Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Petition demands San Antonio streetcar vote

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Petition demands San Antonio streetcar vote VIA Metropolitan Transit

The latest challenge to a proposed streetcar system for San Antonio comes with the filing of a petition which, if passing muster, will mandate a vote on the project this November.

The Streetcar Vote Coalition said Monday, July 7, 2014 it has collected more than 25,000 signatures from city residents, according to local media. The petition seeks to change the city charter to require San Antonio votes approve any rail-related project, anti-rail partisans say.

"[VIA Metropolitan Transit] is using $92 million of money that was supposed to be spent on road expansion to build the streetcar," coalition member Jeff Judson told local media. "All of the roads that are getting congested out in the suburbs are now going to become more congested."

The coalition has the support of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, and of State Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio who, perhaps highlighting the city-versus-suburb schism overlaying rail transit in many U.S. cities, claimed "90% of people in Bexar County are opposed to it. All the polling shows that its universally disliked. They want roads built they want additional capacity. They don't want the streetcar."

Larson also has threatened to file a bill prohibiting the Texas Department of Transportation from funding any streetcar projects throughout Texas, which he claims would be retroactive and include VIA's streetcar project.

Last month San Antonio City Attorney Robbie Greenblum issued a memo noting VIA Metropolitan Transit is not required to obtain permission from the city to advance streetcar development along city rights-of-way.

Countering the wave of anti-rail sentiment, the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce on July 7 passed a resolution endorsing the current plan, citing its ability to foster economic development.

VIA Metropolitan Transit hopes to begin construction on the first portion of a two-route streetcar system in 2015, with service commencing sometime in 2017.

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