Author of Blog: Daniel Day
New Post once a month.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Case for Free Bus Rides

As part of my City Election 2017: Candidates Position on Cycling I asked one question that stood out. Question 'J' is  the question about providing free bus rides to all citizens of San Antonio. It a question that I believe that we need to start answering for when it comes to the future of transportation options, well there's only one option for San Antonio and that's driving.

As I stated before in previous post, I said that we here in San Antonio consider driving a free thing to do. We attack the ideal of toll roads, we attack the ideal of getting rid of a vehicle lane to make room for a bicycle. We attack the very ideal of light rail, calling it a waste of money. Yet we never attack the fact we don't have money for roads, thatfreeways don't pay their way nor decrease the number of ozone action days we experience every year.  We call toll roads double taxation yet we never say riding the bus is double taxation. We paid for the bus service through a half cent sales tax and yet we are forced to pay to use the bus like paying to use a toll road. Let that sink in for a moment especially if you're anti toll road.

If you where to ask me 4 years go, I would have said that it was a bad ideal because of what happen in Austin. So what did actually happen in Austin when free bus rides were offered back in 1990? In 1990, Austin, Texas decided to make the buses free of charge. Things went well at first, but as the program went on, problems started to arises because people who wouldn't normally be able to ride would abuse the system.  There's a term for these types of people and they're called "problem riders." And after one year of offering free bus rides, they immediately institute a 50 cent bus fare.

I began to reconsider this when I heard what the city of Tallinn in Estonia was doing which was making the public transit free of charge and still charging the tourist.  Believe it or not, we do something similar here in San Antonio with the hotel/motel tax.  We charge tourist a tax to pay for our parks, and other improvements.  Some of the money that is going to pay back this bond 2017 and other previous bonds is coming from this tax right now. So why can't we do the same thing for the residence of San Antonio? 

So what did happen in Tallinn when they made the buses free of charge.  Well to use the bus free of charge, you have to be a residence which cost €2 to register.  There was no change in driving habits of people, but what they did see was a increase of rider from the most poorest areas of the city.  So far, they don't have a problem with vandalism or with more problem riders. 

So Why can't we do the same thing here?  My vision for free bus fare in San Antonio consist of paying a yearly fee of no less than $30 to no more than $100 per resident or household of San Antonio.  This pass will work like a regular 31 Day Pass, but will last 13 months, giving enough time for people to buy a new yearly pass. This pass will only be available to residence of San Antonio.  To qualify, you need at least 2 or three things.  They can be a pay stub or a your W2, an government issued ID, a CPS Energy bill, a SAWS bill, a lease to a property, or a property tax receipt from that Bexar County Tax assessor office. I envision having people from VIA setting up a table at VITA centers to register people.

Now this isn't the only strategy to consider. "Fare Free Zones" are places where people don't have to pay to board the bus.  Several cities use this to encourage people to use public transit mainly in their downtown area.  MATA has a fare free zone in West Memphis, AR (which I have actually used) and the UTA has several fare free zones in and around Salt Lake City, UT. For San Antonio, I could see fare free zones being transit centers or even parts outside of loop 410.

Today A 31 Day Pass cost $38.  If you don't think that's a lot of money for a struggling family then guess what, your doing pretty well.  That's up $4 from the cost of $34 when I last purchase one in 2015. (And no I still don't own a car.)  It means parents who use the bus system to say that their kids are still 11 yrs old when they're actually 14, (yes I have done it.) to people begging for bus fare on the bus.  And yes I have begged for bus fare on a VIA bus and I do donate my own money to help a person paying for bus fare when this happens.  And if you are wondering why I say that "driving is consider a free thing to do" then look no further at the cost of renewing your a car registration yearly.  According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, it cost $51.75 plus (and since I don't own a car and don't know this fee) $10 local county tax fee, plus $7.50 Inspection Fee.  Now that not counting the insurance cost, so lets go by the cheapest and we'll just do a one month because if you don't think that people here in San Antonio who are struggling financially are cutting corners, then you are doing pretty well.  For sake of argument, well say that insurance is $50.  The Last time I got a car inspected was $30.  Add it all up, $51.75+$10.00+$7.50+$30.00+50.00 = $149.25.  So if you don't take into account for the cost of gasoline, maintenance, and insurance which when you are poor, you try to avoid paying, basically it cost only $149.50 to drive around.  Compare that to a 31 Day pas, which according to the math, you'll buy 12 passes in one year 365/31= 11.77.  $38 per pass times 12 passes comes to roughly a cost of $456 per person. 

