VIA Unveils Innovative Plan to Convince More People to Take the Bus

VIA Metro Transit has taken the wraps off an innovative program that it hopes will convince more San Antonians to take the bus to work, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Called 'The Last Mile,' VIA Deputy General Manager Keith Hom told a City Council work session the pilot of the program will focus on the part of the city where VIA ridership is the lowest, the northeast side area bordered by Loop 1604, I-35, Bulverde Rd. and Thousand Oaks Dr.

"We want to see if there is a better way to provide service in areas that have traditionally low ridership and low density of development," Home said.

He says in that particular area, fewer than one percent of resident take the bus.  He said the population of the areas is about 63,000, yet recent counts show that only 700 people rode on the three bus routes through the area.

"They are some of the least productive routes that we have."

So VIA has released a Request for Proposals to Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as start-ups and other mobility enterprises, looking for ideas on how to get the passengers from the bus stops to their eventual destinations.

"We have turned to the private sector, and said, you give us your best ideas, in terms of how we can improve mobility to this area."

VIA envisions a van, car, or some other transportation option that VIA bus riders could use in that area that could take them from their homes to the bus stop, and then from the bus stop to their destination.

Statistics show that, while bus ridership is growing, especially thanks to service enhancements, in densely developed areas like UTSA and downtown, where the bus stop is close to the person's work place, a major impediment to more people using the bus in more sparsely developed areas.  

People say riding the bus is great, but having to walk a mile or more to get to their eventual destination, frequently along highway access roads, and in the rain or brutal hot summer weather, convinces them to rely on their car instead, because it can spare them that 'last mile' hassle.

Hom says the plan is to have the testing program up in the northeast side area by January of 2019.

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