September 12, 2013

To the VIA Metropolitan Transit Board of Trustees:

Thank you for all you do for our community.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, VIA has identified a funding shortfall in its effort to construct a downtown streetcar system. It seems apparent that, after reviewing the plan and considering this funding shortfall, the prudent course of action is to pause and reassess whether this project should move forward, or if it should be shelved so that VIA can shift its focus back to using existing resources to address any projected passenger mobility issues in targeted areas.

Many of you are familiar with our neighbor to the north and nearest urban area, the City of Austin, and its transit system, Capital Metro. As Austin has experimented with a streetcar project, I would like to suggest that all the trustees pay a visit to Austin to observe how few individuals actually use the street car and learn how the system is subsidized by Austin taxpayers.

My question to each of you is this: "Would you invest your own money in this project with all the information you have ascertained over the last 2 years?" Since the Bexar County Commissioners Court voted to allocate its share of ATD fund revenue to the project, and after weeks of public backlash, subsequently decided to develop an agreement with TxDOT to swap the funding, the merits of this project and the process undertaken to build it have been in question. This project has faced many challenges from the start and it's clear that the public remains unconvinced that it is necessary to improve mobility and there is no certainty that it will be funded in an appropriate and transparent way.

Trustees, it is not too late to do the right thing: scrap this idea and move forward in a responsible way! The egos of a few individuals who are fervently pushing this financial Titanic may be bruised in the process, but our community will be better served by using the funding identified for the streetcar where it can actually help VIA passengers and increase mobility in ALL parts of Bexar County.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

Lyle Larson