San Antonio's VIA Metro Transit plans to take the first steps in 2020 toward what it calls the 'Decade of Transit;' taking concrete steps to make taking the bus a more attractive transportation option for more San Antonians, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
That step is expected to come in the fall of 2020, when voters will be asked to re-purpose a one eight cent portion of the sales tax which the city is authorized to collect away from Aquifer projection and to mass transit.
VIA Vice President JonGary Herrera says one of the reasons why VIA isn't the major player in transit that, for example, DART is in Dallas is the fact that the local transportation system is starved for resources.
He says that while Dallas spends $249 per capita on transit, VIA spends $98, far less than any other big city mass transit agency.
Be says this would not be a tax increase, simply a reallocation of existing tax revenues. Other options are being considered for Aquifer protection.
He says a robust mass transit system in the 2020's will be essential to a strong local economy.
"Transit really supports getting folks to where they need to go to their jobs and to educate themselves to getting out to buying goods and services," he says.
He says the sort of 'soul crushing traffic' which has become commonplace in cities like Los Angeles could kill the local economy, and it is no nobody's best interest to allow that to happen, at a time when San Antonio is projected to gain 1 million additional residents in the coming two decades, and all of those people will have places to go.
Herrera says the average San Antonio family could save $9,000 dollars a year in gasoline and vehicle maintenance costs by converting to a transit based lifestyle.
He stresses that there are no plans to 'mandate' mass transit use or to take any steps to discourage the use or private vehicles.
"We know it is a car dominated culture, absolutely," he said. "We are not suggesting that we are going to change that, but we are obviously going to want to change the options for folks."
And he said that is the goal. To make sure mass transit is a viable option. He says doing that will also benefit drivers, by getting cars off the roads and cutting down on congestion.
VIA has three major plans to make mass transit a reliable option.
One is higher frequently on major bus routes. He says people will not wait for the bus, and people who have other transportation options will use them rather than sitting for an hour at a bus station. He says better bus frequency would also help with the city's clean air problem, work toward fulfilling the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan approved earlier this year, and help cut down on the economic segregation which continues to plague the city.
Herrera says VIA ridership has grown significantly on routes with frequent service,a nd studies show that interest in using public transit increases to nearly 84% when bus frequency is 10 minutes or better.
He says something else that detracts from people wanting to take the bus is the need to have to walk a mile or more from the bus stop to the final destination, or to walk from the rider's home to the bus station.
He says ''The Last Mile" plans are being tested to get those riders from their home to the bus station, and from the bus station to their place of business.
"This is very much like an Uber," he said. "it is a very customized way to call your service to have it pick you up at a virtual stop and take it to your destination."
Herrera says 'Advanced Rapid Transit' is also a key part of the mix. That is a bus which takes a designated lane down major roadways. This bus would be able to bypass traffic jams and even red lights. He says there is nothing that makes taking the bus more attractive that to have a driving sitting in gridlocked rush hour traffic, and seeing the bus glide by on the way to the driver's destination.
He also pointed out that bus passengers, unlike drivers, can use cell phones and work on laptop computers are tablets while the bus is moving.
Herrera says these upgrades to our daily commute are necessary to keeping a city of 3.4 million on the move, but it is essential to the economy, and also to the well being of citizens.
"We are just coming out of the decade of downtown," he said. "This will be the decade of mobility.