2.5 hour ticket, which indicates that it will automatically include a transfer. $.15 isn’t a lot of money but I don’t understand the need to automatically include it if a user doesn’t need it. Still better than Austin’s system that only allows for a day pass.

  5. I agree with many of the comments above.

    I still think the problem is mainly VIA pass and journey prices (eg the 15 or 7 cent transfer) and off-board vending approaches; VIA’s wifi is spotty enough and without other improvements to fare collection this tech will fall into the ‘gimmick’ category that VIA has already been chastised about (by WIRED). This will suit a few riders (not me on my Windows phone, although I have a mobile ticketing option on CapMetro in Austin with Windows OS) but not as much as improving off-board physical pass vending – which all transit services need, including where there is mobile payment options.

    San Antonians should be concerned that VIA’s looooong planned mobile ticketing approach isn’t already here (Austin’s has been up for some time) or planned to have the same rich features (a 24-hour day pass) or wide digital coverage (including wonky Windows phones) as Austin’s existing approach.

    San Antonio already has a steep digital divide that not planning for affordable and durable mobile devices (Nokia built Windows phones run in the $50 range) won’t help. It’s obviously possible to do as Austin has already done it.

    Cities like Austin already offering mobile ticketing also have excellent physical ticketing alternatives vended off-board, including with vending machines at key stops or gateways (I haven’t seen any vending machines in San Antonio yet with my downtown routes, including at Centro Plaza or Travis Park). VIA’s reloadable tap card sounds more promising to me than showing a driver your phone, but VIA’s fare prices are still all wrong – for example, particularly 7 cent denominations are going to trip some old timer up even with a tap card (who loads a card in 7 cent denominations?). Once again we’re aiming below where Austin already is.

    VIA needs to focus to moving more passengers to either an affordable and easy to use annual pass or a 24-hour day pass (cheaper than the cost of a round-trip journey and ideally a smart paper ticket tap approach, like in Miami or New York).

    A mobile ticketing approach or even tap approach using current fares won’t move VIA’s dismal ridership numbers or cut (high and growing) operating costs and service delays as much as an annual pass for more of the public (eliminating semester passes, encouraging family ridership) and an improved day pass focus – with physical 24-hour day passes easier to access off-board (many cities have done away with on-board fare collection entirely but not paper tickets), such as through vending machines at key stops.

    Part of my push to support an annual VIA pass for the public (make the affordable EZ Ride pass program available to the public already, eliminating semester passes that are least twice as hard to get and lead to a student paying more than Mayor Taylor etc to ride VIA all year) is to help link BCycle with VIA for locals – as Bexar County envisioned when BCycle was in trouble.

    This is accomplished in other cities such as LA and London with bikeshare stationed at transit hubs and near stops (SA seems to avoid key bus stops downtown – including on St Mary’s and Navarro near Commerce or north of Houston) as well as better bikeshare rates (better than San Antonio, which is easy to accomplish as SA has some of the highest bikeshare fees in the country if not globally).

    VIA has long promised to have Bcycle / bikeshare at Five Points Transit Hub and Centro Plaza (roughly a $140k investment for two stocked stations). They should get THIS done by summer and observe how it might move VIA ridership and, just as importantly, improve VIA’s commercial (including advertising) revenue, which is dismally low at less than $2m annually.

  6. Facebook discussion seems to be favoring VIA paper tap ticket (including reloadable card) as well as flash pass (VIA’s current annual EZ Ride pass is contactless) approaches – which many have experience with in other U.S. cities (Miami, LA, DC etc), as well as that can address digital divide, privacy and security issues associated with mobile ticketing.

    However anyone who has ever bought a VIA pass off-board through a customer service desk (open only until 6pm) or HEB customer service counter (only certain passes) knows that VIA is not currently ready for more off-board sales or card reloading.

    VIA desperately needs a retail plan (like MARTA in Atlanta since 2010, etc) that incorporates the tap card and other passes as well as addresses the lost opportunity to increase ridership (stagnant and in some years dropping over the last ten years; currently VIA has about half the ridership of the island of Oahu’s bus system covering a similar land area, but with Oahu having about half the residential population of greater San Antonio) and commercial revenue – which at approximately $1.8m is currently less than 1% of VIA’s annual operating budget. Physical retail for riders – including outside of VIA office hours – can support VIA ridership and service improvement goals(?), but VIA must plan for and start implementing this work.


  7. It’s about time that VIA is

  8. Can’t view transactions, like check slips. Can’t see or customize Bill Pay Vendors, so trying to pay credit card bills on different cards from the same company is like russian roulette. Why it doesn’t show the last 4 digits of acct beats me, seems pretty basic and fundamental. Please look at the old FSG monile app and plug in the same features, this app is app is so lacking and bare bones.

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