VIA Metropolitan Transit riders can now start their online days the moment they step onto the bus, thanks to the expansion of free WiFi services on all VIA buses and facilities.
Complimentary internet services are now accessible on 700 buses, 130 paratransit vans and transit centers throughout the city, making VIA the largest public transportation provider in the country to offer 4G LTE WiFi service system wide. According to VIA, more than half of current riders use electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, and that number is expected to grow rapidly the next few years.
“We are a city of gigabit speeds; we are a city of Google Fiber, we are a city of municipal fiber,” Councilmember Ron Nirenberg (D8) said during a kick-off of the service at City Hall. “Today there is no better place to be if you want to be connected in the City of San Antonio than a VIA bus.”
Nirenberg, who serves on the City’s Transportation, Technology, and Utilities Committee, has worked with Councilmember Ray Lopez (D6) to improve transportation and communication through SATomorrow, a collaborative planning initiative between residents, businesses and officials that aims to encourage sustainable and positive growth throughout the city.
“VIA’s WiFi initiative is one way we can prove to the world that we’re serious about the future, we’re open for business and we’re ready to connect to economies both locally and throughout the world.” Nirenberg added.
Officials predict that an additional 1 million people will be living in San Antonio by 2040, requiring new transportation modes and options. The addition of free internet services is expected to benefit current riders and attract newer, younger customers to use the city transportation system, VIA officials said.
VIA Board Chair Hope Andrade and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff acknowledged the importance of free WiFi access to the future success of San Antonio and its residents.
“We’re starting to move pretty quick and making ourselves a city of the future,” Wolff said. He congratulated Mayor Ivy Taylor for her successful contributing efforts to bring Google Fiber and rideshare back to San Antonio. “This is a major step in the right direction.”
Councilmember Lopez said the increase of environmental issues associated with burning fossil fuels and rising gas prices has influenced the new generation to choose public transportation over cars and sitting in traffic. The convenience of productivity could allow employees to digitally access work and students to enter the classroom when they step on the bus each day.
“Certainly in the next generation that’s coming up, they’re going to have an expectation in mass transit to do things correctly, in an environmentally friendly way,” Lopez said. “That’s going to have to be a mindset change, maybe a generational change.”
VIA previously offered 3G wireless internet service on express routes, the Primo route, and 11 transit centers. According to VIA President and CEO Jeffrey Arndt, the implementation of additional equipment and services cost about $1 million over a three year period, while the annual equipment upkeep cost is estimated at $350,000.
Although VIA officials acknowledged the possibility of a price hike in the future, they confirmed there would be no changes in rider costs at this time.
*Featured/top image: VIA invites current and new riders to ‘surf’ and ride rather than drive, thanks to their free WiFi access on buses. Photo by Lea Thompson.