'We cannot just build our way out of congestion'

ConnectSA presents future transportation and mobility options to City Council

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Better bus routes and dedicated lanes for multi-car buses were some of the options a nonprofit group laid out for the City Council on Wednesday.

Speaking on behalf of ConnectSA, one of the group's tri-chairs and a former mayor, Henry Cisneros, presented the council with a list of its findings and recommendations so far for transportation solutions and options on how to fund the work. Cisneros said the presentation was a framework and not a fully-baked plan.

"This is the start of what I think is going to be 100 meetings across the community," Cisneros told reporters before the meeting.

ConnectSA has been considering different transportation and mobility options for an increasingly crowded San Antonio after Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff announced the group's creation in April 2018. It produced a report in December with 25 recommendations to implement before 2025.

Presenting to the council, Cisneros reiterated points from the December report with an emphasis on Advanced Rapid Transit - a sort of bus with multiple cars that would travel in dedicated lanes and can even control street lights.

"And so they bring a level of predictability that is not inherent in buses," Cisneros told the council. "It is much like what rail would be, but at one-third the cost."

The transportation discussion is taking place amid a backdrop of a rapidly growing city. Citing a long-range VIA plan, ConnectSA says drivers could spend an extra week's worth of time sitting in traffic by 2040.

But the options to get around the coming congestion problem don't come cheap. The recommendations ConnectSA put forward just for 2019 through 2025 would cost an estimated $1.3 billion.

Cisneros listed out 10 options for funding the upgrades, including redirecting current revenue streams or creating a transportation user fee like other cities. Not all 10 would be needed, he said.

"Five of them in various combinations (would) get the money that is required for this plan," Cisneros said.

For now, they're just ideas. The next step is to take them to different groups and residents during the numerous presentations and meetings Cisneros thinks will happen.

"And the whole point is present, listen and integrate ideas to make the plan better," he said. "So that sometime toward the end of this year, we'll have a completed plan with all of that public input. And then in 2020, I suspect we'll have to have an election on some of the pieces of the plan."

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