“VIA” Day 7: 40 Days of Haven

It been tens years since my 2012 lenten journey and a lot has changed in San Antonio, but one thing has remained the same, riding the bus around our city. I am afraid the VIA bus system in San Antonio has remained static even when our leaders have the best intentions. When I first wrote the blog in 2012, I was being very optimistic and hoped for the best when it came to taking the bus in San Antonio.

However, taking a honest look, public transportation is one of the things that holds San Antonians back from becoming a city that is accessible by all citizens. Now, there are great people on the VIA board and staff working hard to improve the system, but they are held back by inadequate funding and politics. We need better routes that get across town (and not just easy routes to downtown), faster forms of mass transit, and ways to encourage ridership. But until we really invest in transportation we will be stuck in the past and only hurt those who truly rely on VIA.

My good friend Rey Saldaña (former councilman and VIA board chair) rode the VIA bus for one month to learn how to improve our system. His advocacy challenges each of us to engage our community and help improve how we all move around our town so we can stay connected. As mentioned in the 2012 post, Rosa Parks teaches us that public transportation can be a vital indicator of equity and equality and is a vital resource for any community.

What can we do to make public transportation improve in San Antonio? Would love to know your opinions.

Here is the original blog from 2012:

Happy Leap Day!  I so want to meet someone born on this day…if you were…Happy Birthday!  (None of my friends…not even facebook friends…were born on this day.)

Well…It’s been 1 full week.  Crazy.

The journey is beginning to become a reality.  I am meeting very interesting people who have befriended me and my situation of homelessness.  (Their stories will be posted later this week.)  I am now getting used to going to sleep at 9:30pm and getting up around 6am.  I know that’s not unusual for many people…but it’s much different when you are outside.  You can’t get on your computer, watch TV, drive a car, etc.  You have a lot of time to kill…just waiting…and at best talk to a friend, read a book, or if your really lucky, listen to music.   My back is starting to hurt from the ground…and my legs are getting tired of walking all around the city.

I now have a VIA bus pass and not just day tickets.  It’s good for 30 days.  The VIA Metropolitan Transit is the City of San Antonio’s public transportation system mainly consisting of buses and trolleys.  For the size of our city, it has one of the largest route systems in the nation and the second largest in Texas.  About 36 million trips are made on VIA every year.

36 million trips full of people needing to get to work, the grocery store, doctors office, or a friend’s house.  I assume many of the people who ride VIA don’t have a personal car or have limited use of a car.  Because in Texas, the car is like the horse was back in the 19th century.  Everyone needs their own horse to ride.  If you don’t…your not a real cowboy and will have a hard time getting somewhere important.  San Antonio is not like Boston, New York, Washington DC, or Chicago where you can live easily without a car.  Here things are spread out and very difficult to get to from a specific location.

Public buses seem unimportant and outdated in today’s society.  However, public transportation has played a huge part in American history and still offers great support to those with limited freedom and lack of transportation.

The bus I ride to work every morning has a seat dedicated to Rosa Parks, a civil rights pioneer who made her mark in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat because she was a colored women.  Apart from being a women of strong conviction, Rosa was also a women of deep Christian faith.

She did not start out as a loud civil rights leader.  Quite the opposite.  Growing up she was very simple yet consistent.   Usually alone with few real friends, Rosa learned to find comfort in Christian hymns such as “Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Jesus” and “Oh, Freedom, Let it Ring,” which she learned from her mother as a small child.  “Faith in God was never the question for Rosa Parks; it was the answer.”  Rosa fought against the notion, made popular by social critic James Baldwin, that “to be black in America is to live in a constant stage of rage.”  It was the teachings of Jesus Christ that truly formed her social ethic, very similar to Martin Luther King, Jr., “that a heart filled with love could conquer anything, even bigotry.”  “God is everything to me” Parks would often remark.   “I remember finding such comfort and peace while reading the Bible,” Parks averred. “Its teaching became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems.” She did, however, support that her nonviolent disposition was not an excuse to be passive and not active in protest.  “From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for rights,” she recalled, “just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh.”

Rosa is a hero of mine.  I need to be more active for the simple acts of social justice…not just the loud and obvious issues.  Like issues found on the local city bus.

(Riding public transportation always reminds me of my friend, Derek Webb, and his song, “Bus Driver” as a member of the band Caedmon’s Call.  Something about the way the driver’s act always make me smile.  Enjoy.)

A Conversation with COPS/Metro and SA Community Leaders

This week we will have a conversation with COPS/Metro, SA Clergy, and San Antonio District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia, PhD about the upcoming city ballot, Proposition B and how local parishes can get involved with local government and the issues directly effecting local communities.Pub Theology San Antonio is a dialogue group that discusses faith, our community and creating the common good. Bekah Stolhandske McNeel hosting. About our guests:COPS/Metro is a coalition of congregations, schools, and unions coming together so that we can effectively act on behalf of families. COPS/Metro works within each of these institutions to identify a diverse, broad-based leadership that can connect to each other in new ways in order to act effectively on behalf of children, families, and neighborhoods. By learning to work together for the public good, COPS/Metro leaders are able to work with the business community and elected officials to make San Antonio a better place for families.As important as the issues that COPS/Metro address are, the relationships that leaders develop and foster within their institutions and among leaders from the racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse institutions that comprise these organizations are the foundation of broad-based community organizing.