The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Student seeks response to Brooks Campus transportation issues

The 520 VIA bus waits for passengers in front of Main Campus Feb. 10. Main Campus was added to VIA Metropolitan Transit route to accommodate students in need of transportation but is seldom utilized. Photo by Melody Mendoza

To catch the bus that would take her near Brooks City-Base Campus, Priscilla Leyva, communications and sociology major, said she would have to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch the 550/551 bus.

Then, Leyva would have to ride two more buses on a  2 1/2-hour ride to arrive near Brooks Campus on Southeast Military Drive. She added that the last bus is rare, by which she meant it only goes by once an hour.

“It’s either you catch it or you don’t,” Leyva said.

Leyva said she’d then have to walk a mile from the bus stop to the campus, but because of the effort, said she hasn’t actually ridden the bus that arrives near Brooks Campus. For now, she relies on classmates to give her a ride because of the hassle.

A full-time student, Levya said she supports herself with a part-time job and lives near UTSA by Fredericksburg Road. After attending UTSA, Leyva said, “It didn’t work out for me” because she likes the “more chill” environment and the smaller classes at Texas A&M-San Antonio.

Communications Specialist Jill Reddish said administrators began working as University liaisons with VIA routing and planning managers around March 2011 to add bus services to the Main and Brooks campuses.

“VIA held multiple community hearings in June and July 2011,” she said. Then, “the proposed routes were approved, and service to the TAMU-SA Main Campus and the Brooks City-Base Campus began in August 2011.”

The 520 route visits Main Campus every 30 minutes Monday through Friday. Photo courtesy of VIA website

Low ridership
Tracy Manning, VIA route planning manager, said VIA promised to provide service on day one of classes. Route 520 runs to Main Campus every 30 minutes from 5:30 a.m.-10:10 p.m, which is what Manning called a reliable service.

But Manning said, “Ridership has not shown up,” adding that they are keeping the service there for future use. “As the campus grows, that transportation is available.”

Marshall Lasswell, director of facilities and physical plant, said there are only 11 boarders using the drop-off at Main Campus. He said VIA makes its routes based on need.

Manning commented that it is costly for VIA to offer a service that is not utilized.

Will there be a route to Brooks Campus?
Although a VIA Metropolitan Transit bus is scheduled to pick up and drop off students at Main Campus, students like Leyva who attend classes at Brooks Campus, located 10 miles northeast of Main Campus, do not share the same access to public transportation.

Reddish said the possibility to expand a bus service at Brooks Campus still remains; “However, TAMU-SA is unaware of any plans by VIA at this time.” VIA informed the University that they can only adjust routes a few times a year.

Manning said there is a longer-range plan to do something different for students at Brooks Campus. “But that’s at least a couple of years off,” he said, because the process is time consuming.

VIA would have to create a service plan, determine the placement of a transit center and coordinate other bus routes to go to that center, Manning explained.

He also said VIA would have to make agreements with Brooks Development Authority and other developers in the area.

“It’s not something that’s done real fast,” he said.

Another issue is the difficulty for VIA buses to drive on the roadways around Brooks Campus, Manning said.

“There are a couple of different turns that would have to made to go through there,” he said. “It may come about that there will be new roads put in at Brooks.”

Route 34 takes passengers from central San Antonio to Brooks City-Base at Sydney Brooks and New Braunfels Avenue near Brooks Campus. Photo courtesy of VIA website
In the mean time, Manning said passengers can transfer to Route 34 to be dropped off at Sydney Brooks and New Braunfels Avenue, which is closer to Brooks Campus than the mile-long walk. He said Route 34 loops around Mission Trail Baptist Hospital.Shuttle suggestion
Leyva said she has suggested through email and survey to University administrators that a shuttle run between campuses.Reddish said, “Services and processes such as bus routes are always under review by the University, and some kind of independent shuttle service between campuses is a possibility for the future as we search for the best ways to serve our students.”

In the past, the University provided a shuttle service from Gillette Campus to the Anna Maria Hernandez Center on Zarzamora Street when classes were held there in early 2009, Reddish said. The service was paid for through a transportation fee, which has not been charged for two years.

During that time, the University rented school buses from South San Independent School District, which allowed the University to rent the Gillette Campus, an former elementary school which is rented from SSISD for $1 per year.

Levya said this semester has been a struggle compared to last semester when she attended Main Campus. She said she “lucked out” because her bus and course schedules aligned. But her experience at Brooks has been different.

The Office of the President has urged other students with similar difficulties to call University Communications at 210.784.1100.

About the Author

Melody Mendoza
Melody Mendoza
Melody Mendoza is the Comunidad Editor for The Mesquite. Previously, she reported on the development of the year-old Main Campus Building and Brooks City-Base Campus, and has followed Texas A&M-San Antonio's growth through its plans for two new buildings. Melody is a communication-journalism major, serves on the Student Media Board and is a freelance reporter and part-time editorial assistant for the San Antonio Express-News. She is a 2008 East Central High School graduate, an award-winning reporter for The Ranger (San Antonio College's student newspaper), and a youth leader at her church.

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