Horse carriage operators score early victory in face of ban proposal

Transportation Advisory Board recommends city council consider keeping the carriages

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s horse-drawn carriage operators lost a little bit of the hitch in their giddy-up Wednesday after a board of council appointees gave them an overwhelming show of support.

The City of San Antonio is considering whether to ban horse-drawn carriages entirely or possibly just relocate them out of downtown. Carriage companies say either option would kill their businesses.

But the eight members present of the 11-person Transportation Advisory Board voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend city council consider keeping the carriages in San Antonio. The board’s motion also indicated a desire to specifically keep the carriages downtown.

However, it’s not clear yet how much their approval of the industry means in attempting to stave off a ban.

The TAB has no power to force the city council to take any action. It can only make recommendations, and the city council has not even asked the board to consider the proposed ban.

The item made it onto Wednesday’s agenda at the carriage companies’ urging.

Still, Stephanie Garcia, the owner of Yellow Rose and HRH Carriage Companies, hopes the TAB recommendation will carry some weight.

“These people know what goes on downtown and to just ignore what’s gone on today with the vote would just be ridiculous,” Garcia said.


The city has issued horse carriage permits since 1865. There are five permitted companies in the city, which are each permitted to have up to five carriages on the street at any one time.

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) and Phyllis Viagran (D3) filed a council consideration request (CCR) in November 2022, asking city staff to develop a plan to phase out the use of horse-drawn carriages. They also asked for a program to transition the horse carriage workforce over to pedicabs and electric carriages by the end of 2023.

Though the original CCR calls for a total ban, McKee-Rodriguez has since suggested the carriages could also be relocated to “some of our major parks or safe designated areas off of city streets.”

“Either way, moved out of downtown or closed down - that’s it. We’re finished,” Garcia told the TAB Wednesday.

The proposal has moved slowly. It took more than 16 months to make it in front of the Governance Committee - the first step for any CCR. From there, it was sent to the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which is expected to discuss the proposal at its June meeting.

Ban supporter’s arguments revolve around two main points: animal welfare and general safety in the increasingly congested downtown streets.

Carriage operators have strongly denied any claims their animals are mistreated and said Wednesday they would be willing to compromise on congestion-related concerns by cutting their hours, including all daytime shifts, Monday through Friday.

However, they say they also need more parking spots for the carriages. Their stands have dwindled amid construction, they said, to the point where all the carriages wait a commercial zone near the Hard Rock Cafe on West Crockett Street.

The carriage operators had previously said no one at the city had tried reaching out to them. Garcia said John Courage (D9), the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a mayoral hopeful, was the only one to have visited with her since then.

Following the TAB’s vote Wednesday night, KSAT reached out to McKee-Rodriguez and Viagran’s offices for comment on the board’s recommendation.

A spokeswoman for McKee-Rodriguez said the councilman had “no comment at this time” but that he planned to speak at the June Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting.

Staff members for Viagran did not provide a statement Wednesday night.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Recommended Videos