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San Antonio moves forward on streetcars

Last month, the city of San Antonio announced it would form a citizens advisory committee to help guide the creation of a starter streetcar system. It has now done so.

The commission’s prime task will be to advise VIA’s board of trustees whether or not to move forward with a streetcar project. It will also study how the project would impact the community, [VIA Metropolitan Transit board Chairman Henry] Muñoz said.

The group will look at potential funding sources and quality-of-life issues. Its work will also help finalize a streetcar feasibility study, which is due later this year and was jointed funded by VIA and the Downtown Alliance, a group of center-city property owners.

Appointing the commission is the right next step in determining the feasibility of rail in San Antonio because it will couple the technical expertise of engineering consultants with the viewpoints of stakeholders, Muñoz said.

“I think it is an incredibly diverse group that represents the kinds of perspectives that a community like ours needs to look at on a project of this importance,” he said.

I’ll be very interested to see what they come up with. Something that runs along Broadway into downtown, which would serve Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo, and potentially both Trinity and Incarnate Word Universities, could do very well. Maybe on the downtown end it could also serve the AT&T Center and/or the Alamodome, I don’t know. Hopefully the commission will take all of that into account. San Antonio is a tourist town, and its downtown gets a lot of visitors, so a decent system could be a real boon for that industry.

They’ll get support from the Mayor as well.

“It’s time for San Antonio to make a significant investment in mass transit,” [Mayor Julián Castro] said. “The details of that need public input and planning, but there’s a resolve not just to plan but to act.”

Though details on funding sources are scant, the mayor signaled that the city needs to position itself to receive whatever federal funds might become available.

“I think that’s particularly true now that you have the Obama administration now focused on infusing cities with stimulus dollars for transit, particularly transit that is linked to development,” he said. “San Antonio right now is a non-starter on that issue, and we could remake the urban core of the city by investing in mass transit.”

Castro’s remarks on Wednesday were his strongest and most pointed yet, that rail must connect the city center to its outer areas — and spur economic development along the way.

I think he’s right that there’s no better time than now for San Antonio to take this on. I wish him best of luck in getting it done.

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2 Comments

  1. UrbanInfill says:

    from mySA.com
    “VIA Metropolitan Transit’s trustees on Tuesday approved the routes for a streetcar system and directed agency staff to seek a $25 million grant to help fund an initial segment.

    VIA plans to submit an application to the Federal Transit Administration by Feb. 8 seeking the funding for a 2.2-mile, north-south route that largely would run along Broadway and South Alamo Street, from Josephine Street to South St. Mary’s Street. Officials currently expect that segment to cost roughly $90 million.

    The board also approved an east-west route that ultimately could connect the AT&T Center to Our Lady of the Lake University, traversing downtown along East Nueva.

    Mayor Julián Castro and County Judge Nelson Wolff told the VIA board that the city and county are ready to be full partners in the development of the system and committed to help bridge a funding gap. The grant would require at least 20 percent in local matching funds.”

    Looks like another step forward.

  2. […] blogging here and here; my thanks to commenter UrbanInfill in the latter post for pointing this out to me. It’s […]