One of the reasons San Antonio currently lacks a sufficient range of transportation options is that, even as recently as 2010, the transportation system operated at an acceptable level of service (LOS); congestion was really not a problem in our city. Level of service is a measure of delay and congestion on roadways and at intersections. It is reported by a letter grade of A through F, with A representing the ideal condition with very little delay and congestion present, and F representing over-capacity conditions with substantial delay and congestion. Although the city’s road network generally operated at an acceptable LOS in 2010, by 2013 it was ranked 43rd in the country for worst traffic congestion according to TomTom’s annual Traffic Index report. It had an overall congestion level of 15% (8% on highways and 22% on non-highways), compared to a 21% congestion rate in Houston and Austin and the 16% congestion rate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. With an addition of 1.1 million people by year 2040 we will continue to see dramatic increases in demand on the transportation system.

With vehicle miles travelled (VMT) increasing due to this continued growth, the levels of congestion will worsen. The City expects the largest increases in population on the far-west side, downtown and the far-north side areas. The north side of the city will be congested by 2040. All major roads on the north and west sides of the City outside of Loop 410 will be over capacity with the exception of Wurzbach Parkway. The south side will experience significant congestion as well, with most major north-south roads operating at LOS F. The inner east and southwest sides are the only areas of the city that will have available capacity on the road network. Based on the AAMPO travel demand model results, congestion will result in a decrease in average speed (about 48%), meaning it will take twice as long to travel the same distance on the same roadway in year 2040 compared to year 2010. Total vehicle hours of delay will also increase by over 900% from 2010 to 2040.

We’ll need to use a wide range of tactics to manage and mitigate this future congestion. The expansion of multimodal and transit options described earlier in this chapter is one important approach. However, many of us will continue to drive, and we must explore innovative technologies and programs that will work in concert to manage and minimize the impacts of congestion on our roadways. The Multimodal Transportation Plan details a wide range of possible technologies and strategies. For example, Transportation Demand Management tools will help to reduce average VMT per person and shift roadway demand away from peak hours. The City should work with VIA to implement technologies that improve transit performance and reliability, especially on priority corridors. In addition, the City and VIA should test and implement a suite of roadway pricing and accessibility options such as managed lanes, high occupancy vehicle (HOV)/high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and ramp metering to create the most efficient roadway system possible.

How do we get around?

Our city’s dependency on automobiles and the resulting congestion produces many negative impacts on our community’s economy, environment and overall health and wellness.

80% of San Antonians who drive alone to get to work as of 2013
22.4vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by San Antonians in 2013
18.7SA2020’s VMT goal for our city
$453million predicted economic savings if residents reduce their daily VMT by 1 mile

For more information on what we are doing to address this challenge, refer to the San Antonio Sustainability Plan; SA Tomorrow Multimodal Transportation Plan; and VIAVision 2040 Plan.