VIA Metropolitan Transit’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget reflects an increase of more than $10 million compared with its 2019 budget. Members of the public can attend a hearing Thursday where VIA staff will present the budget and take comments.

VIA hopes to increase ridership by improving its affordability. The 2020 draft budget proposes maintaining bus fares at the same rate, introducing a free transfer program and expanding its fare assistance program.

VIA is proposing a $249.4 million operating expense budget, the majority of which is dedicated to operations labor. Fifteen percent of the budget is slated to fund support and administrative labor. A summarized version of the proposed 2020 budget can be found here. VIA spokeswoman Lorraine Pulido said there was no other draft budget document available at this time.

In 2019, VIA trustees approved a $238.9 million budget that included $10 million from the City’s general revenue fund. VIA did not make funding sources for the 2020 budget available.

Also aimed at boosting ridership, VIA continues to strive for more reliable service and increase bus stop frequency on its routes. The budget summary document specifically pointed to the 7 Stone Oak Express and 552 Loop 410/W.W. White, lines with a 30-minute wait at times in fiscal year 2019. VIA’s goal is to increase those routes’ frequency to every 15 minutes during peak times.

Under the draft 2020 budget, VIA wages would increase by 3 percent, a $4.1 million expense for the company. Pension costs would increase by $1.7 million, and increased service hours would cost $2.1 million – including expanding the pilot VIA Link program, formerly known as Mobility on Demand, to a second area. The VIA Link pilot program also helps the organization work toward its goal of increasing service frequency.

VIA celebrated 353,000 tickets sold through its VIA goMobile app, which allows riders to use their cellphones to buy bus tickets and display them for bus drivers. VIA also saw 81 percent of its service arrive on time, a 41 percent increase in vehicle reliability, and a 51 percent reduction in major bus accidents.

In 2020, VIA also aims to strengthen its customer service, work on punctuality, and improve the experience for customers who use its paratransit service, VIATrans.

VIA anticipates saving money with its ongoing switch from diesel-fueled to compressed natural gas vehicles. The proposed budget assumes a sales tax revenue increase of 3.5 percent.

VIA is hosting its public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday for people to ask questions and give feedback on the proposed budget. The hearing will be at VIA Metro Center’s board room, at 1021 San Pedro Ave.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.