SAN ANTONIO - We told you recently about the new bus stops VIA is building for $300,000 apiece, to go with their new rapid transit buses that cost almost $900,000 each. Now VIA is moving ahead with an even more ambitious part of that project. The agency hopes to turn a neglected section of the west side into San Antonio’s “Grand Central Station”.
Old-timers may remember when the International & Great Northern Depot on the west side was a bustling train station. Now the 1908 structure will be the centerpiece of what VIA calls it's Westside Multi-Modal Transit Center.
That's transit-speak for a place where you can catch a bus, a streetcar, a train up to Austin, a taxi or even rent a bicycle.
“At the end of the day, 2015 or 2017 time-frame, it should be a true Multi-Modal Center here in San Antonio”, says VIA Chief Developmental Officer, Brian Buchanan.
VIA showed county commissioners drawings and a small model of the project at a recent meeting. They say the new hub will make it easier for people to use mass transit, and that it will revitalize the Cattleman's Square area into a gathering place rivaling Main Plaza.
The price tag: somewhere around $35-million dollars, with 15-million of that coming from a federal grant.
At the meeting, County Commissioner Kevin Wolff told VIA’s representatives, “It looks very nice. However, there's a little piece in the back of my mind that says when it looks this nice, that also means it costs a lot.”
Some are skeptical because we already have a VIA transit center on the east side, next to the Alamodome and Sunset Station. On most days, that existing transit center is completely deserted.
VIA, however, says the east side transit center was built just for busy events at the Alamodome, that's why it's often empty. Their new project though will cause people to use both transit centers everyday.
“What we're looking at is upgrading it to a daily-use facility making some improvements over there, bringing people from the east side into that facility, people from the west side into that facility, then transferring them between the two and circulating them in and around downtown”, VIA’s Brian Buchanan told us.
Right now it's so quiet at the east side center they're storing the new rapid transit buses there, until they start running out of the new west side center in December of this year.