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San Antonio approves long term transit plan

The board of VIA Metropolitan Transit, the transit agency for San Antonio, has unanimously approved a long term roadmap that will bring rail construction to the city.

San Antonio is the largest city in the U.S. with a bus-only transit system, according to the plan. The city’s only previous electric streetcar system was discontinued in 1933.

The plan, SmartWaySA, was developed over two years and several series of public workshops. It envisions 39 miles of light-rail, 57 miles of bus rapid transit, and thee miles of streetcar by 2035. By then, Bexar County’s population is expected to have surged to more than 2.15 million.

VIA will update the plan every five years.


Specific elements of the plan include details on the city’s first bus rapid transit line, set to launch late next year or in early 2013, plus plans for additional bus rapid transit lines stretching north and south.

The next priority will be construction of an east-west modern streetcar line through downtown connecting VIA’s planned West Side multimodal center and the Robert Thompson Transit Center at the Alamodome on the East Side.

It also has recommendations for two light-rail corridors in the region, one stretching north and south, initially joining the airport and downtown, and one east and west, connecting Lackland AFB to Fort Sam Houston.

Here’s the SmartWaySA website, and here’s a map of the draft system plan. I wish I could tell what the streets are that are being designated as the rail corridors. I think the purple one that originates at the airport goes along San Pedro, which would make sense, but the location of Trinity to its west on the map says otherwise. The north-south starter rail line, which will begin as a streetcar line, is intended to be on Broadway, which makes sense. VIA has already received a federal grant to do a feasibility study. Where they get the money for all this is the big question. They’ll be applying for more federal grants, including the TIGER III grant, but there will be local money involved as well. I wish them all the best in moving forward on this.