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.

  • Guest

    Argh – yet another version of the proposed downtown streetcar route
    published here . . . with no scale to alert readers / viewers to the limited area
    that would have been served (1mi radius) or the numerous stops planned
    (more than 15) for the projected $280m system.

    The map also fails to highlight the existing rail right-of-ways that more or lessencircle the downtown area and could connect the main sports arena (2 miles east), the airport (6 miles north) and numerous other key sites with
    downtown.

    The proposed streetcar route was a component of VIA’s 2011 long-range plan for 29 miles of (major) road-based light rail – which appears to ignore existing and more direct rail right-of-ways (and established rail / traffic crossing points) as well as less busy alternate surface streets.

    Approximately $17.2m was reportedly spent by VIA in staff time and meetings for the now shelved downtown streetcar plan. In Quebec in 2008, $12.2m launched an eight electric mini-bus program that is now in its 6th year of operation and which serves more than half of the projected annual ridership of San Antonio’s proposed streetcar project across a similar service area.

    Perhaps a commitment to trackless electric public transport (and distributed
    solar power generation) three years ago or smore could have lured the Tesla gigafactory to San Antonio (and away from Reno)?

    Regardless, at least San Antonio now has the opportunity to improve sidewalks and waiting facilities across the public transport system with the remaining funds. There’s also the chance to take over the downtown riverboat lease (expiring in October 2015) to make this a viable form of public transport. . . along with adding (for now) an airport BRT and expanding and converting to electric the existing downtown trolley system.

  • Guest

    Argh – yet another version of the proposed downtown streetcar route
    published here . . . with no scale to alert readers / viewers to the limited area
    that would have been served (1mi radius) or the numerous stops planned
    (more than 15) for the projected $280m system.

    The map also fails to highlight the existing rail right-of-ways that more
    or less encircle the downtown area and could connect the main sports
    arena (2 miles east), the airport (6 miles north) and numerous other
    key sites with downtown.

    The proposed streetcar route was a component of VIA’s 2011 long-range plan for 29 miles of (major) road-based light rail – which appears to ignore existing and more direct rail right-of-ways (and established rail / traffic crossing points) as well as less busy alternate surface streets.

    Approximately $17.2m was reportedly spent by VIA in staff time and meetings for the now shelved downtown streetcar plan. In Quebec in 2008, $12.2m launched an eight electric mini-bus program that is now in its 6th year of operation and which serves more than half of the projected annual ridership of San Antonio’s proposed streetcar project across a similar service area.

    Perhaps a commitment to trackless electric public transport (and distributed
    solar power generation) three years ago or smore could have lured the Tesla gigafactory to San Antonio (and away from Reno)?

    Regardless, at least San Antonio now has the opportunity to improve sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and waiting facilities across the public transport system with the remaining funds. There’s also the chance to take over the downtown riverboat lease (expiring in October 2015) to make this a
    viable form of public transport. . . along with adding (for now) an airport BRT and expanding and converting to electric the existing downtown trolley system.

  • Guest

    Argh – yet another version of the proposed downtown streetcar route
    published here . . . with no scale to alert readers / viewers to the limited area
    that would have been served (1mi radius) or the numerous stops planned
    (more than 15) for the projected $280m system.

    The map also fails to highlight the existing rail right-of-ways that more or less encircle the downtown area and could connect the main sports arena (2 miles east), the airport (6 miles north) and numerous other key sites with downtown.

    The proposed streetcar route was a component of VIA’s 2011 long-range plan
    for 29 miles of (major) road-based light rail – which appears to ignore existing and more direct rail right-of-ways (and established rail / traffic crossing points) as well as less busy alternate surface streets.

    Approximately $17.2m was reportedly spent by VIA in staff time and meetings for the now shelved downtown streetcar plan. In Quebec in 2008, $12.2m launchedan eight electric mini-bus program that is now in its 6th year of operation and which serves more than half of the projected annual ridership of San Antonio’s proposed streetcar project across a similar service area.

    Perhaps a commitment to trackless electric public transport (and distributed
    solar power generation) three years ago or more could have lured the Tesla gigafactory to San Antonio (and away from Reno)?

    Regardless, at least San Antonio now has the opportunity to improve sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and waiting facilities across the public transport system with the remaining funds. There’s also the chance to take over the downtown riverboat lease (expiring in October 2015) to make this a
    viable form of public transport. . . along with adding (for now) an airport BRT and expanding and converting to electric the existing downtown trolley system.

  • tirpakma

    Argh – yet another version of the proposed downtown streetcar route published here . . . with no scale to alert readers / viewers to the limited area
    that would have been served (1mi radius) or the numerous stops planned
    (more than 15) for the projected $280m system.

    The map also fails to highlight the existing rail right-of-ways that more
    or less encircle the downtown area and could connect the main sports
    arena (2 miles east), the airport (6 miles north) and numerous other
    key sites with downtown.

    The proposed streetcar route was a component of VIA’s 2011 long-range plan
    for 29 miles of (major) road-based light rail – which appears to ignore existing and more direct rail right-of-ways (and established rail / traffic crossing points) as well as less busy alternate surface streets.

    Approximately $17.2m was reportedly spent by VIA in staff time and meetings for the now shelved downtown streetcar plan. In Quebec in 2008, $12.2m
    launched an eight electric mini-bus program that is now in its 6th year
    of operation and which serves more than half of the projected annual
    ridership of San Antonio’s proposed streetcar project across a similar service area.

    Perhaps a commitment to trackless electric public transport (and distributed
    solar power generation) three years ago or more could have lured the Tesla gigafactory to San Antonio (and away from Reno)?

    Regardless, at least San Antonio now has the opportunity to improve sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and waiting facilities across the public transport system with the remaining funds. There’s also the chance to take over the downtown riverboat lease (expiring in October 2015) to make this a
    viable form of public transport. . . along with adding (for now) an airport BRT and expanding and converting to electric the existing trackless downtown ‘trolley’/ minibus system.

  • Susan Wheeler-Deichsel

    Argh indeed tirpakma.