Now if you want to contradict me in the comments below, go right ahead.  But if you fail to take into consideration that the average person who can't afford a car, lives primary from paycheck to paycheck and they're only looking at that $149.50 to pay per year to legally operate a car comparing to the $456 per year, then it's seem like a better deal. Just compare the travel times on google maps, with a car to that of VIA, especially since more blue collar jobs are outside of VIA's service area, then you begin to see why so many people who ride VIA says it sucks even though I pointed out how they really have their act together.  At the end of the day, it was Bernie Sanders says, it's more expensive to be a poor, and he's correct.

For more information on "fare free transit," please visit the wikipedia page, "Free public transport."

If we can find money for vacant sport stadiums, for sport teams that will never make San Antonio home, or anything else you believe is a waste of tax money, then we can definitely find the money to do this.  Now I know I'm going to hear the excuse "we don't have the money for this," but I know that I'm going to hear one or two ridiculous excuses.  If you follow news on VIA, just watch, you'll come across one that is just so out there, so nutty, it will be a good enough reason never to invest in a tool to fix things. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017


It's that time of year folks, when you need to do your civic duty and go out and vote for a new mayor and a city council.  With out your input, I might as well shut down this blog and rely on the lack of reporting by the Rivard Report on this issue.  Where else are you going to read about the removal of a bicycle lane because a developer wanted parking over a safe place to ride your bicycle?

This year, I wanted to target everyone running for office, both mayoral and district council candidates and ask all of them the same questions.  With help from the some of the bicycle groups on Facebook, I chose 11 questions; 8 relating to bicycle, 3 relating to VIA.  Also those who decided to vote to remove the S Flores bicycle lane back in 2014, I decided not to hold that vote against them due to the fact that this is the first asking them about it.  I needed a yes and no answer and some just left the answer blank.  They also left explanation which you can find out by clicking here and clicking on the candidate name.  Also I designed the questions to hold those running for office accountable to their answers. As much as I wanted to ask them about enforcing the 3ft rule, I knew that we as a community couldn't hold them accountable to that.  These questions are the things that I hear about my fellow cyclist and bus riders complain about all the time, getting a ticket riding your bicycle on the sidewalk, not being able to use the Howard Peak Greenways after dark, and VIA needing more buses and routes.

Also I decided to add Incumbent D1 candidate (I) Roberto C. Trevino answers.  His staff sent me the info just to late and because of that, he'll not be on the handout that I made.

I originally had a cutoff date of March 24, 2017, but due to my work and the lack of internet getting in the way of sending reminders, I decided to add one more week to the cutoff because I decided to grade every candidate.  The result is what you and everyone else can go ahead and print out on where each candidate responded.  If they didn't responded, then they're not on the printout, but I have them listed on the City Election 2017: Candidates Position on Cycling with the explanations accessible by clicking on the candidate's name.  Below are and my reason for the questions I chose.  there was going to be 12 questions, but due to room, and being the question that was voted the least priority, I left it out.  It was, are you willing to make 25mph the speed limit of San Antonio unless otherwise posted.

The Bicycle Questions.

