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Growing ridership through partnerships is a win-win strategy for VIA Metropolitan Transit, which this fall extended access to safe, reliable public transportation to over 100,000 students, staff, and faculty from local colleges and universities with its VIA U-Pass.

Distance, transportation, and parking expenses can present a challenge for students and staff at area colleges. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, a full-time college student spends an average of $1,760 per year on transportation costs – nearly half of the national average (community college) tuition.

The new VIA U-Pass helps address these challenges with options that allow passholders to ride fare-free anywhere VIA goes.

The U-Pass is available at nine participating campuses in the VIA service area. Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) was the first to partner with VIA and adopt the U-Pass program for its students, faculty, and staff. Since then, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), and Alamo Colleges District’s Northeast Lakeview CollegeNorthwest Vista CollegePalo Alto CollegeSt. Philip’s College, and San Antonio College now offer the program. It’s paid for by participating schools at no additional cost to users. U-Pass customers can use the VIA goMobile app to purchase passes on any regular VIA bus, Prímo, Express, VIVA, or VIA Link.

Programs like VIA U-Pass are moving San Antonio and Bexar County into a new era of expanded transportation opportunities, part of the VIA Reimagined Plan to develop smart transit options like strategic collaborations and tech-based innovation that make it easy to choose and use transit.

The VIA Reimagined Plan includes ongoing programs and services, like U-Pass, and envisions a modern transportation system with better bus service and an Advanced Rapid Transit network to make mobility better, faster, and smarter. Combined with smart transit solutions like app-based trip planning, off-board fare collections, and real-time information, a reimagined transit system connects communities to job centers, medical services, college campuses, and more while investing in sustainable transit options.

“One of the founding principles in our mission at the University of the Incarnate Word is care for the environment,” said David Jurenovich, UIW’s vice president for campus life and facilities. “VIA has a proven history of sharing that forward-thinking vision. This partnership gives our UIW family more affordable access and another choice in transportation.”

Launched in 2018, the VIA U-Pass is the latest partnership-based initiative to expand access to opportunity through transit. It encourages transit ridership and enables colleges and universities to free up capital funds, which allows them to invest in student resources instead of building new parking lots and garages.

Participating campuses also enjoy less congestion on-campus, reduced carbon emissions for improved air quality, better use of existing infrastructure, and increased student and employee productivity.

“This agreement with VIA radically changes the way UTSA approaches transportation,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said. “The VIA U-Pass allows students, faculty, and staff to easily move between UTSA’s campuses and throughout San Antonio. … Given our plans to increase enrollment to 45,000 in the next decade, this is a worthy investment that takes some financial pressure off our students while supporting the city’s sustainable transportation goals.”

Additional U-pass benefits include reduced stress and increased productivity with time to read, study, check email, and stay connected while traveling on a VIA bus that’s equipped with free, high-speed Wi-Fi and instant access to the Bexar BiblioTech digital library.

“VIA gets me to my destination on time,” said Victoria Hacker, a senior business administration major at UTSA and U-Pass rider. “It is very reliable. What I like most is its cleanliness and that I can catch a cat nap and still get where I need to be.”

Colleges and universities interested in partnering with VIA to offer the U-Pass can call (210) 362-2020 or visit VIAinfo.net/upass or more information.

VIA serves 14 member cities and the unincorporated areas of Bexar County, operating seven days a week on 92 routes and mobility-on-demand options.