Solving San Antonio’s transportation needs before the city receives one million more residents by 2040 is the goal of ConnectSA, a non-profit created by the county and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
ConnectSA wants to start 25 transportation initiatives by 2025, ranging from bus rapid transit with dedicated lanes, new lanes for bikes and electric scooters, and adaptive traffic signal timing.
Nirenberg says the framework is the first step to a multi-modal transportation system that’s future-proof “that doesn’t go pie in the sky, that doesn’t show us options that we simply can’t afford but gives us realistic options to keep our transportation system moving and more efficient, especially as we add more people to our system,” he said.
The draft plan is divided up into smart initiatives, expanding the city’s transportation network choices, and improving transportation flow.
Smart initiatives include a mobile app riders can use to pay for all transportation fares and fees, and autonomous vehicle pilot programs.
Transportation network choices include constructing an “advanced rapid transit corridor” that goes from the city’s South Side to the north, "which will run from Loop 410 on the south through Southtown up to the downtown, on northward to the airport and beyond that to (Loop) 1604,” said former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, who is one of the chairs of ConnectSA.
“So, a long north-south access that would unite the city with access to important spots along the way," he said.
Improving transportation flow includes constructing new lane miles in congested areas and allowing bus passengers to pay for their fair on the street before boarding a bus. The framework also includes plans going past 2025 into 2040.
Cisneros said the plan calls for no projects that include rail systems or toll roads.
“San Antonians have had the opportunity to vote on rail before and have defeated it or expressed their opposition in ways that required rail to be pulled off the ballot so there’s not a great amount of support out there for San Antonio to put in place a rail system,” Cisneros said.
In 2014, the city and VIA metropolitan transit were exploring a potential light rail and streetcar system north of downtown that would go into the city. However, the city and county ultimately pulled from the project.
A city charter amendment requiring all future rail projects to be voter-approved passed the May 2015 election.
The ConnectSA plan uses existing transportation funding to examine new funding sources. That could mean using up to 50 percent of future city bonds projects on transportation or re-allocating existing sales taxes.
The plan is only a draft and will need feedback from the public. Public input is expected to start in the next few months.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules