Rideshare Is Here to Stay
Do you Uber or Lyft a lot when you visit other cities? Would you be less likely to visit — or maybe even move to — a city if those services weren’t an option?
During San Antonio’s recent Rideshare Wars, city officials were desperately afraid they’d lose the kind of person who might answer yes to either of those questions. No more: Last year, the city gave in and dropped its attempt to impose more regulations than the rideshare companies said they could tolerate — namely, a fingerprint-based background check for drivers. In 2015, the companies actually left town, as they have in other Texas cities that have pushed regulations that go beyond what the companies want.
But the people want their Uber. And after a lot of public pressure for the city to find a way to bring rideshare back, SA officials struck an agreement for a “pilot program,” in which Uber and Lyft drivers who hadn’t been screened by the city could still pick up San Antonio passengers — so long as the platforms offered a “service,” which few drivers even really knew about, showing you if your driver had a fingerprint-based official background check (the idea being passengers could “choose” for themselves). Last year, City Council made it official, updating the city’s rideshare ordinance to make such driver background checks “voluntary.”
So Uber your heart out. Lyft away, San Antonio.
Believe it or not, San Antonio is actually pretty kind to two-wheeled travelers.
No, we don’t have the reputation of being the most bikeable city in Texas (go try Austin’s hills and see if you agree with the assessment), but if you work and reside in or near the downtown area, the streets are pretty bike-friendly with plenty of dedicated and share lanes, and are relatively safe. Some people down here actually make pedal-power a primary mode of transportation.
Similarly, the downtown area’s not a bad starting point for locals or visitors looking for a good, scenic ride — with easy access to trails along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River or the newly-finished Apache and San Pedro Creekway, which you can ride into the heart of the West Side. And the City of San Antonio continues to update and refine the bicycle master plan leaders passed in 2011 – in fact, last year officials rolled much of it into their long-term planning document for the city, dubbed SA Tomorrow.
All of which goes to say, expect opportunities and infrastructure for cyclists to grow. One good way to explore and gauge your street-riding comfort level is a social ride, and San Antonio has plenty of them. A good entry point is the SATX Social Ride Facebook group, which regularly posts and promotes rides of all kinds – from leisurely weekend strolls to evening workouts or even training rides.
The Public Option
Let’s be honest: San Antonio’s public transit options are lackluster, even compared to other Texas cities. Maybe it’s because tax hawks freak every time an elected official so much as whispers about commuter rail here, or perhaps it’s the measly half-cent sales tax that funds VIA’s operations (compared to most other Texas cities that get at least an entire cent).
The thing is, moving forward, San Antonio can’t just be all about cars. That is, if you believe the numbers and hate gridlock traffic. At the city’s current pace of growth, some experts estimate that by 2040, as much as half of San Antonio roadways will face serious traffic congestion, which would make average commuter times increase by 75 percent. Ever driven in Houston? Think Houston.
At least most city leaders here seem to agree that better public transit can and should be one solution to the oncoming gridlock. And in recent years, VIA really has done all it can, including adding more routes and buses in all sectors of the city, increasing high-frequency services to major thoroughfares, and even adding dedicated routes for the Missions and the city’s cultural and historical institutions.
Basically, even while some on City Council push for transportation reform and a VIA overhaul, they say the city’s public transportation agency is still doing about as good a job as it can given the circumstances. And because of that, even if you can’t or don’t want to use VIA every day, there are still plenty of ways to take it for a test ride. Chances are you’ll find ways to keep using it.