Anyway, back to the future. You can get some idea of the excitement over streetcars in the U.S. alone just by assessing the number of Web article titles playing on the well-worn A Streetcar Named Desire name of Tennessee Williams's classic drama. I Googled "streetcar" "desire" "rail" "U.S." (with the quote marks, to restrict the search) and got some 376,000 hits. Wow.
One of the current hotspots of streetcar ... well, desire, is ... San Antonio, Tex. The intensity of the desire seems to have increased since Keith Parker migrated there, as CEO of the transit agency VIA, from his former haunts as CEO of Charlotte's agency, CATS. Since opening in 2007, Charlotte's Lynx light rail system has been pulling in ridership (just over 15,000 per weekday by the most recent report), well above what was forecast.
For several years, San Antonio's interest in the streetcar mode as a way to take the plunge into rail transit has been intensifying, led by top officials and civic leaders like Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Julián Castro. This past fall (2011), the mayor together with a local councilman pushed the proposal forward by laying an ambitious streetcar starter line plan on the public table.
Initially the plan proposed an L-shaped route mainly serving the the Alamo City's central business district (CBD). But in November, VIA, together with the city and county, managed to pull together enough funds to finance two routes — a north-south line and an east-west line — even without federal assistance. The capital investment cost of that starter system is estimated to run roughly $190 million.
While the exact route plan still seems to be in flux, it looks like each route would start with about two or three miles. An eventual more extensive system could involve about 18 miles (30 km) of route.
The recent evolution of San Antonio's streetcar plans can be reviewed in several Railway Age articles from last year:
• San Antonio streetcar (re)endorsed, Friday, September 23, 2011
• San Antonio officials commit to streetcar plan, Friday, October 21, 2011
• VIA (San Antonio) OKs local streetcar funding, Friday, November 18, 2011
I've also posted a more recent story, with more details on corridors and activity points served, on the HubPages E-zine:
And Light Rail Now has lots of background information on the evolution of rail plans in the Alamo City:
There'll be more on this story to come — San Antonio's streetcar proposal is quickly moving to the front burner.