This commentary was published in the San Antonio Express-News on April 25, 2022.
BY FERNANDO REYES, VIA BOARD PRESIDENT
The return of Fiesta’s colorful celebrations was a good reminder that spring brings renewed hope for brighter days ahead.
As San Antonians work to restore prosperity after two financially difficult years, let’s remember those who struggle to get ahead without affordable options to shore up family budgets.
Targeting one of the highest expenses for local households, one that is a frequent obstacle to accessing employment and education in San Antonio, is a good place to start.
Each year, the average household spends nearly $10,000 on transportation costs, second only to housing. The price of personal transportation limits access to opportunities and is a daily challenge for people who must travel more than a few miles for work or school.
And with prices on the rise, the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle can put opportunities far out of reach, making equitable access to public transportation that much more important to San Antonio’s continued economic recovery.
For more than 40 years, VIA Metropolitan Transit has provided affordable options that help remove roadblocks to success. Public transit offers a lower cost per trip than taking a cab, booking a ride-hailing service or driving a personal vehicle.
VIA’s regular fare has not been adjusted since 2016 and still rings up at just $1.30 to ride the bus or VIA Link — a service similar to ride-hailing. It’s even less if you buy a weekly or monthly pass or for riders who qualify for reduced fares. And it’s a fraction of the cost of a gallon of gas.
The average small car takes about 12 to 15 gallons of gas to fill. That costs between $40 and $60 each time at the pump at current gas prices, and it’s more for trucks and SUVs. While that might be OK for some, others may find it’s an additional budget strain.
Every day, and especially when gas prices are so high, VIA is a viable option. For less than a tank of gas, you could get a full month of unlimited trips, with change to spare.
Expanding access to affordable transit is part of VIA’s plan to keep San Antonio moving with projects designed to transport more people faster and farther.
The plan includes improvements to our core services, as well as new service options such as additional VIA Link zones and a proposed network of rapid transit corridors connecting major residential and business centers throughout the city, offering meaningful and high-quality public transit that’s still affordable.
Public transportation isn’t for everybody, but everyone benefits from it. Every driver who chooses public transportation is taking one more vehicle off the road.
Reliable bus and van services help carry workers to essential jobs throughout the region, like food services and grocery stores, construction sites, health care centers, schools and more. It helps reduce road congestion, lessens gas use and pollution, offers freedom of mobility to nondrivers and makes more equitable access to opportunities possible.
With personal transportation costs reaching all-time highs, there are other options, which will only improve with continued community investment and support.
Affordable public transit options allow more of our friends and neighbors to reach farther and higher. And moving forward together can lift up the entire community.
Fernando Reyes serves as chair of VIA Metropolitan Transit’s board of trustees.