A. Will you as Mayor/Councilman implement the Bicycle Master Plan throughout the city/in your district?
This is the biggest complaint I hear, that the city isn't building enough bicycle lanes. They're suspose to update this document every two years, sadly the last updated document that I could find was last updated in 2013. Despite this document not being updated, council members never tell Transportation and Capital Improvements do this plan when repaving streets and stroads
So you probably asking how do we make sure that the candidate will actually do this?  Well I cannot do this alone, you are going to have to do this. I'll try to organize a meeting sometime in the fall, if your interested in attending, please contact me sirbikesalto06@gmail.com

B. Will you vote to remove a bicycle lane?
With a supposedly bicycle friendly candidates voting to remove the S Flores Bicycle lane back in 2014, I felt the need to enforce this.  So if by any chance that by voting for a development or to actually remove a bicycle lane, then the next time they run, we'll be holding them accountable despite future promises. This is the reason why you see Rey Saladan

C. Will you make it illegal to park a car in the bicycle lane?
This is the biggest complaint of all, a car just parking in the bicycle lane because it's not like anyone uses this lane is on a bicycle. Now I'm willing to make exceptions like broken down vehicles of no more than 2 hour and parking in one that is next to a church during church services, but that's it.  If no legislation is passed by the council, then we hold this accountable. 

D. Will you make sure Broadway has a protected bicycle lane from Houston to Hildebrand?
If the Bond passes, then the money is available to build a protected bicycle lane on the city's busiest corridor that people ride their bicycles on.  We have a chance to make sure that Broadway has a protected bicycle lane, even one just 10 feet wide.  Despite what some candidates replied that really they have no say and that is true.  It is not true that they can't influence the mayor or the future district 1 council member. (Image 63.1)

E. Will you insist on new developments to include bike infrastructure such as a bicycle lane, mix used 10ft paths, and bicycle racks?
After what to the Bicycle lane on Broadway at Jones, I felt the need to add this. (Image 63.2)  If any future development decides to remove a bicycle lane, then we hold accountable the council member.  Lack of any action by the mayor or council with legislation, we hold them accountable.

F. Will you amend Sec. 19-286. Driving or parking on sidewalks prohibited, so people can ride their bicycles on the sidewalk?
When I wrote about this in back in 2014, I really didn't have a answer and thought that since B-cycle was around, that this law won't be enforced.  But alas, I have been hearing recently that people have been getting ticketed for riding their bicycles on the sidewalks.  I see it done all the time and I do it too especially when I need to ride against the flow of traffic.  This is an outdated law and if law enforcement can ride their bicycles without hitting people walking, then the rest of us can do it too.  I'm even will allow the amending of this law that if you hit a pedestrian with your bicycle, then it's the fault of the bicyclist.

G. Do you support a city ordinance that prevents any further Development of park or green space lands for development of sports fields?
This is a question that was recommended to me by people who love to mountain bike in McAllister Park with the recent bond fight to build more baseball fields.  It's not a park that I regularly go to, but even I feel the need to point out that we're losing green-space outside loop 410.

H. Will you either amend or repeal Sec. 22-28. Public parks hours of operation and curfew, so people can use the Howard W. Peak Greenway trails after dark?
This is another complaint I heard from people who live around the Leon Creek Greenway, how they were forced to give up commuting by bicycle because they got ticket for using the safest place to commute by bicycle.  I decided to say hell with the law and broke this law regularly.  The most deadliest thing I encountered wasn't an ax murder but a spider web blocking the path underneath Houston St. (Image 63.3)  I regularly rode past the Eastside Substation with police refueling their vehicles and never once got a ticket.   The worse thing was almost running over a racoon.
I understand that some parts of the Greenway is private property and I can understand that they will not allow people to use those parts of the greenway after dark.  I got nudged by Park Police not to trespass north of Loop 410 on the Salado Creek trail and found an alternative neighborhood route and rode on the sidewalk doing it. 

VIA Questions

I. Are you willing to look for more funding options to improve and expand VIA bus service?
When I attended a meeting about the system change in 2003, I came across a lady who said the following. "Do you want the money that is spent on bus stop amenities to be spent on more service."  Everyone hand shot up. If you read Empty Buses, it is the biggest complaint that Rey SaldaƱa, heard when he started riding the VIA bus.  Whether this leads to more funding option, or an increase in the sales tax, I would like the candidates who said yes to this to do their due diligence to find more funding options for VIA.

