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Mayor Ivy Taylor Sees A Future Streetcar In San Antonio - With Public Approval

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

The city may be backing down from its streetcar support, but Mayor Ivy Taylor said she believes there could be room for discussion of a more comprehensive project that has public support.

During a one-on-one conversation with TPR Tuesday, she said politics notwithstanding, the community's voice is really what directed the council's decision on VIA's current proposed streetcar project.

"If there had been more community support, that could have helped to change the dialogue," said Taylor. "The fact that there weren't many people willing to speak loudly in favor of the project showed that there were still some concerns, even for those who wanted to see it move forward, I think they still had some concerns.

"We weighed the various options and paths that we could take, but at the end of the day we knew we had to show the public that we're listening because they spoke very loud and clear about the project," Taylor said.

Sitting in her new office on the first floor of city hall among an array of congratulatory flower bouquets, Taylor said she had a flurry of calls over the weekend with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. She just couldn't continue supporting something a lot of other people did not.

The question many people are asking is: Is the project dead?

"I don't like to use the word dead," the mayor said. "(Monday) I characterized it as pushing the pause button so I just think we're taking a step back. I hope they (VIA) can take a step back and examine the feedback that they've gotten from the public to determine how they can possibly create a path forward for a project that would achieve some of the same objectives. But may look a little different, or be more comprehensive and actually be in line with a framework that addresses the needs of more of the city."

"The fact that there weren't many people willing to speak loudly in favor of the project showed that there were still some concerns, even for those who wanted to see it move forward."

Taylor said at the end of the city council's executive session, all members agreed they needed to respect the voice of the people. There have been several members publicly in opposition to streetcar, like District 8's Ron Nirenberg. But others, like District 4's Rey Saldaña, voiced their support.

Taylor said the nearly 27,000 signatures from a coalition of streetcar opponents spoke loud and clear. She noted that the number of signatures "speaks volumes."

She still thinks a multi-modal plan is possible, and she revealed what she sees it as.

"In my mind, it looks like possibly having streetcar along with some other rail that would connect key employment centers or key areas of the city and also would be tied in with the major highway routes so maybe people could park and ride, that kind of thing," she said. "But that's just my initial first blush at it, and anything we do would have to garner the approval of the voters."

VIA hasn't commented yet, but the board will meet Thursday to talk about what's next. For Taylor, while conversations on police and fire health benefits continue, she hopes the city and unions can now get down to business.

A streetcar plan may also be a part of the city's future discussions, but Taylor hopes it'll be one that'll benefit more people and help solve a growing transportation concern.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.