Federal spending boosts VIA’s efforts to expand service

CEO Jeffrey Arndt: Frequency key to expanding service and growing ridership

VIA transportation to receive funding for enhancements that could spread access to more jobs

SAN ANTONIO – When voters approved Proposition A last fall, which allocated more sales tax revenue to VIA beginning in 2026, leaders expected to wait a few years before being able to embark on some of their expansion plans.

But federal stimulus dollars have changed the equation, giving VIA a chance to move up its timetable for services like advanced rapid transit, or ART, and VIALink, its on-demand ride service.

“It’s enabled us to say, ‘Oh, this thing we were going to start in 2025 when we have more money, we can start it in 2022.’ Pay for it for the first three years with the money we got from the feds, and then the sales tax will pick it up from there,” said Jeffrey Arndt, president and CEO of VIA.

Arndt told the Rotary Club of San Antonio that VIA has received $270 million in federal stimulus funding so far. That’s compared to the $200 million the agency currently receives each year in tax revenue.

VIA plans to expand VIALink to 11 zones as soon as 2022. It currently operates on the Northeast Side. Arndt said mobility on demand could better serve suburban-like areas, where conventional bus service isn’t as effective.

“What we’ll do with that is we’ll take those buses and redeploy them somewhere in the system to increase frequency in the core of the system,” he said. “So we’re putting the buses where they work best and mobility on demand where it works best.”

VIA has also moved up plans for the new North/South ART Line, from north of Loop 1604 to the South Side. It has applied for a federal Capital Improvement Grant to help fund the project, the first such application in VIA’s history. The service could begin running as soon as 2027 instead of 2032.

Arndt told the group the service enhancements are critical as the agency aims to improve frequency and access to jobs for those most in need in the heart of the city.

“If you don’t have a car and you’re still willing to commute 45 minutes one way, 95% of the jobs are outside of your reach,” he said. “You are limited to 5% of the opportunity because that’s as far as you can go in 45 minutes.”

Arndt also said that the new HOV lanes on Highway 281, north of Loop 1604, should be opening within weeks. VIA will manage those lanes, as it does the ones on I-10 West, in a partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation.

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About the Author:

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.