VIA Metropolitan Transit trustees Jan. 23 chose a contractor to head multiple projects to improve rider experience and mobility across San Antonio.

VIA’s board awarded a $2.07 million contract to Flatiron Constructors and Herzog Contracting Corp. to lead VIA’s Advanced Rapid Transit North-South corridor, dubbed the Green Line.

VIA officials said the Green Line and a planned east-west ART corridor, the Silver Line, will increase bus frequency citywide.

Two-minute impact

VIA’s leaders said the new lines will bolster rider frequency and reliability in a growing city where VIA totals 24 million passenger trips annually on 75 routes over 1,210 square miles.

VIA President and CEO Jeff Arndt said the Green and Silver lines will allow users to pay before they board a specialized bus with multiple entry/exit doors.

Passengers will be dropped off or picked up every 10-15 minutes at each station along the lines, where stations and amenities will be installed along dedicated lanes on existing routes.

VIA officials said the 11-mile Green Line, which will link the San Antonio International Airport on the north side with the Spanish colonial missions on the south side, will feature 26 drop-off/pickup platforms and should be operational in 2027.

Arndt said the Green and Silver lines will mimic commuter rail, where bus-friendly traffic signals, real-time route information and improved bus boarding infrastructure will widen access to riders of all abilities and deliver passengers to their destinations faster.

“It’s a big game-changer,” Arndt said.

Arndt said VIA will begin receiving in 2026 a portion of proceeds from the city’s sales tax that voters via a ballot initiative in 2020 approved to further support public transit.

Arndt said, at that point, VIA will look to further increase bus service frequency and improve other services citywide, including growing the number of weekend routes and expanding service later into the night.

A closer look

VIA officials said enhanced services could further increase bus ridership on routes in the north central area and citywide.

Community leaders such as San Antonio District 9 John Courage said VIA has a solid mass transit system in place but that improvements, such as the planned ART corridors, are needed to meet the needs of a growing population.

“I believe VIA's plans are a starting point for what we hope will be a broader public transportation system over the next few years,” Courage said.

Courage also said he hopes VIA will extend the planned ART corridors to communities further away from San Antonio’s urban core, and connect them with areas such as VIA’s Stone Oak Park and Ride facility.

Taylor Seal, a northwest San Antonian, uses the station to reach his Stone Oak-area job.

“It’s a convenient route. It takes me about 45 minutes each way,” Seal said.

The $20.6 million station currently serves two bus routes, but Arndt and Kevin Wolff, VIA’s Advanced Rapid Transit panel chair, said they expect routes to be added over time, and that should lure more users.

“We know what's coming in the next 10-20 years, and putting [Stone Oak Park and Ride] in place today is more cheap and efficient than waiting 10-20 years to do it,” Wolff said of local officials and demographers projecting a population of nearly 3 million by 2030. “That’s a piece of a bigger puzzle.”

Next steps

Residents who use VIA’s services voiced optimism about future improvements. Hollywood Park-area resident Kyle Willmon said he enjoys free onboard Wi-Fi connectivity and thinks planned initiatives, such as the Silver Line, could enhance VIA’s system, but noted there is room for more improvement.

“The frequency of routes in this area could definitely be improved,” Willmon said. “The mobile [payment] app is functional, but it’d be much more convenient if I could just tap a credit card when I board.”

Wolff agreed with Arndt and regular VIA users that developing the Green and Silver lines should prompt service upgrades along existing routes, the creation of new routes and other system initiatives.

VIA officials said next steps are to secure $289.2 million in federal and local money to fully fund physical construction of the Green and Silver lines, the latter of which is set to open in 2029.

Federal officials March 11 said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recommended that President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2024-2025 budget contain funding for 14 transit projects in 11 states, including $134.7 million for VIA’s Silver Line.

Representatives for groups such as the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce recently backed VIA’s efforts, saying the Green and Silver lines as well as other Advanced Rapid Transit measures will further boost commercial growth.

“By supporting VIA’s ART lines, we ensure equitable access to reliable public transportation, connecting businesses with talent, fostering job opportunities and driving sustainable economic growth for the benefit of all San Antonians,” said Brett Finley, North San Antonio Chamber president and CEO, in a statement.