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Author of Blog: Daniel Day
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Advice on Improving VIA Part II

Last week, I focus on bus stop locations and Transit Centers.  This week I'll be focusing on transit times and bus fare. To improve VIA, they cannot just do it by where they locate their transit centers and bus stops, it also means to working to make the buses go just a little bit faster and perhaps, make it free to use by all of San Antonio.

3.  Make PRIMO Go Faster

The Economist wrote how collecting fare on the bus is just not economical and slows down buses yet we do it on Primo.  When Primo services were sold to San Antonio, it was promised that it would run just a little bit faster just like light rail and be cheaper.  But now as I ride this route, I find that it's a little bit slower than what it replaced which was the 91 Fredricksburg Rd, Skip Stop.  When similar service is sold in other cities across North America, it is sold as cheaper than light rail, but with the same speedy service you get on rail.  In other cities, you don't pay for the bus fare on the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), but you buy a ticket at the station where you get on board the BRT.  That's not how VIA does it, for you have to pay for the bus fare as you board the Primo.  This slows the bus down quiet a bit especially at Deco District Station. Since this is the main bus route down Fredricksburg Rd now, most people ride the 100 instead of the 95 or 520.  It's time that VIA stop collecting bus fare for the Primo on the bus, and instead allow all the doors to open up and have people board it like you would a light rail train stopped at a station.  Have VIA police board the bus and ask people for their bus tickets and proof of fare as they're doing that, they can issue some fines like the DART police does on the light rail in Dallas. Have the tickets sold have a expiration time so it can be use like one would use a transfer.

4.  Removing Traffic Jams for VIA Downtown.

If you live on the East Side like I do and to take the bus into downtown, you would have notice that during every weekend from Thanksgiving through Memorial Day, a traffic Jam forms as every car coming from the North Side is looking for parking downtown mainly at Rivercenter Mall. (Image 33-2)  Now I don't see this as much in Dallas because their Light Rail does a pretty good job in having people who want to enjoy downtown choose transit over driving.  A good example is what I saw during the 4th Of July, 2004.  After the Downtown fireworks display, I was riding the Blue Line back to my motel room which was located out by I-610, the train was crowded with  lots of families and their kids. To me, this was amazing because when similar events take place here in downtown San Antonio, everyone drives to downtown, not so in Dallas because trains are just better thing to ride than buses, and if you want to know why that is, well click right here to find out.
33-2

So since we don't have a good alternatives to driving downtown like they do in Dallas, cars end up jamming up the paths of Eastside buses at E Commerce and Bowie including the 100 from speeding through downtown like it was intended to do so.  So why can't VIA work with the City of San Antonio and close off the far left lane and leave that lane open only for buses? What is so hard about this is beyond me because if VIA wants more people to ride their buses they're going to have to have faster service to get more people to ride. If they're not willing to fix this weekend traffic jam then why bother to ride the bus when driving is so much faster. They're will be no light rail to solve this problem any time soon, nor any proposed Lone Star Rail service so will you please get off the train bandwagon politicians and VIA as the only solution to fix our transit system. So will anyone at VIA or the City wake up and clean up this mess up?  Probably not because like the rest of San Antonio, they must think that everyone who rides VIA are just losers and well we don't deserve a speedy ride at all. Like it or not, downtown is VIA's main transit center, and if people trying to get to work can't connect to their other routes and forced to wait a whole hour for the next bus. This lack of action simply promotes the belief that VIA SUCKS and it's just better to break down a by a car.

5. Keep Buses Moving during Battle of Flowers.

Every year during the Battle of Flowers and the Fiesta Flambeau parades, VIA stops having the buses go through downtown to continue on as other routes and instead starts to have them go to downtown to certain stops to turn around cutting off passengers ability to connect to other routes.  The thing about this is that these stops are really far apart forcing many of VIA's riders to walk up to a half a mile through the parade just to get to their connecting routes.  You see you have the east side routes all coming to Bonham at E Houston, the north side routes turn around at Travis Park and finally all the west, south and southeast routes turn around at Nueva and S St Mary's.  So if you just happen to be on your way to work when these parades are going on, well chances are you'll have a good chance to become unemployed.  It's these days that forces hostage users like me to think, it's time for me to break down and buy a car.  And since you couldn't count on VIA for getting you to your job on time, well they suck.  Over the years VIA has done nothing to fix this problem.  So now you have this wonderful transit center on the west side of Downtown, so why can't you  have all the buses that are detoured because of the parade hop on the freeways that surround downtown and continue on after they all make a  stop at the Westside Multimodal Center (WSMMC).  Having to have all of us hostage users walk considerable distances to catch a bus is just wrong especially when we're all running late, so now you have this great transit center downtown, so start putting it to good use and when the city closes off Broadway and Commerce St for the Fiesta parades, start rerouting all those buses to WSMMC so we all can catch our connecting routes and be on time for work.  .

6. Make Bus Rides Free.

People in San Antonio are extremely against toll roads and with a passion because driving a car here in south Texas is considered a free thing to do.  Despite having to pay for gas, despite having to pay for insurance, and maintenance, driving is considered a free thing to do, so as I board the bus to get around San Antonio, I wonder why do I have to pay a toll?  The political leaders claim to want more people to ride public transit here, but do they really encourage it?  Of course not, they'll keep complaining about Ozone Action Days and the traffic while at the same time never consider the thing that might fix it which is to make bus rides free.

I first heard about making bus rides free when I heard about what happened in Austin during 1991 and 1992.  The problem with this is that it didn't attract the choice users like they CapMetro wanted, (people who use public transit and also have a car to drive) but instead it attracted the homeless and others who wouldn't normally ride the bus dubbed as "problem riders."  So naturally, they got rid of free bus rides.  But in Tallinn, Estonia, not to be deterred by what has happen in Austin, TX and everywhere else it was tried, they decided to keep the bus fares, however, if you happen to live in Tallinn, then you are entitled to free bus rides. Here's my question, why can't we do the same thing here in San Antonio?

How to we guarantee free bus rides to all the residence of San Antonio and not repeat the history with "problem riders" everywhere else it was tried. We keep bus fares in place, however, if you can show proof of residency like a CPS bill, a W2 form, a paycheck statement, a lease, or bank Statement in San Antonio, then you can go sign up at VIA and pay a fee of like a $60 for a full year of free bus rides, just like you would now as you buy a 31 day Big Pass for $35 but without the proof of residency.  Limit the amount of people up to 4 people at a certain address.  I guarantee that every year during tax season, people will come down to VIA and sign up and pay the $60 for a full year of free rides.  Make it a minimum of two years of residency to qualify for this service while at the same time, we keep the bus fare around for the tourist, for the homeless and others who would abuse the system or don't sign up.  I think this is a great idea so I can count on the local politicians not to endorse this.  Keep San Antonio Lame. 

Conclusion

I hear from politicians and environmentalists who drive cars all the time that we need more people to take public transit, but when these people make the clean, carbon neutral alternative hard to accomplish, only the poor will use it not because we want to, but because we have to. If the goal of the city leaders and VIA is to encourage more people to ride transit, then I have just lay out some solutions that if implemented should increase the number of choice users and help improve the current image of VIA. So will you please get off the train bandwagon politicians and VIA as the only solution to fix our transit system.  But chances are you'll never see any of these improvements at all because from what I have seen over the years from the inaction of our politicians and the actions of VIA have said to the citizens of San Antonio that you should buy a car. And guess what, we're doing just that.

Images:
33-2: A picture of E Commerce St at Bowie looking west showing all the cars trying to get parking at the Rivercenter Mall.

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