Streetcar musings, 31.7.14

So, it looks like the signature drive for the petition to put the streetcar project in San Antonio to a vote was wildly successful:

In a Wednesday memo obtained by the Express-News, City Clerk Leticia Vacek informed City Attorney Robbie Greenblum that she sought a legal opinion from the Texas Secretary of State’s office regarding the nearly 27,000 signatures collected by the Streetcar Vote Coalition.

That was some 7,000 signatures more than the coalition needed. In other words, they beat their goal by almost 35 percent. I don’t know how long it took them all to do that, but it’s pretty significant. No doubt County Judge Nelson Wolff saw that and translated it as 27,000 people that weren’t going to be voting for him in the next election.

Meanwhile, over on the editorial page, here’s how the Express-News is spinning the whole deal:

Leadership void derails streetcar…

That City Council, VIA Metropolitan Transit, former Mayor Julián Castro, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and business leaders couldn’t sell this vision is troubling.

It undercuts their ability to sell any vision for this community — and portends a leadership void that could haunt the city, in particular, for years.

Well, when what you’re selling doesn’t have any real advantages to offset its myriad disadvantages, it does make your product that much more difficult to sell. Look at what Nelson Wolff himself was saying six months ago: “But every city our size has them.” That was pretty much the streetcar boosters’ argument right there. Well, that and, “we need a multimodal mass transit system” and “we need to get all the buses out of downtown.”

That last thing, as I’ve said before, was just a smokescreen. I rode the bus through downtown going to work Monday through Friday for the last couple of years, on several routes, among them the 2 (which runs down Blanco and Fredericksburg into downtown via Flores and St. Mary’s), the 3 and 4 (both running down San Pedro), the 97 (which comes into downtown via Fredericksburg, Cypress, and St. Mary’s), and the 34 (which comes back up Navarro from St. Mary’s on the south side and keeps going as the 2 outbound up Navarro, Martin, Flores, and Fredericksburg Road). Yes, there were buses downtown, as befits the center of a major city with mass transit. But the way the streetcar boosters talked, you’d think the buses were choking the streets and choking the life right out of downtown, and that was just not the case.

And as I’ve freely admitted before, a multimodal transit system is a good, desirable thing — but, again, what happens when you have the low ridership on the streetcars that would justify a route change if that ridership was on a bus? Well, that’s just tough shit, isn’t it? And we haven’t even gotten to things like what That Guy talks about here:

“We have a light rail that goes from where very few people live to where very few people work. But it does snarl traffic when it crosses the surface streets that people use to avoid the freeways!”

Maybe you could argue that the whole streetcar thing was a failure of leadership. But to the extent it was, it’s due to the fact that the city leadership was trying to sell San Antonio citizens a questionable bill of goods.

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4 Responses to “Streetcar musings, 31.7.14”

  1. stainles Says:

    “But every city our size has them.”

    Lyle Lanley! Lyle Lanley to the white courtesy phone, please!

  2. That Guy Says:

    Stainles- whenever someone in Austin says that, I reply with “Yeah, and they also have at least ONE East-West corridor, and more than two bridges crossing the river right in the middle of the city!”

    Ya’ll in San Antonio need to kill this so that the morons in Austin don’t have more ammunition to try and shove choo-choo trains down our throat. It even got to the point that these idiots tied a vote for more lanes on I-35 to building a trolley in downtown (taking away some existing traffic lanes on the surface streets). So the people voted it down.

    What is with these ‘progressives’ and trains?

  3. southtexaspistolero Says:

    What is with these ‘progressives’ and trains?

    At the risk of Godwining myself, That Guy, think about that, really, really hard…

    And it does look to be dead, at least for now. It seems to be massively unpopular, at least if the ruckus the opponents are making are in proportion to their numbers. But it’s pretty telling that they go so many signatures on that petition.

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