Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Antonio master plan eyes LRT, streetcars

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San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit has adopted a master plan that includes adding both light rail transit and streetcar operations to its existing bus network. VIA Metro Transit’s Board unanimously approved the plan Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

san_antonio_via_logo.jpgEntitled SmartWaySA, the plan envisions 39 miles of LRT and 3 miles of streetcar route, along with 57 miles of Bus Rapid Transit by 2035. Planners say Bexar County, Tex., could hold 2.15 million people by then. San Antonio is the county seat.

The plan claims that San Antonio is the largest city in the U.S. with a bus-only transit system. San Antonio currently ranks No. 7 among U.S. cities in population, and No. 25 among U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), which includes a city’s suburban surroundings.

“The first step in truly becoming a multimodal agency is developing a plan,” said VIA President and CEO Keith Parker.

Funding for such plan remains uncertain. VIA Board members Tuesday approved a list of federal grants the agency will pursue, including the competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER III, grant. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff also has proposed setting aside the county Advanced Transportation District funds for streetcars. VIA leadership plans to discuss funding options with city staff and the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Realistically, if San Antonio wants to see a multimodal system, it will require partnerships from the transit system and the other local governments,” Parker said.

Earlier this month VIA Metropolitan Transit hired HNTB Corp. as a program manager to assist with plans for implementing rail transit in San Antonio.

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