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Ridership increasing on VIA as fuel prices trend higher

VIA's CEO said ridership historically goes up when fuel rises above $3 a gallon.

SAN ANTONIO — Rising prices at the pump are leading some drivers to park the car and ride the city bus.

On Monday, Triple A reported the average cost of gasoline is $4.66 in Texas. That price is down 35 cents from the national average of fuel at $5.01.

The online report shows the average price of regular fuel in San Antonio is $4.69. It's a price tag Kyle Green said is causing him to temporarily trade in his car keys for a bus pass.

"It's a little bit easier and a little bit cheaper for us to get around on the VIA," said Green.

He and his family aren't the only one taking the bus these days. Other riders said more seats are taken by passengers, especially on the early morning and evening routes. Daniel Barea said he's counted up to 20 more passengers on his trips.

"I'm seeing more [riders] than like I have seen in the last few months," said Barea.

VIA riders pay just $1.30 for single fares, which is about a fourth of the price of premium gasoline locally. According to Triple A, plus fuel will cost drivers about a quarter and some change less at $4.97.

Online, VIA says "their fares are the best deal in town." CEO Jeff Arndt said they are some of the lowest in the country. San Antonio is ranked #20 in this 2021 article.

While speaking on rising gasoline prices, Arndt said ridership historically goes up when fuel increases above $3 a gallon.

"I think we are now seeing that kind of pattern with the current fuel pricing going up as much as it is," said Arndt.

In 2017, VIA switched from diesel to compressed natural gas to fuel their busses. While the change is saving VIA more money, Arndt said natural gas prices are still going up. However, he doesn't expect that to impact the price of what riders pay for now.

Right now, VIA is focused on hiring more bus operators to increase schedule frequency to attract more riders. Currently, the transit has about 820 operators.

"We are trying to build back to the frequencies we had before pre-COVID," he said.

Bus and VIAtrans Paratransit Van Operators can receive up to $4,000. Mechanics and CDL Shop Attendants can receive up to $6,000.

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