Trolley Folly Ends in Downtown San Antonio

Trolley Folly Ends in Downtown San Antonio

Ed. Note: San Antonio leaders seem perennially determined to get into just as much or more public debt as rival Texas cities Dallas and Houston. We can bet rail transit systems will be the hot topic in metropolitan San Antonio again soon: an investment of billions in a transit system unwanted by the population. (Express News subscribers can read about it here.)

Even the slick modern systems popping up suffer from (extremely) low ridership. Of the 30-odd cities with light rail systems in the United States, only six of them (Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco) achieve more than 30 million unlinked transit passenger trips per year.[1]

Below is a project wherein VIA studied the feasibility of free trolley service around downtown San Antonio. It failed miserably. Talk about low ridership, how does EMPTY sound?

Republished from, by Kenric Ward, June 3, 2016. Image credit: Via Metropolitan Transit

Is public transportation in downtown San Antonio so irrelevant that people won’t even ride it for free? Or is the soon-to-be-defunct “E” trolley just another failed municipal marketing scheme?

RUNNING ON EMPTY: An “E” trolley runs empty, as usual, in downtown San Antonio.

The free “E” makes its final run Saturday night after 15 months of dismal ridership.

VIA, San Antonio’s bus operator, launched the three-mile “E” loop to serve downtown venues such as the Tobin Performing Arts Center, the Majestic Theatre and various stops along the River Walk. The trolleys ran every 10 minutes, or were scheduled to.

The service was available from 6 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday.

With its limited runs and light publicity, the “E” never got traction.

The Convention Center and Rivercenter Mall were on the “E” route, but both wind down in the evenings, when the trolleys started rolling. The shuttles ran empty most nights.

VIA told that the trolley line provided a total of 13,514 rides through April — an average of fewer than 50 passengers per day. With “E” expenses of $399,388, per-rider costs work out to $29.56 — five times the price of taking a cab.

VIA cut its losses this week and announced three new or revised “Viva” trolley routes to begin downtown service on Monday. Each will charge the standard bus fare of $1.25. Uber, anyone?

Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Contact him at and @Kenricward.

Republished from CLICK HERE to read the original.

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