On September 2010, Mayor Julián Castro announced the SA2020 initiative, an ambitious plan to transform San Antonio into a world class city while holding on to the qualities that makes our city special. SA2020 lays out a set of guiding visions in the areas of arts and culture, health and fitness, education, downtown development, economic competitiveness, and transportation, among other areas. The goal is to revitalize the city in which we live by improving the well-being of its citizens and strengthening San Antonio's position in the global marketplace.
Transforming San Antonio's public transportation infrastructure is an integral part of the SA2020 plan. The vision is for San Antonio to have a public transportation system that is recognized as a model for efficiency and environmental sustainability. The goal is to significantly reduce traffic congestion on San Antonio roads and to triple public transportation ridership by the year 2020.
VIA Metropolitan Transit, working with the San Antonio-Bexar Country Metropolitan Planning Organization, has taken a multi-modal approach to improving San Antonio’s public transportation infrastructure, and rail is an integral component. The plan calls for an electric-powered streetcar route from the Alamodome to Pearl, a bus rapid transit system along the Fredericksburg Road corridor, and a train route linking San Antonio to Austin, among other future improvements, including a light rail system.
But is San Antonio ready to make the move from road to rail? The city is currently one of the largest metropolitan areas without some sort of rail system. But what are the economic benefits of rail? And is VIA’s plan for rail right for San Antonio? Proponents claim a comprehensive rail system will increase ridership, reduce traffic congestion and spur urban development. But critics charge that rail won’t change San Antonio’s stubborn transportation habits. They say commuters won’t abandon their cars and that a rail system will be a massive waste of taxpayer funds.
Texas Public Radio presented a forum in our KSTX Town Hall series to examine VIA’s rail plans and how they may impact San Antonio. Texas Public Radio News Director David Martin Davies moderated a solutions-based conversation between the community and a panel comprising both proponents and critics of the rail plan. The conversation took place on Tuesday, November 15 at Pearl Studio.
The KSTX Town Hall: Road to Rail is a community initiative of Texas Public Radio and is sponsored by WebHead.