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Meet Lester W. Bryant!
Lester W. Bryant
VIA Metropolitan Transit
Member, APTA Board of Directors, American Public Transportation Foundation Board of Directors, Legislative Committee and Higher Education Subcommittee; secretary, Transit Board Members Committee.
Please describe your agency’s scope.
VIA Metropolitan Transit was created in 1978 under Chapter 451 of the Texas Transportation Code after a successful sales tax election in 1977 authorized the imposition of a one-half-cent sales tax within the city of San Antonio and seven other incorporated municipalities. Currently, VIA serves 13 member cities and the unincorporated areas of Bexar County.
VIA has roughly 2,000 employees who work together to serve a 1,213-square-mile service area—a service area that includes 450 buses, 7,200 bus stops along 92 routes, eight park-and-rides and six transit centers. Last year, VIA provided approximately 44.4 million passenger trips across our service area.
How long have you served in the industry? What drew you to board service?
I was appointed to the VIA board in September 2014. I became interested in serving on the VIA Board of Trustees because I realized the vital linkages that public transit provides in our community—access to opportunity, education, jobs, health care, recreation and social interaction.
I saw service on the VIA board as a way to work to enhance my community involvement with education and economic development by advancing the conversation about multimodal options for our community’s future.
Please describe your involvement with APTA.
I attended my first APTA meeting soon after my appointment in September 2014 and immediately became involved in a number of committees that I thought would help me be a better trustee for VIA. Since then, I have greatly expanded my involvement.
Getting to know—and working with—colleagues from around the nation makes my involvement in APTA rewarding. Together, we are able to advocate for effective public transit policy on a national level.
I also have the opportunity to interact with industry thought leaders and participate in discussions that could shape the future of public transit. These experiences and insights combined with the new ideas and opportunities that frequently come from them are what I find most rewarding.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource?
The most valuable APTA resource has been the Transit Board Members Handbook, which has been instrumental in bringing clarity to my role as a transit board member. Because the handbook so clearly outlines the importance of focusing on policy and governance, it is a “must read” for every transit board member. I have found it to be of great benefit specifically as a board trustee in our charge to oversee the bigger picture, set policy and help guide the overall direction of the agency. I also benefit from the annual Transit Board Members & Board Support Seminar; this year, it’s April 30-May 3 in my hometown of San Antonio.
What do you like most about your board service?
I especially enjoy helping to set transportation policy that will have a significant impact on the growth of our community in the future. As a board member, I am a part of the team that will ensure that our transportation system is an asset that drives economic development and is efficient enough to attract riders of choice while continuing to meet the daily needs of our riders of necessity.
I am honored to serve as a resource and offer linkages throughout the community for individuals and entities looking to partner with VIA to make our community stronger. Whether it pertains to workforce issues, small business opportunities, access to educational opportunities or partnering with other civic partners and businesses, we are working to advance a multimodal emphasis in our region.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
VIA is constantly challenged to do more with less. We are the only large metro public transit authority in the state of Texas to operate off a one-half-cent sales tax, yet we have the second largest service area in the state. The combination of these two factors means VIA has to be innovative and efficient in everything we do.
Like all Texans, VIA is proud when our hard work translates into being “first” at something. For example, we are the only AAA bond rated MTA in the state of Texas. Last fall, we became the first large public transit provider in the nation to offer free 4G LTE Wi-Fi across our entire fleet and in all VIA facilities.