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The QueQue

The QueQue: Occupy San Anto! (sort of), Tar sands = human rights?, Castro redirects VIA streetcar plan

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas


Castro redirects VIA streetcar plan

VIA spent 2.5 years publicly vetting their long-range plan for streetcars and light rail and about two hours having it bulldozed by the San Antonio City Council. The message from Mayor Julián Castro at last week’s VIA presentation during the B Session of Council on Wednesday was three-fold: 1. VIA is not welcome to any of next year’s mammoth $596 million bond referendum; 2. any City funding will require City staff on the design table, along with “any other funding entities” (according to Assistant City Manager Pat DiGiovanni’s presentation); and 3. he already knows where that first streetcars should run. (VIA CEO Keith Parker’s complaint that VIA is “the most underfunded public transportation agency in the state, by a longshot” didn’t get any immediate sympathy from Council, either.)

Castro’s vision to feed Pearl Brewery Complex visitors through downtown to the AT&T Center seems to be informed by the bank accounts powering those front-end loaders suddenly tearing up abandoned lots all along lower Broaday this week. “If we could get this right, if we can nail it … that will propel us to invest in the rest of the plan,” he told Parker. Sounds like planned 2025 light rail just got an ultimatum.

What remains to be seen is if the Council’s elevation of economic returns from streetcar and rail is an improvement on 13 public meetings and the frequent gatherings of VIA’s Technical and Citizen’s advisory committees. VIA’s proposal was to have five miles of streetcar lines criss-crossing downtown by 2017 at a price tag of $164 million. Then there is the $1.5 billion, 20-mile east-west light rail crossing from the southern side of Ft. Sam Houston, past the AT&T Center, past UTSA’s downtown campus, and west past Our Lady of the Lake to a to-be-built Kelly-area transportation hub. Year of operation? 2023. (A second proposed line would run 15 miles from the International Airport into South San Antonio.)

Downtown Councilman Diego Bernal came out in support of Castro’s plan, saying that the “wheels will continue to turn eternally unless we put our foot down.” That the Pearl-AT&T Center alignment will return the area “‘Back to the Future,’ if you will” and it can “happen immediately.”

QueQue was sort of busted up about VIA’s gaping new orifice rent by Council. We sought to comfort them, sought commiseration, conversation. Our request of an interview (requested in writing by PR flak last week) has yet to materialize. We had been skeptical before, such fundamental failures suggest maybe VIA really does need someone in City Hall running things for them.

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