Downtown parking isn’t too shabby. But what if you’re not a vehicle owner? What if you’re trying to save money on gas? What if you’re focused on cutting down on your carbon emissions? There are people living, working and visiting downtown who have the answers.
Pedro Reyes utilizes VIA for his commute. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“I’ve built connections on VIA,” says Pedro Reyes, Safety Coordinator for the City’s Office of Risk Management, “I mean I wasn’t expecting that but it gives you the opportunity to meet people throughout the city.” Pedro takes the bus from where he lives in the Alamo Ranch area to his office downtown at the Alamodome. “We see each other each and every day and then all of a sudden- small talk and now it’s more than a simple connection. I would say it’s a friendship.”
Passenger boarding a VIA bus on Nevarro Street. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
"It does relieve that stress that you would have from driving."
He says not being behind the wheel is a major stress reliever. “Texting, just browsing around online or listening to music…completing work there on the bus because you’re not having to pay attention to the road. It does relieve that stress that you would have from driving.” VIA offers passes for the day, week and month. And with VIA’s new VIA Go Mobile app, it’s even easier to purchase tickets and plan your trip.
To get around downtown during the day, Pedro uses his bike as a short distance solution. He utilized the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Street Skills class to sharpen his knowledge. “I actually got a free helmet and lights from the class they provide.” In fact, there are many bike resources downtown.
B-Cycle station on Houston Street. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Angel Whitley uses B-Cycle to get around downtown. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“I always say the best way to touch a city is on two wheels.” says Angel Whitley, who’s in charge of Business Development and Community Engagement for San Antonio B-Cycle. “Once I’m downtown I go everywhere on B-Cycle.” Angel says most of her meetings are in the downtown area, and it rarely takes more than five minutes to reach her destination.
“People like the ease-of-use. Now that we have a new app, it’s so much easier to get to the bikes.” From the B-Cycle app you can pay, release the bike from its docking station, and navigate around downtown. There are 60 stations with 500 bikes along a 25 mile stretch that spans from the Witte Museum in the North to Mission Espada in the South.
“You’ve got the app, you’ve got us-who you can call on a moment’s notice.”
And the system rewards those who use it more often. A yearlong membership works out to $8.33 a month. B-Cycle also offers a customer service line with a live person 24/7. “You’ve got the app, you’ve got us-who you can call on a moment’s notice.” Angel points out the strategic positioning of the stations as well. “We have stations at pretty much every single one of the parks downtown. You can just stop and explore.”
Heather Holdridge discusses how she gets around the downtown neighborhood. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
For Heather Holdridge, the Sustainability Director at Lake Flato Architects, biking and walking to work became second nature. “But what’s really kept me walking and biking places is I’m a busy mother and professional and I don’t have a lot of time to work out.” Heather has lived near or in downtown for the past few years, but sees walking and biking as resources for everyone. “It’s been really nice to live near the River Walk and enjoy running and cycling and things like that. I had really not appreciated how many people were actually traveling to downtown San Antonio and Southtown to utilize that area.”
"I feel really connected with the neighborhood.”
Walking and biking downtown offer different perspectives as well, says Heather. “It’s been a great way for me to get grounded in the morning and ease into the work day.” Walking has also made her more familiar with her surroundings. “I feel like by walking I see things that the average resident may not get the opportunity to see. I feel really connected with the neighborhood.”
A bike rider at the intersection of Houston and Jefferson streets. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Janet Guel started carpooling downtown over a year ago. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
It’s about connection with neighbors as well. Janet Guel had been a litigation assistant at Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson for two years when she began to carpool downtown with her coworker Donna. “I was going through a hard time and she was like ‘Well, where do you live? Why don’t we take the car? Why don’t we trade off?’” Janet has been carpooling for over a year and it’s become a part of her morning routine. “In the morning Donna helps me, she’ll be like ‘You got your phone, you got your keys? Do you have everything?’ We’ve become close friends.”
“It’s an incentive. Who doesn’t like something that’s free?”
One advantage to alternative transportation, according to Janet, is the NuRide app provided by the Alamo Area Council of Governments. The app allows users to record their miles walking, biking, taking the bus and carpooling. For miles earned, the user receives points which can be redeemed for coupons, deals and offers at local businesses. “It’s an incentive. Who doesn’t like something that’s free?” The app is very easy to manage, says Janet. “Once you input your information, it saves it. So if you do the same trip everyday back and forth they record it for you.”
Janet says there’s a real social aspect to alternative transportation as well. “You can follow the app through Facebook. If people used the app and took the opportunity to carpool with a group of friends; there’s so many ways to connect with other people.”
When traveling downtown, it’s all about making connections. And if driving is a must, find your spot here.