SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This content was created exclusively for KSAT Explains, a new, weekly streaming show that dives deep into the biggest issues facing San Antonio and South Texas. Watch past episodes here and download the free KSAT-TV app to stay up on the latest.
Thalia Vazquez, 17, is one of thousands who rely on public transportation to get to work.
Vazquez, who is also a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, was forced to get a job in July after her mother lost her job due to the coronavirus pandemic. She lives in an apartment with her father, who is disabled, her mother, her younger sister and her grandparents. They all rely on the $120 she makes every two weeks to help make ends meet.
“It’s my senior year, and I have to teach my little sister and I teach myself because my mom is out looking for jobs" Vazquez said. "And then, having to go to work every weekend is really difficult, especially because I don’t have a car. I don’t have enough money to get a car.”
Every Saturday and Sunday, she walks about 10 minutes from her apartment on Fredericksburg Road to VIA Metropolitan Transit’s park and ride location on Crossroads Boulevard to get to her job at Fiesta Texas.
Vazquez’s family does have a car, but they don’t have enough money for gas and it’s about to get repossessed, so the bus is her only way of getting to work.
Vazquez says the bus is “sometimes” on time and the pick-up times that are reflected on Google Maps aren’t always accurate.
“They constantly change and there always says it’s delayed or something. It’s just crazy," she said.
Vazquez says she has been late four times because the bus was delayed. She said she will be placed on probation if she’s late one more time.
On the day we interviewed Vazquez, which was on a Friday ahead of the Labor Day holiday, the bus was delayed.
“It said it was delayed 'til like 4:20 p.m. and it’s 4:35 p.m. And it said it would get me to Six Flags around 5:03 p.m. which is obviously not going to happen,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez said her family recently received an eviction notice, another reason why it’s crucial for her to keep her job. She says if the buses were reliable, she, along with other people in similar situations, wouldn’t have to worry about job security.
“I’m pretty scared about losing my job. It would hit us pretty hard. Right now, everything is just crumbling.”
VIA has historically been underfunded compared to other major Texas transit agencies. VIA receives 5/8th of one cent, 1/8th through the Advanced Transportation District funds and half a cent through sales tax. Transit agencies in Houston, Dallas and Austin receive a full cent from sales tax.
Transportation, like every thing else, comes with a cost. So, transit agencies are stretched thin when funding falls short and the quality of service declines.
This story is a part of two KSAT Explains episodes examining transportation in San Antonio. Click here to watch part one. You’ll hear from various voices who support funding the expansion of VIA and those who don’t support it.