VIA rolls out smart transit initiatives

October 26, 2018
In The News

VIA Metropolitan Transit is rolling out several smart transit initiatives designed to make riding the bus easier for San Antonio residents and visitors. 

VIA on Thursday demonstrated new cellphone capabilities and digital kiosks that it will deploy at 30 locations.

With service to nearly all of Bexar County, the public transit agency launched its VIA goMobile cellphone app in June 2017 that enables users to find bus route information and pay for rides. And a new version of the app coming out in early 2019 will adopt features similar to ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, VIA Metropolitan Vice President of Technology and Innovation Steve Young said.

"You're going to be able to watch your bus come to you," Young said.

VIA also plans to use more data to plan routes and make them more efficient, in addition to launching an artificial intelligence-based chatbot service on VIA goMobile and its website to answer basic rider questions 24 hours a day. VIA also plans to launch a cellphone app named Quick Trip in early 2019.

Designed as part of a code-a-thon hosted by Trinity University, Quick Trip taps into Google Maps and social media platforms such as Yelp to give users directions on how, when and where to catch a bus to go to restaurants, bars, movie theaters or other destinations.

VIA is hosting a Feb. 22 code-a-thon at Trinity University and has issued a call for entries that use technology to solve real-life transit problems. Software or apps developed by winners could be used by the agency.

City of San Antonio Chief Innovation Officer Jose De La Cruz spoke Thursday afternoon at VIA's technology demonstration, where he debuted digital kiosks that will be placed at 30 locations.

Developed by Columbus, Ohio-based IKE Smart City, the kiosks will connect users to local restaurants, businesses, transportation, entertainment and city services in English and Spanish. Installed and operated at no cost to the city, the kiosks are supported through an advertising program with the city getting a guaranteed $150,000 per year and 21.5 percent of revenue above that.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, who was also at VIA's demonstration, credited the agency with "thinking outside of the bus."

"The way we develop innovation solutions is by breaking data out of the silos and letting smart people figure out new ways to use it," Hurd said.