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Amenities, 24-hour Routes: Metro Discusses Major Overhauls During Town Hall

Michael Keating

Last year, Hamilton County voters approved a tax levyto pay for a massive overhaul in local transit, and some of the changes will be implemented soon. Officials say increased bus frequency on routes, longer hours of operation and better amenities will be an economic driver in the county, in addition to increasing accessibility and improving quality of life.

During a public meeting Tuesday night, officials said some changes will be in effect by May 30. That includes seven routes that will give about 50% of Hamilton County jobs access to 24-hour bus services.

Khaled Shammout, vice president of strategic planning and development, said, "So 20,000 jobs will have access to transit through a 'Reinventing Metro' plan. And these 20,000 jobs will total $850 million in annual wages - that's almost a billion dollars in annual wages."

Metro has hosted eight other public meetings so far this year with almost 2,000 participants. Tuesday's, along with two more happening throughout roughly the next week, are focused on feedback. 

In particular, people asked for increased weekend frequency, especially on Sundays, which is something Metro Service Planner Mark Samaan says they accommodated in their new plans.

Credit Metro

Amenities are also scheduled to start going in effect over the next few months.

"Currently, half of our fleet is equipped with free WiFi and charging ports," Shammout said. "And we are working on getting the entire fleet equipped with free WiFi and charging ports by the end of this year. So within the next few months — six, seven, eight months — the entire fleet will be equipped with free WiFi."

Over time, a total of 400 benches and at least 200 shelters will also be built to better people's riding experience, officials said.

Public Comments

Town Hall participants asked their questions in messages online that were read by a moderator. Two focused on bus fares, which may increase or decrease depending on the zones people are already paying for.

Shammout says, for instance, the base fair is increasing from $1.75 to $2. But for Zone 2 riders, their fair will decrease. Transfers, however, might be on the chopping block altogether. And Metro is also launching a day pass that may cost $4.

"I don't know what kind of fare you're paying right now," he said. "But most probably, you would end up paying either the same or perhaps slightly less."

Reduced pricing for monthly passes for those who qualify for the Fare Deal program or veterans program, will remain in place. But prices will increase from $38.50 to $40.

Two more Reinventing Metro public meetings are planned soon — one at noon Wednesday and another March 11 at 6 p.m. The meeting can be watched on Metro's Facebook page. Metro is also asking people for feedback in an online survey.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.