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January 3, 2014

San Antonio transit agency turns to advanced vehicles to protect air quality

by Yliana Flores - Also by this author

San Antonio is among the fastest-growing cities in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Antonio was ranked fourth in population growth from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012. An expanding population can represent a positive shift for a city; however, every community still faces challenges when managing rapid growth. For San Antonio, one significant challenge has been a marked increase in the number of vehicles on the road.

A major consequence of increased traffic is increased emissions that contribute to air pollution, including ground-level ozone. This common pollutant poses risks to human health, the ecosystem, and the economy. With San Antonio experiencing high concentrations of ground-level ozone during the summer months (the city’s ozone season), VIA Metropolitan Transit, the city’s public transportation agency, began looking at ways to green the community through the public transportation network.

For more than 30 years, VIA Metropolitan Transit has been a premier public transit agency, serving 1,226 square miles of Bexar County, including San Antonio, 12 other incorporated cities and the unincorporated areas of Bexar County. VIA offers its riders a variety of services, including daily bus service, bus rapid transit (BRT) service, paratransit service for riders with disabilities, vanpool service for commuters, and special event park & ride service.

In late 2010, VIA added 16 compressed natural gas 60-foot articulated buses to its BRT route, Primo.

In late 2010, VIA added 16 compressed natural gas 60-foot articulated buses to its BRT route, Primo.
The VIA fleet is made up of more than 500 vehicles, operates more than 2.2 million hours, and drives more than 33.9 million vehicle miles annually to serve approximately 45.3 million passengers each year. The region benefits from these services because they provide essential transportation options and promote alternatives to single-occupant vehicle travel, an important strategy for air quality improvement.

In late 2010, VIA added 16 compressed natural gas (CNG) 60-foot articulated buses to its BRT route, called Primo. In late 2013, the agency added three more CNG buses to its Primo fleet. The Primo route services destinations between and within downtown San Antonio and the South Texas Medical Center.

VIA has adopted other alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies as well. The agency replaced older, gasoline-powered paratransit vans with ones that run on propane and added three all-electric buses to its downtown route. Thirty diesel-electric hybrid buses operate on express routes. VIA is aggressively analyzing fuel types and associated emissions in pursuit of its on-going commitment to air quality. The fleet makeup already reflects this commitment, but the agency has plans for continued improvements, including the replacement of more diesel vehicles with CNG vehicles within the next five years.

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Yliana Flores

Alamo Area Clean Cities Coordinator


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Author Bio

Pamela Burns

Communications Supervisor, North Central Texas Council of Governments

Communications Supervisor, North Central Texas Council of Governments


Matt Stephens-Rich

Clean Cities Ohio

A graduate student at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, Matt Stephens-Rich is interning at Clean Fuels Ohio as part of the Clean Cities Workforce Development Program.


Richard Battersby

Director, Fleet Services at UC Davis

Richard Battersby is the director, fleet services, at University of California, Davis. He also serves as coordinator of the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition.


Steve Linnell

Director, Transportation / Energy Planning, Greater Portland Council of Governments

Steve Linnell is Director of Transportation and Energy Planning at the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Coordinator of Maine Clean Communities.


Yliana Flores

Alamo Area Clean Cities Coordinator

Yliana Flores is the Alamo Area Clean Cities coordinator for the Alamo Area Council of Governments Natural Resources Department, where she has worked on transportation issues since 2010.


Dave Walsh

Project Manager, Sellen Sustainability

Registered Architect and a Project Manager with Sellen Sustainability, works with agencies, design and construction teams to implement measurable sustainability in transit projects.


Colleen Crowninshield

Manager, Tucson Regional Clean Cities Coalition

Colleen Crowninshield has worked for the Pima Association of Governments since 1994, where she has served as coordinator for the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition since 2002.


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