City councilman Joe Krier, representing District 9, is waiting on a response from city attorney, Robert Greenblum, to questions Krier posed regarding VIA Metropolitan Transit’s hotly debated modern streetcar plan.
In the letter sent last week, Krier asked the following:
What process would be required for the city to reconsider its support for the streetcar project?
Under what circumstances will the city council have future opportunities or obligations to vote on this issue?
Can the city place a referendum on this issue on the next citywide election? How would we go about doing so?
Krier says the letter came as a result of numerous outcries from his constituents.
“I heard loud and clear from neighborhood after neighborhood that they felt they should have had the right to vote on this issue,” he said.
“Its unfortunate,” responded VIA board member Lou Miller.
Miller said VIA was not required to put the issue on a ballot and it devised the streetcar plan based on extensive research of population growth and gaps in mass transit.
“TxDOT has advised us there is only so many more dollars that can be invested in the highways. We have got to begin multi-modal planning,” Miller said. “VIA has taken the initiative to step up to the plate and say this is what we need for regional, these are what the numbers are saying. This is where we have to go."
Krier personally opposes the streetcar plan because he believes it will not “necessarily deliver a return on ridership or economic development.” Krier was not a city council member when it voted to support the streetcar plan.
But ultimately, he wants to see voters have the final say. "Because I believe if we are going to do a project of this magnitude - that is going to cost well in excess of $100 million - that voters should have a say in if that’s how they want their resources utilized,” Krier said.
"We would hope that they respect that we spend an awful lot of time studying transportation,” Miller said.
He added that he would be surprised if the city council reversed its support of the streetcar project, but if that happened, VIA would be left looking for another way to fund a portion of the plan.
As of Monday evening, Krier had not yet received a response from the city attorney.