Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The VIA Express

Well, lucky me, I'm on jury duty, but it has given me the chance to try out the new VIA Express bus.  The first day I rode it, I barely made it.  I drove over to the Park & Ride at 1604 and IH 10 and there were two buses sitting at the stop, but as I got out of the car one of them (the 94) drove off, so I rushed over and jumped on the 93.  Both of these routes are express, but the 93 also stops at the Crossroads Center, while the 94 goes straight downtown.  There were about four other passengers on the 6:50am bus.  Check the VIA bus schedules for info on bus stops and travel times.  Click on the Adobe reader icons for the actual schedules.

While riding, I struck up a conversation with a regular rider.  She works for the county and rides the bus everyday from the Crossroads stop.  She told me that the Express is very popular with people selected for jury duty.  She said sometimes the bus is packed with jurors.  The day I rode, I was probably the only one, and the bus wasn't full.  It's pretty cool because they actually send you two free tickets (there and back) along with the jury summons.  Since I used the ticket the bus driver knew I was going to the justice center, and when we arrived at the center at about 7:12-7:15am (the bus stops directly in front of it) he announced which doors to enter and that the main jury room was in the basement.  So the ride to the Justice Center was extremely easy.  I took the 6:50am bus, because the next bus at 7:20am was not scheduled to arrive at the Justice Center until 7:47am, and I didn't want to chance it because I was supposed to be there at 8:00am.  Bus Schedules are not always on time because of traffic and that's when traffic is usually at its peak.

I got put on a panel for a judge who was determined to pick a jury that day so that the case could be concluded before the holidays, so he kept us until 6:30pm.  Luckily the Express for IH 10 runs until 10:00pm but if you are riding the 281 express, it only runs until 7:00pm. The other Express routes are route 6 for the 281 corridor to downtown, route 16 to Fort Sam Houston, route 48, the IH 35 South Express, and route 64, the Hwy 90 Express.  If you just want to do some sightseeing check out the Sightseer Special, route 7 which travels from the Botanical Garden to La Villita and back, with stops at the Witte, the Zoo/Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Alamo.

So it was after dark when I walked out to the bus stop.  The nearest stop is a little creepy.  It's in front of the Payless Shoe store at Commerce and Soledad across from the newly refurbished Main Plaza.  Definitely be ready for some local characters, homeless people with shopping carts who talk to themselves, young women in very skimpy outfits with spiky high heels, some young men who probably are regularly refered to as Ese, and I think even a willowy transvestite.  The 94 bus came exactly at 7:10pm as scheduled, and I have to admit, I was a bit relieved.    The bus brought me back to the Park & Ride at about 7:25pm.

Well, I was lucky enough to be picked for a jury, so I'll be at the Justice Center every day for awhile.  Everyday a juror can go down to the main jury room and pick up a set of free bus tickets for the next day.  Since we got out so late, the office was closed, so I decided to drive the next day and park in the County Parking lot across from the Justice Center.  With a validated ticket, you can park there for $2.00 a day, but beware, there is no in and out, so if you move your car, you will have to pay more, and there is no guarentee that there will be any spaces left, because the garage fills up by 8:00am.  One of my fellow jurors arrived at 7:45am and had to park elsewhere.  So if you get picked for a jury and you don't have to be there at the crack of dawn, you might want to consider the Express Bus.  I don't have to be there until 9:30am today, so I'm definetely taking the bus!

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