Via isn't the most popular at all, so it comes to no surprise that once again, San Antonio said no to the streetcar. Yet the reason for that is simple, we don't trust Via to do the right thing and they do things that just suck.
On Thursday, July 24, a picture popped up in my Facebook feed of a Bus that crashed into a house. I heard about an accident on Ceralvo and naturally I knew it had to be the 66. But I wasn't aware of the bus actually running into the house until my friend posted a picture on a friend selfie waiting for the 100 at Crossroads. When I saw this picture, I realize this is the best representation of the long history this city has had with the transit agency. A Bus crashing into a house because of the idiot car and SUV driver from San Antonio causing the problems we face daily. (Image 17-1)
The Average San Antonion feels that Via sucks overall. Even though some improvements have come, it's still sucks to wait outside in the afternoon sun or during a downpour waiting for a bus. Riding it also sucks, I can drive far faster to my destination than a Via bus getting me there on a toilet seat. And worse of all, the lineup didn't make a stop at the bus stop for which I rang the bell, but the kept on driving letting me off a mile away from the bus I needed to get off at. That's how many feel about Via, a system that sucks, that when they finally get a car, they're glad they ditch it.
Now I'm a supporter of Via overall. I, unlike the rest of San Antonio, understand that Via is constrained by laws, budget woes, and a city not built with a street grid in mind. But like the bus crashing into the house, Via, even you make me wonder sometimes why the fuck am I stick my neck out for you. You see, a week ago or so, I saw this on my twitter feed (Image 17-2) of Via asking people how could you get people to ride who normally don't ride? In the transit world, these customers are called "choice users" and when you have a high number of these type of user using your transit system, then your doing something right. Via has a low number of these users because well, they suck. The users that are force to use public transit is something I dubbed "hostage users." Either you ride Via, or you stay at home, that's what it's like being a hostage user and I've been one most of my life.
We'll here's my advice, and just like the advice I've given in my last posting on Hemisfair, these solutions don't cost a lot of money and here they are....
1. Put Bus Stops down in closed off areas: For the longest time, If you tried to catch a bus to Randolph Park and Ride on Walzem, chances are you'll would be walking a mile or two just to reach a bus stop. Windcrest use to have Via services, then they removed the sales tax that supported that service. Via's response was to remove all the bus stops on the Windcrest side of Walzem. Since the redo of Walzem, only two bus stops are still gone, the one at the Starbucks and the one that is across Walzem from the Starbucks. If we're not careful, the same thing is about to happen On Jackson Keller and Blanco Rd which border Castle Hills. I can only hope that Via doesn't repeat history but knowing how history is, I can't help but worry. Funny how Via isn't mentioning this to any of it's riders when it talks about Castle Hills. I wish they would also put some bus stops along 281 on the Hill Country Village Side, but then again, they can't because Via Sucks.
2. Have the Line-ups stop at all the bus stops: Bus Driver 9295 loves to miss stops that the other drivers just stop at. His excuse is that there's a rule that prevents him from stopping at bus stops that don't have his number. Well I don't see no 9-10 numbers on any of the bus stops along the 9-10 lineup routes. Now I see 9 bus stops, 10 bus stops, 9 & 10 Bus stops, 9/ 10 &14 bus stops, but no 9-10 lineup bus stops specifically. When I have a chance to catch the 9-10 line-up from work, It normally stops at the St Mary's Street Bridge, but this guy loves to make everyone on board his bus miss their Line-up connections by bypassing the St Mary's Street Bridge bus stop and stopping at the wait spot on Commerce which by the way don't have a 9 or a 10 on that bus stop. God forbid this bus driver 9295 ever happens to drive the 30-28, 22-24 and the 25-26 line-ups because if he's not stopping at the St Mary's Bridge, I bet he won't be stopping at the other bus stops along the way especially the Looper bus stops along WW White were people actually get off the bus when they ride the line-up. Bus Drivers like this Keep San Antonio Lame and I wish Via would put a stop to these bus drivers doing these stupid things.
Riding the 9-10 line-up is also a mistake if your trying to catch the Looper heading to Randolph Park and Ride. The bus drivers notoriously never make stops at the Looper Stops along the Loop 410 section of the 9-10 Line-up forcing the irate passenger to stay on the bus and catch the 14-17 Line-up. See, Via's a great service, they make you stay on board and miss some sleep so your late to work the next day. Yet another act of stupidity that helps get people into cars.
3. Your Bus stop Shelters suck: Now why do they suck you ask, simple, they don't keep the sun nor the Rain out. I don't know why you can't hire some designers who can take into account of the movement of the sun over it's course in the sky so we the "hostage users" waiting for the bus can stay out of the sun's heat. (Image 17-3)
The same with the rain, how about design new bus shelters to (get this) keep the rain out. Think about that for a moment Via, it's raining and it's pouring, and everyone is safe and sound inside the shelter and NOT GETTING WET. I'm a dreamer, yes but I'm not the only one.
4. Allow Folding Bicycles on the buses: If you were to look up Via's Policy on Bicycles, you will see no mention of the policy of folding bicycle. As the Racks full up, people will start to look for ways around the bike racks and start to invest in folding bicycles. Yet knowing how some bus drivers will react to a folding bicycle is expected to be "no" answer when bring one on board. Even these electric scooters are not allowed on the bus even though the same parts that you find in one of these scooters is the same you'll find in an electric wheelchair is beyond me. Just another example I've experience over the years when It comes using Via.
