San Antonio needs to fund public transit

Having lived in San Antonio my entire life, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe San Antonio’s transportation system, and it’s plain to see that the best way to get around is by car. This city was built for automobiles, and almost every facet of its infrastructure is built with the primary intention of making travel for cars easier.

With that said, cars are not the only way to get around in this city. Specifically, San Antonio’s bus system, known as “VIA,” has been around in San Antonio since 1978, and many people use it as their primary means of transportation. It’s relatively inexpensive and has utility in certain situations, as I recently discovered when I boarded a bus to downtown San Antonio, paid 036;1.30, and got there in less than 20 minutes.

Nonetheless, there’s a reason cars are the overwhelming favorite in San Antonio. There are huge gaps between bus stops and long waits for people who need to transfer routes during their commute. If you need to go somewhere requiring more than one transfer, that problem will add up fast. This is a result of San Antonio’s bus system being drastically underfunded compared to similar cities in the U.S.

As a result, taking the bus could add hours to your commute depending on where you’re going. Additionally, most routes, including the one which stops outside Trinity, don’t run during the late hours of the night, leaving people with night jobs and even people who just want to go anywhere after nine o’clock out of luck.

As a San Antonian without a car, these issues are very apparent to me. This city makes driving feel like a requirement for living, and not having a car frequently limits my options. However, at least I have the privilege of living on a walkable campus and consciously choosing to not drive, not to mention having family and friends who can give me rides when necessary. But what about people who can’t afford cars? What about people who can’t drive for medical reasons? What about people who don’t know anyone who can drive them?

People without cars make up 58% of VIA riders, and unreliable public transport constitutes a serious problem for them in that they are subject to significant barriers in opportunities for jobs, education and recreation. This is a major reason why San Antonio is one of the most economically segregated cities in the country and why it has the highest percentage of people in poverty out of the top 25 U.S. metropolitan areas.

None of that is even to mention the huge threat posed by car dependency, especially the huge impact on carbon emissions and is the deadliest form of transportation by a huge margin.

It’s difficult for me to understand how we got to a point where one of the only reliable forms of transportation in many American cities is so inaccessible and disproportionately dangerous. While the media buzzes about self-driving and electric cars as Band-Aid fixes for the latter problem, the actual solution has been staring us in the face for decades.

Whatever your reservations are about public transit, the fact is that, if properly funded, it is capable of transporting significantly more people per unit of fuel for a lower cost to both riders and taxpayers, as well as providing extraordinary economic returns.

Even for people who commute by car, increased investment in public transit would get more cars off the road and make traveling by car faster, safer and cheaper. Therefore, even if you never go near public transit in your life, investing in it would still massively benefit you even if it meant a tax increase.

As such, there is no good reason why San Antonio has a bus system barely keeping its head above water and metro and subway systems that are nonexistent. If this city wants to continue its growth as the seventh-largest city in the nation, public transit needs a rapid monetary injection.

If you live here and want to make an impact in bettering public transportation in San Antonio, you can attend public meetings held by VIA or the city government, vote for funding when it comes up as a ballot measure and contact your city council member. The way of the future is making cities navigable without a vehicle, and San Antonio is way behind.