J. Will you support free bus rides for all residents of SA?
Being the only one asking these questions, I decided to ask my own and this is it.  For the reason behind this question, you'll need to click on the story "The Case for Free Bus Rides."

K. Are you willing to bring Light Rail to a vote?
Read any story lately about bus service, the riders demand that we have light rail.  Now this question isn't about whether you supported light rail, it was whether you are going to bring it to a vote.  I'm not going to argue here why a The mayor of Addison, TX is threatening to leave DART if they don't get light rail by 2025. But if you want to understand why people prefer rail over buses, you can go read Streetcar Part II: Buses aren't Better than Rail. What I wanted to know and Candidate Tony Valdivia for District 8 said it best in his explanation quote: "I am not a fan of light rail at this time as I believe the rapidly changing technology will shortly create a more efficient and economical means of travel. As a representative of the City, I would give the citizens a chance to vote on light rail, if requested. " And that's is the answer that I wanted to see. 

63.1:  Cross Section of my proposal and with the City proposal for Broadway.
63.2:  The new apartment complex at Jones and Broadway showing that parking was build over the existing bicycle lane.  The proposal that was told that the bicycles would be on the sidewalk.  This pictures shows how dangerous it would be for cyclist getting off of the sidewalk back onto the bike lane.
63.3:  A picture of a spiderweb blocking the Salado South creekway underneath Houston Street.

3 Reasons You Should Vote


Have you ever wondered why San Antonio is allergic to better bicycle infrastructure?  Why we can't have any useful infrastructure like Austin or Houston for that matter?  A friend of mine came across ilovesanantonio.org, a local voting resources by SA2020. At the bottom of the page (this is on my android) you come across statistics and this one tells it all. (Image 62.1)  It is the Average age of the people who vote which is 63 years old. 

Reason #1
Now your probably asking, why is this the reason that our bicycle infrastructure isn't useful. Well the older you are, the less likely you are going to be for infrastructure that doesn't involve cars going as fast as possible. If you don't believe me, take a look at the picture of who showed up to remove the S Flores bicycle lane. (Image 62.1)  The youngest one who testified against it appeared to be in his early thirties.

Reason #2
If you ever listen to the KunstlerCast, I recommend that you go listen to KunstlerCast #141: Interstate 69 with Matt Dellinger.  There you will hear the short story on why the main guy who is trying to build this freeway is well over 90+ years old.  During the interview, he notes an interesting fact, the people who are for the this interstate are over 45 years of age. 

Reason #3
Another reason you should vote is because today, young people have a disadvantage already placed upon them.  If you where born after 1990, chances are you are making less money than your parents at the same age they were.  This forces younger people to try to save money anyway we/they can.  Eventually people are going to try to use a bicycle or take VIA to get around, and when that happens, they're going to find that driving a car is almost the only way to get around.

So if you aren't registered to vote yet, I suggest that you click on this link:  https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/vrapp/index.asp and get to it pronto.  Because the only way we get bicycle lanes, a VIA system that don't suck, IS TO VOTE.

Click Here to Register to Vote:  https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/vrapp/index.asp Deadline is April 6 to vote in the San Antonio Municipal Election...

Early Election is Monday, April 24 thru Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Click here to find an early voting location.  http://nowcastsa.com/blogs/heather-dimasi/map-where-find-early-voting-polling-locations

Election Day is Saturday, May 6, 2017.

To find out where the candidates stand on the issues facing cycling in San Antonio, please click here.... bikesanantonio.blogspot.com/p/city-election-2017-on-cycling.html

The blog that explains my questions #ivotebikesa 2017

62.1: the sastistics that ilovesanantonio.org has on their site about voting.
62.2.  All the old people thanking Council Lady Viagran for removing the S Flores Bicycle Lanes.  Source:  http://therivardreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/rebecca-viagran-south-flores-council-vote_credit-iris-dimmick.jpg
62.3: VIA's new paint scheme. A bust traveling West bound in W Commerce St at Calaveras.