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Vía Streetcar Meeting Reveals Expectations And Concerns For Project

Eileen Pace
TPR News

More than 100 community members turned out at Sunset Station last night to talk about the city’s proposed streetcar system. The meeting was an effort to begin a two-way dialog between Vía Metropolitan Transit and people who would use and pay for mass transit.

Guests at the meeting gathered around tables with street maps and placed 6-inch lengths of track along downtown thoroughfares where they would like to see streetcars.

Some placed the tracks from downtown to the colleges - UTSA, SAC and St. Phillips - but others wanted quick transport to The Pearl and up Broadway, or to Southtown and the Missions.

Project consultant Rick Pilgram said that after Vía gathers this kind of information there are still more steps before construction could begin.

"My timeline said four years, and there were people here this evening that are concerned - we don't know enough detail, do we really want to do this? - and that is why we take this year to figure out where people think it ought to go and then we'll figure out how much construction work we have to do and [then] how much will it cost," said Pilgram.

Before any decisions are made, the impact on the environment must be looked at, and other factors: the streetcars’ relationship to underground utilities, existing parking lots, cross streets, access to alley ways and bicycle lanes.

Daniel Day, a cyclist, welcomes streetcars as part of a long-term plan to improve San Antonio transportation inside and outside the Loop.

"The people who are leaving San Antonio, they are the ones who don't want to own a car, and San Antonio forces its citizens to own cars," said Day.

Some who attended the meeting were concerned about protecting parks, especially Hemisfair, and some were disturbed that there was no mention of cost. Pilgram said more information is needed to assess the cost, but referenced a system under construction in Tuscon, Ariz., saying that a comparable system here would cost about $20 million per mile of track.