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VIA Link Aims To Compete With Uber, Lyft In Northeast San Antonio — But Will Close 3 Bus Stops

Officials from VIA Metropolitan Transit said a ride sharing pilot program on the Northeast Side of San Antonio could expand to other outlying neighborhoods.  

The VIA Link pilot program has served riders near Loop 1604 and Nacogdoches Road since August 2018.

VIA officials said providing cost-effective public transportation in outlying areas is tough, unlike the urban core where bus stops and riders dot many corners. Service is often limited to once an hour on the edges of the city.  

Bus riders are also lured away by Uber and Lyft, according to VIA officials.

But VIA Marketing Director Rick L’Amie believes they found a solution called VIA Link.

He said riders can use the VIA Link smartphone app to book and pay for rides and go to designated pickup points for a Yellow Cab minivan. The minivan can then take riders to a nearby destination or to a bus stop with major connections across town. L’Amie said it’s cheaper than Uber and Lyft to get across the city.

“We have limited resources as well, so we’re much more efficient running a smaller minivan than a big bus and it’s about the same costs to move more people to get them to more destinations more efficiently,” he said.

Credit Courtesy of VIA Link

VIA reports 20,000 riders have participated in the pilot program that ends this month. Riders surveyed gave it an average score of 4.7 on a scale out of 5, VIA officials said.

Three traditional bus routes are coming to an end on the Northeast Side, however, and senior rider Theresa Berlinga wishes VIA would reconsider one.  It includes stops for shopping, banking and groceries. It made it easy for her and others to simply get on and off a bus 

“One of the routes is doing to close down and it is all business, so the people should have the choice of being able to get to those businesses if they wish to do so,” she said.

She said she thinks the public should have more time to comment on permanent bus route changes, adding that switching between public transportation vehicles is harder on some senior citizens and people with physical disabilities.

Many seniors don’t use smartphone apps, but VIA said transportation can be arranged by phone.

VIA said there has been plenty of time for public comment since the pilot program began last August.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and VIA officials will mark the successful end of the pilot program with activities at Rolling Oaks Mall beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian