21 Aug 2011, 9:13pm
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Comments Off on San Antonio rail controversy gets ugly

San Antonio rail controversy gets ugly

VIA_streetcar_image
Arguing about light rail is rich with possibilities.

And it’s so easy to¬†galvanize¬†issues: Do we spend¬†hard-earned taxes¬†on¬†transit or roads? Do we¬†revive¬†downtown cores or unclog¬†asphalt arteries to suburbs? What neighborhoods should get the¬†coveted rails or lanes?

The right strategic mix is the sane solution, but agreeing on the right blend can drive decision-makers batty. To wit, the 2000 light-rail election in which VIA Metropolitan Transit was buried first by critics and then by voters. The 2-to-1 defeat silenced local rail advocates for almost a decade. 

But now VIA’s latest rail¬†plan ‚Ästa $180 million project to build a 2.7-mile east-west streetcar line through downtown as well as construct two major transit centers and two suburban bus park-and-rides ‚Äď seems to be careening around the¬†same¬†pitfalls.¬†

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3 Mar 2010, 11:22pm
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Comments Off on Streetcar dreams: Now it’s time to talk money

Streetcar dreams: Now it’s time to talk money

Streetcar from VIA Metropolitan Transit report (looks like it's in Portland).

Streetcar from VIA Metropolitan Transit report (looks like it's in Portland).

After starting the fiscal year by shaving $19 million in spending, including 330 jobs, the city is now being asked to kick in $17 million to build a two-mile streetcar line.

That’s just part of the bill to buy streetcars and lay rails along Broadway and South Alamo Street by 2014. The county, VIA Metropolitan Transit and the federal government¬†could also pony up to help pay what would be an estimated $90 million.

City Council heard the pitch this afternoon.

“If there was any sticker shock … council members mostly kept it to themselves,” the Express-News wrote.

The city hasn’t made any commitments, at least not¬†yet.

At $45 million a mile, the price tag is quite a bit cheaper than, say, turning U.S. 281 out by Stone Oak into a superhighway, or, I should say, tollway.

Ah, but already I’m talking apples and oranges. This quaint two-mile rail line wouldn’t be a wide commuter route helping connect¬†San Antonio’s core¬†to its fringes.

Nope, unlike U.S. 281’s role as an artery for sprawl, the rail line, if done well, would be a magnet for compact living, working and playing. The idea is to drive some growth to the inner city, by creating¬†a place where people would¬†gladly leave their cars behind more often. Tourists would love it too.

Nonetheless, critics and proponents will duke it out with such comparisons. And with so many angles on varying¬†public and private costs, some visible and some not so visible, expect a debate that’s about as clear as mud.

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