5. Bring your bus stops closer together: (For the record, I mistook bus route number for I always get confused on which number of the 550/551 Looper is going.) In many places, your bus stops next to connecting routes are virtually a mile apart from each other. A good example of this is at WW White and Southcross.(Image 17-4) Why you can't move the 551 Bus stop to the Valero is beyond me because the connecting bus stop from the 28 & 515 is pathetic. Why walk across that battlefield of fast moving cars, hot sun and pot holes, when you can use a sidewalk around the Valero from bus stop #16383. But I'm not expecting Via to understand, after all, they all drive cars, not have to walk everywhere in a 100F Degree heat. This is not the only one, but there are many in the system especially when trying to connect with the Looper.
6. Finally enforce the rules especially no.5: It's annoying to hear banging pots but even worse on the bus. This is the most important rule in the Code Of Conduct, but it doesn't get enforced as often as it should. The same with the no smoking rules at bus stops. Now I know you can't enforce this rule over the entire system, but you could at least do it at major bus stops downtown.
The Smart things Via Does: Now Via does some thing really smart such as not outsourcing it's fixed route bus operations to a corporation such a First Transit, Veolia and such. It's the main reason why Via has some pretty good and friendly drivers that serve San Antonio and also is the main reason Via boast that it gets more bang for it's buck unlike the other transit systems in Texas. What Via and the Rest of San Antonio need to understand that these corporations rob from the communities that they are hired to serve and pay their employees basically minimum wage. It's the opposite with some of the Paratransit operations because Via does outsource some of the operations to a third party providing complaint after complaint to Via about lousy service and miss pickups stranding the most vulnerable in our community. If Via wants better paratransit services, how about take ownership of the operations yourself and watch you guys save money in the long run. Great bus/paratransit operators should be rewarded, not punished for doing a good job with low pay.
San Antonio believes that you get all your funding through the fare box and not Sales Tax. They also fail to realize that most of the state and federal money you guys get go to bus stops, infrastructure and vehicles. You guys rarely mention this simple little fact on your buses and to the determent of your approval rating. So they see people riding the bus and they assume that you should have lots of money and should be able to add more bus service but assume that Via just wants to suck. Why you fail to mention that your bus service is better than Fort Worth's is beyond me because The T basically have nothing but line-up routes on Sundays from 7am to 7pm yet you fail to mention this fact to your patrons. I believe that Fort Worth gets about a 1/2 cent sales tax to fund transit. Also when promoting rail, you should advertise the pros of having rail transit such as not folding your stroller, bicycles coming on board, no questions asked, and fast loading and unloading of wheelchairs. You can also point out the simple fact that having Subways and Monorail will cost more than Light rail which many San Antonions want in the first place. And worse of all, you said that Light rail would be slower than the buses which after riding Houston Metro, DART system in Dallas, and other light rail systems that ain't true at all.
So Lets go over all of this again. If you want more people to ride the bus, a creation that by default encourages everyone to own a car, then my golly make it comfortable to the hostage users. Provide plenty of places to get off and on your bus and connect to other buses easily. Inform your riders where the funding comes from to pay for the services. Enforce the rules that are in the code of conduct and embrace chaotic and smart like allowing bus drivers to make exceptions from the bottom up instead of your regular of orderly and dumb from the board on down. I'm not asking for much, I'm just asking for common sense for which an organization like yours constantly fails to keep in mind. And if you want rail in San Antonio's future, you better start treating us "hostage users" a lot more nicely.
Go to the mysa.com story on the bus crashing into a house, well go ahead and look at those pictures. Eventually the bus is still in one piece while the car and SUV are totaled. Goes to show you that eventually Via, bicycling and walking will again stand up tall.
Go Fund Me Campaign
It still up, and I could use the help to be able to take some pictures I need to illustrate the my story on the Streetcar issue. It's going to be a three part story, and the result of this trip will be posted some time around August 13th. If you want to help me out, please help pay for my Greyhound ticket at http://www.gofundme.com/b8rmq4
17-1: A photo apparently posted on FB by KABB Fox 29 on the bus accident. If you know who's the owner of this photo, please contact me.
17-2: The tweet from Via asking what could be done to encourage more choice users.
17-3: The bus shelter at the Corner of Broadway and MacArthur View; Looking Southeast.
17-4: The distance between the connecting bus stops from Google Maps.
Up Coming Important Meetings
If you want to make a difference, please attend.
Lee's Creek, Joe Ward and Sunset Hills Parks Plan Review Public Meeting
When: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 6:00 PM
Where: Joe Ward Community Center, 435 E. Sunshine, San Antonio, TX 78228
What Should You Ask For: The thing to ask for at this meeting are good sidewalks, 20 mile per hour speed limits and safe ways to get to the park down Hillcrest and St Cloud such as bike lanes down those stroads.
Menger Creek Drainage Project MeetingWhen: Wednesday August 13, 2014 6pm to 7:30 PM
Where: Ella Austin Community Center 'Auditorium' 1023 N Pine, 78202What Should you Ask for: Bike lanes on the stroads connecting the Linear Park and lots of ADA accessible ramps.
Up Coming Bicycle Events
Bike Ride To Mission San JoseWhen: Saturday Morning, August 9, 2014, 9AM
Where: 818 S Flores, San Antonio, TXDescription: A bike ride down the Mission Reach of the Riverwalk.
Cycle In-Cinema .
When: Every Thursday, June-August at Dusk, 8:45pm
Where: Main Plaza, 115 N Main Ave, 78205
Description: Out Door Movie.
When: Saturday August 16, 2014 10AM to 4PM
Where: Earn A Bike Coop ~ 2619 Guadalupe St ~ 78207Description: San Antonio's Bicycle Swap Meet and Flea Market
When: Sunday Sept 28, 2014 10AM to 3PM
Where: Broadway downtown
Description: Where San Antonio returns the streets back to the people for a few hours. Really a great event. More info at http://www.ymcasatx.org/siclovia