VIA CEO joins Leading SA to discuss current state of public transit, the plan on the ballot

“We have a group of 12 peer cities we compare ourselves to... Of those 12, we are number one.”

SAN ANTONIO – Public transportation is an ongoing issue in San Antonio and as Election Day nears, voters will help decide a future plan for VIA Transit.

President and CEO of VIA, Jeff Arndt, joined Leading SA to break down the current state of public transit and what could be next for the company.

“We bring in under $200 million a year to support our operation. Dallas brings in $600 million. Houston brings in $758 million on those orders of magnitude,” Arndt said.

Arndt said even though VIA covers a huge area, the organization only asked for half of the sales tax as compared to other Texas cities.

“We have the spread of things thin, which means we end up with relatively infrequent service, and that makes the service more difficult to use, the trips longer to take. And people with other options are going to opt for those options when the frequency gets below 20 minutes,” Arndt said.

When compared to cities similar to San Antonio, VIA is performing rather impressively.

“We have a group of 12 peer cities we compare ourselves to. And when you look at the cost, deliver a unit of service like one, our bus service. We are the second lowest in that group of twelve. And when you look at the number of passengers that are carried for every unit of service. Of those 12, we are number one,” Arndt said.

If you head to the polls this year, you’ll see a VIA transportation plan up for voting.

“Well, we have a plan. Keep San Antonio Moving (KSAM),” Arndt said.

If it passes, it could help revolutionize public transportation here in the Alamo City.

“We’ve seen with the city’s contribution we’ve had over the last couple of years that we’ve gotten double-digit percentage increases in ridership as a result of that. The second part is the fast goes to rapid transit, what we call advanced rapid transit, and that is transit operating in its own lane at very high frequency every eight to 10 minutes, stopping at stations, very light rail, like using rubber tire vehicles, which allows us to build twice as much for the same amount of money and get the same benefit...," Arndt said.

According to Arndt, the proposed transportation plan is not only going to help those who ride the bus. Rather, it’ll also help boost the city’s economy.

“All of that has this huge economic impact on the city. If you just take tourism as our number three industry and as a result of that economic impact, the work that these people do and the kind of activity they support allows us, frankly, to have a somewhat lower tax base than we need or tax revenue than we need because those industries are generating tax,” Arndt said.

You can watch the full Leading SA interview with Arndt in the video player above.

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About the Author

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

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