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San Antonio - June 2013

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San Antonio — Six Routes Considered

June 2013

MySanAntonio.com reports that the VIA transit agency is considering six different potential routes for their planned streetcar system. One alternative route is shown below:

Alternative 1

The above route would total between 4 and 4.4 miles could likely be built for the funding available from state and local sources.

The longest of the proposed alternatives would cost $272 million, $62 million more than available funding. The agency will review the ridership, cost, and environmental impact of each alternattive.

More expensive route alternatives would require phasing the project or seeking Federal funding. The $210 million allocated from local sources could help in securing Federal dollars as few cities are fortunate enough to have such high funding available.

All the potential routes reportedly offer good economic development potential. Other factors considered in the evaluation of routes will include impact on historical sites, number of bridges crossed, amount of utility relocation required, and any environmental impacts.

Routes and System Debated

A streetcar informational forum hosted by VIA Metropolitan Transit to showcase possible alignments for a streetcar system in San Antonio drew backers and critics on the evening of June 13, the San Antonio Express-News reports. There are six route options costing up to $272 million. VIA has only $210 to spend on the streetcar project. A route decision is expected June 25. A formal public hearing was held on June 17. Backers among the 80 attendees seemed to favor Alternative #5. Opponents passed out leaflets outside of the meeting.

At the public forum, intended to discuss the route options, most discussion focused on debating the pros and cons of a streetcar system, regardless of the routing. Supporters and opponents were present in about equal number at the forum.

According to mysantonio.com, some supporters envisioned becoming the next Portland, while opponents said San Antonio is is a very different city and that VIA should focus on improving its bus system. Twenty-nine people signed up to speak, addressing nine VIA board members and VIA interim President and CEO Jeffrey Arndt. VIA officials didn't offer any remarks but will post the agency's responses within 30 days.

Generally, those against the project strongly opposed it, questioning the high cost and the value of a system only between 4 and 5.7 miles in length, and estimated to have 4,600 boardings a day. The streetcars will travel in mixed traffic, so will not be able to travel much faster than other vehicles.
San Antonio is the only one of the four largest Texas cities without an urban rail system. Voters here soundly defeated a sales tax increase to pay for a light rail line in 2000, a fact brought up several times at the forum. Though streetcars cost less than light rail, the capital cost is still high.

Others argued that the real motivation for the streetcars is the economic development they help foster. Developers who share this opinion were cited by supporters.


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