VIA Metropolitan Transit has released a commissioned study showing a $1.3 billion economic impact along the routes of its proposed streetcar system. Those opposed to the street car system say the transit authority is paying for exactly what they want to hear.
The economic impact study commissioned by the SABÉR Institute at St. Mary’s University and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce predicts a multi-billion dollar return on investment over 25 years through VIA’s initial $280 million.
SABÉR Chief Economist Steve Niven, who conducted the study, said it was drawn off cities like Portland, Oregon.
“They’ve seen it be sort of a connective tissue between those areas, and they’ve seen areas that have had a hard time starting to develop, even though areas not to far from it were developing, start to grow,” Niven said.
The study estimates there will be about 8,500 new jobs and also predicts the streetcar will attract 7 million sq. ft. of new development that would generate $265 million in tax revenue. Construction of the system would create 4,080 jobs
VIA CEO Jeffery Ardnt said those numbers are conservative.
“These numbers are, in fact, half of the number of what would be generated that if you compared us to some of the successful cities that implemented street car," Ardnt said. "So we reduced the impacts by 50%.”
Opponents like Jeff Judson with the Streetcar Vote Coalition are skeptical. He said anything VIA can do with streetcars can do with busses for a fraction of the cost.
“We have economic development with no street and subsidies here in San Antonio. In Portland they had no development in a streetcar and the [surrounding] development didn’t start until they started subsidizing it,” Judson said.
The coalition said since the report only cites six downtown stakeholders it does not represent the interest of San Antonio citizens.