Thursday, September 11, 2008

San Antonio Revs Up Rail Again

After the fall of the 2000 San Antonio light rail vote, I didn't think that I would ever see this again. Unlike Austin which was close, the San Antonio vote was kind of a blowout for the opposition. But with gas prices up, advocates are seeing a chance to build transit networks again. However, this seems to be a play out of the Austin playbook. Commuter rail first.

There's a bit of a problem though, If Austin's commuter line skirts downtown and comes in on the edge, this line doesn't even come into San Antonio's downtown. If this is what is envisioned, it would be a horrible idea. I've said this before and I'll say it again, just because there are tracks, doesn't mean passenger rail should be on them. I wish we would stop being cheap about infrastructure. Go where the people want to go. Below the newspaper cutout, is a map of the rail line and the main part of the Riverwalk downtown. You can see how far and how many obstacles separate the line from the people.


AJ said...

It's a reasonable light rail line going to high growth areas that is meant to untangle the roads and offer a chance for the military to get unmired from traffic in the area.

It is light rail, it DOES go through high population areas and it will hit some good things. The riverwalk that you show is only the downtown portion-- it will soon be a 13-mile linear park and hike/bike trail linked to the missions and the new performing arts district and river north.

njh said...

The question is, do people want to go to San Antonio? :)

AJ said...

njh: 20 million people a year do and the population is booming-- something is bound to give on the density issue!

Michael said...


San Antonio is the tourist capital of Texas. The Riverwalk is a very nice spot and the Alamo and other Missions (some of which are much nicer than the Alamo), and the theme parks (Sea World, Fiesta Texas) are the big draws for families.

San Antonio and Austin is also becoming a pretty important region with population of around 4 million and is part of the larger Texas triangle mega-region including Dallas / Houston which should all be served by better rail service.

Better regional rail sure could have helped people get off of Galveston for Ike!


Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I'm not sure if he meant it this way but I took NJH's comments to mean if people wanted to go downtown. These days there are a lot of destinations regionally that might be bigger. I'm not as familiar with SA as Austin so I'll defer to the locals on this.

AJ said...

The two big growth areas would be served by this corridor: The residential areas south of downtown, the leading edge of the core riverwalk area (north end of Mission Reach) and the University of Texas on the west side of downtown as one area. The other area is the mid- to upper-range shops being built around the Rim in the northern part of the city and the near-continuous residential developments leading up toward it from the south and southeast.

From that south portion of the line, it's more than likely that they'll spur it upwards into Downtown SA since there are several low-traffic roads off the main roads from Southtown.

njh said...

I was wondering whether downtown was the biggest destination. Sure, TOD can result in much new stuff, but I think you need to have passengers going past to really encourage new stuff. For example, here in Campbell, the opening of the new line has coincided with a boom in high density housing all along the rail line (I don't know whether this is coincidence, or induced demand). But if it is induced, it works because lots of people (4000/day?) catch the train from Campbell (despite its small catchment). So there is incentive for people to build housing along this route (and apparently it is very popular, prices never dropped despite the downturn).

I can't help but think that a spur that is not heavily used will not result in significant TOD (at least until somewhere else proves that San Antonians really do appreciate light rail).

On the topic of San Antonio, I really encourage people to watch (I can't remember where I found it, was it here or CaHSR?)

Sorry if I came across as dismissive.