San Antonio Abandons Streetcar Plans. What’s Next?

While Tucson’s new downtown streetcar system enjoyed a successful debut weekend with an estimated 60,000 trips, San Antonio was busy scuttling its streetcar plans.

Click to enlarge. Image: VIA Metro Transit

These streetcar routes won’t be built. Click to enlarge. Map: VIA Metro Transit

Proponents viewed the 5.9-mile, $280 million streetcar project as an economic development tool, with a projected $1.8 billion impact on downtown. The Texas Department of Transportation and San Antonio transit agency VIA had each contributed $92 million. The city was planning to add another $32 million.

But yesterday Mayor Ivy Taylor announced that the city will “pause” the project, effectively killing plans to break ground next fall. The San Antonio Express-News reports:

“The time is right to fold VIA’s plan into the city’s transportation plan and move forward with a transportation initiative that works for the entire community,” Taylor said. “The city of San Antonio is asking VIA to pause the current streetcar plan and work with the city, the county and the entire community to develop a new comprehensive multimodal transportation plan.”

It’s not clear what the “multimodal transportation plan” will include, or even whether the streetcar funds will still go toward transit.

Streetcar opponents had been organizing to force the issue to a vote, gathering more than the 20,000 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot. The decision to halt the streetcar seems to have emboldened a local group that wants to repurpose the streetcar money to instead expand a local highway without instituting tolls.

Former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro was one of the streetcar’s biggest supporters. He was recently appointed by President Obama to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development.