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Groups Protest Streetcar As VIA Moves Forward On Evaluating Chosen Route

Eileen Pace
TPR News
Protesters use the Bexar County Courthouse as a backdrop to speak out against the proposed downtown streetcar system.

A grassroots coalition of protestors gathered in front of the Bexar County Courthouse Tuesday to voice opposition to VIA’s proposed downtown streetcar system.

Members of LULAC, the Tea Party and other organizations joined with numerous political candidates to protest the county’s pursuit of the downtown streetcar system after they said the voters have spoken against it. Light rail has been voted down here, but the streetcar has not been put to a vote.

Mike Knuffke of the San Antonio Family Association said he fears VIA will eliminate routes that are important to its base ridership in favor of funneling money to the streetcar program.

"We had a family come to us with five children and mister and misses and VIA is their only way of transportation," Knuffke said. "It takes him to work every day and helps the children get to school and these kinds of things."

“Nothing has been diminished. Nothing has been reduced,” said Charlie Gonzalez, chief of public engagement for VIA. He said no routes have been eliminated, and VIA understands that it must provide public transportation for people that don’t have an alternative. But he added that San Antonio lags behind every other major city in the U.S. in terms of a multi-modal transportation system.

“The federal government is not all that interested in continuing to supply funds for a rubber-tired, bus-only service transit provider," Gonzalez said. "They want you to start expanding and looking at rail. And that’s what we’re doing with the streetcar.”

Gonzalez said phase one of the streetcar plan is budgeted at $180 million. VIA is preparing an environmental assessment and plans a public meeting March 6 at Temple Beth-El.

Learn more about VIA's proposed streetcar project at: www.viasmartmove.com

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.