August 2, 2010
Employment opportunities in this week's classifieds include two CEO positions and several high-level technical posts!
|COUNTDOWN TO 2010 ANNUAL MEETING
San Antonio Prepares for a Multimodal Future
BY ANDY SCHEIDT, Public Information Coordinator, VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX
San Antonio—the seventh largest city in the United States—also has the distinction of being the biggest metropolitan area with a bus-only transit system. But VIA Metropolitan Transit is looking to change that with its efforts to develop the Long Range Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
This structure of this plan will provide a comprehensive transportation vision for the community, outlining a network of integrated high-capacity transit corridors with a range of transit mode alternatives. The plan will guide VIA in developing these future corridors, positioning the agency to become a truly regional and multimodal transit agency.
The development of the Long Range Plan is being fostered by an intensive public outreach effort called “SmartWaySA,” which began in September 2009 with a series of workshops designed to introduce the plan concept and solicit input from the citizens. In November 2009, VIA held a series of meetings across the city to gather additional input and to update the community on the plan’s progress. Another set of workshops followed in June of this year as VIA prepared the plan for its final development.
VIA’s Board of Trustees will also be involved with its own workshop, and the agency is developing funding mechanisms and strategies in cooperation with its financial advisors. When the process is complete, San Antonio will have a guide for a new transit system incorporating different types of transit technologies selected to serve the unique needs of each transit corridor.
But VIA is not waiting for the completion of the Long Range Plan for the opportunity to introduce new transit modes. For the past few years, VIA has been working to introduce bus rapid transit (BRT) to the busiest transit corridor in the city.
BRT and Other Innovations
VIA’s plans for BRT will connect the area’s two largest employment centers—the central business district and the South Texas Medical Center—along a state-owned roadway called Fredericksburg Road. This project will provide high-capacity transit service that will enhance the mobility of workers, patients, and other citizens through the use of stylized vehicles and station-boarding along the corridor.
As it progresses, this project has also stimulated dialogue among local governments and agencies concerning land use, transportation needs, and local environmental policies.
The draft environmental assessment (EA) document for the project is nearing completion. The public comment period for the EA document concluded in June, and the final draft will include these comments along with the official responses. Advanced preliminary engineering is underway for two new transit facilities to anchor the BRT alignment, and the project is well on its way toward completion and inception of service in 2012.
In addition to the special vehicles that will be secured for the BRT project, VIA is also adding innovative revenue vehicles that run on alternative power sources. The agency introduced the first of these buses—four buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG)—in May.
VIA makes the CNG buses especially visible with a green exterior paint scheme accented by a new, green-leaf logo. They operate on the Yellow Streetcar route to help reduce fleet emissions and maximize exposure in the downtown area.
VIA is also taking delivery of 30 new diesel-electric hybrid buses built by New Flyer, which will operate on express routes to help daily commuters reduce the city’s overall fuel consumption while cutting back on emissions. Amenities on these buses include reclining seats, overhead storage, and individual lighting.
In addition to the CNG and hybrid buses, VIA is preparing to take delivery of three new vehicles powered by electricity from on-board batteries; these emissions-free, 35-foot buses will operate on the Yellow Streetcar route along with the CNG buses, and will be recharged at VIA’s Robert Thompson Transit Station at the Alamodome. The batteries will be charged with energy generated either by solar panels installed as part of the project or by wind turbines in West Texas as part of the Windtricity program undertaken by CPS Energy, San Antonio’s energy utility.