Centro Plaza at VIA Villa sees over 1 million passenger trips each year. Credit: Courtesy of VIA

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VIA Metropolitan Transit is signaling a new direction for public transit in San Antonio with a bold plan to address community-identified needs and deliver solutions to stay mobile on increasingly congested roadways.

During the annual “State of Transit” event, hosted Friday by the San Antonio Mobility Coalition, VIA President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt introduced the “VIA Reimagined” Plan and challenged the audience of nearly 400 to envision a future with more frequent bus service, a rapid transit network that bypasses traffic, and innovative solutions that offer faster, easier options – a future that has already arrived.

“We’re not waiting, we’re going,” Arndt said. “Beginning with a Better Bus System that supports a network of Advanced Rapid Transit lines and uses high-capacity vehicles to move more people in protected lanes – outside of regular traffic and congestion.

“Imagine that,” he said.

VIA has already begun to deliver on the VIA Reimagined promise of a Better Bus System and is seeing more people ride today than even a year ago.

It’s investing in frequency and reliability for key corridors throughout the service area and reported a significant increase in ridership – up to 30 percent – on improved routes.

“In transit, the secret is frequency, frequency, and frequency,” Arndt said. “When we build a Better Bus System, we keep frequency at the heart of all we do.”

VIA Reimagined builds on VIA’s Vision 2040 Long-Range Plan and people-driven findings to see beyond the current system where the majority of its bus routes run at 45- to 60-minute frequency. It builds on improvements that have already been delivered, including over 1,000 new or improved bus shelters and a new trip-planning and payment app. New high-frequency Prímo service and shorter waits on nearly 20 routes are also now a reality.

A Better Bus System will continue these improvements while increasing systemwide reliability. An Advanced Rapid Transit Network, or ART, will connect the region’s major community and employment centers along a network of dedicated lanes that allow modern, high-capacity vehicles to navigate around traffic. Advanced technology will speed boarding and trip times and provide flexibility for future innovation.

“It’s about more than reducing congestion,” Arndt said. “Transit transforms lives. It’s about connecting people to the places that are important to them, important to our economic development, to educational attainment, to family and friends, and our overall quality of life.”

VIA Reimagined is the transformative plan needed to accommodate unprecedented growth in the region. It provides a blueprint that doesn’t aim to eliminate traffic but envisions a transportation network with the freedom to move outside of traffic.

Realizing it will require a strong commitment to investing in our future, including exploring a combination of new or increased funding sources beyond existing levels. Delivering a Better Bus System, Advanced Rapid Transit Network, and Smart Transit improvements means additional capital and operating funds. The plan proposes a combination of traditional sources and strategic partnerships in the public and private sector that could bridge the gap between the growing need for better transit options and the resources to provide them.

For its first 40 years, VIA operations have been funded by a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1977. It’s the least-funded major transit provider in Texas, lagging billions of dollars behind Austin, Houston, and Dallas but covering the same or larger service area. The result is a less-effective system that’s being outpaced by new growth – over 1 million people in the next 20 years – and a more modern transit system just out of reach.

VIA Board Chair Hope Andrade closed the program Friday with a call to action for the community to support options that could provide much-needed funding for transit in San Antonio.

“A dream without a plan is only a wish. Now is the time for action,” Andrade said. “There’s no more time to daydream about what tomorrow could bring. We must decide to do better today and create a more prosperous tomorrow.”

For more information about VIA Reimagined, visit VIA’s website at VIAinfo.net/Reimagined.

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.