City Council Hears ConnectSA Briefing as Brockhouse, Perry Question Funding

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Former Mayor and ConnectSA Tri-Chair Henry Cisneros gives a presentation on Connect SA.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Former Mayor and ConnectSA Tri-Chair Henry Cisneros gives a presentation to city council on ConnectSA.

After listening to former Mayor Henry Cisneros brief them on a multimodal mobility plan Wednesday, most City Council members voiced support for the ConnectSA draft framework, but two members expressed concerns about how the plan will be funded.

Cisneros, the former U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is one of three chairs of ConnectSA, with former City Attorney Jane Macon and former Texas Secretary of State and current VIA Board Chair Hope Andrade. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg formed the group to come up with a comprehensive and long-range plan for getting people around San Antonio.

In his presentation to City Council, Cisneros showed two side-by-side maps comparing 2010 traffic congestion and projected congestion by 2040.

“You see that without major improvements to our transportation system, with the growth that we expect – we’re now a city of more than 1.4 million people and growing by some estimates as much as 1 million people in this timeframe – congestion will get decidedly more serious,” Cisneros said. “That translates into about 166 extra hours each year, or seven full days sitting in traffic by 2040. It is clear that … we cannot just build our way out of congestion.”

The ConnectSA draft plan was released last December and lays out eight recommended goals and 10 possible funding mechanisms. The plan does not include rail, which voters rejected in earlier elections, and does not include toll roads.

Out of the total existing funding committed to capital projects from 2019 to 2025, $1.8 billion is dedicated toward highways, $1.2 billion toward city and county roadways, and $193 million for transit, Cisneros said. But there is still a $1.3 billion price tag on ConnectSA’s proposed 25 projects by 2025, and an estimated $1.45 billion cost for potential projects between 2025 and 2030, neither of which have funding sources yet.

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) asked Cisneros about funding possibilities, saying he wanted to avoid raising vehicle registration costs for Bexar County residents or charging extra fees to pay for the city’s transportation infrastructure, as Austin does.

“I’ve got a big concern about how we’re going to pay for this, obviously,” Perry said.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who last week launched his mayoral campaign, said he was concerned that the estimated cost of potential projects between 2019 and 2030 did not include operating costs.

“That’s a huge blank check,” he said. “I’d ask that you’d not think about this only in the vacuum of transportation, because this is a $3 billion sell to the community.”

Cisneros stressed that other cities were able to come up with funding for their transportation networks. San Antonio already funds its transit system to a lesser extent compared to other major cities in Texas, and the city cannot afford to sit back, he said.

“The reality is we are going to grow,” Cisneros said. “We are in Texas. We are part of the Texas triangle. That whole dynamic is unleashed. We couldn’t stop the growth if we wanted to, just like Austin couldn’t. We gotta figure this out. And that’s what we hope this process will do. And being unwilling to consider creative ways to pay for it is not an option.”

Cisneros said he estimates the rest of 2019 will be spent conducting about 100 public input meetings around the city. ConnectSA plans to meet with the 10 chambers of commerce in San Antonio, major employers such as USAA and the University of Texas at San Antonio, and other stakeholders, Cisneros said.

Shannon Perez, executive director of ConnectSA, said no formal meetings have yet been scheduled, but the group is ready to put on large-scale public input meetings in each City Council district.

“Meanwhile, we will be visiting with smaller civic organizations as invited,” she said.

20 thoughts on “City Council Hears ConnectSA Briefing as Brockhouse, Perry Question Funding

  1. Connect SA is a joke that the Mayor created without anyone’s support who is a professional in public transit issues

    • After listening to former Mayor Henry Cisneros brief them on a multimodal mobility plan Wednesday, most City Council members voiced support for the ConnectSA draft framework, but two members expressed concerns about how the plan will be funded.
      you must be talking about the Former Mayor when you said “Connect SA is a joke that the Mayor” because the current Mayor and some city council are not in agreement yet.

  2. What ever happened to the trolley/articulated busses capable of riding on the regular roadway? They could work great, especially if used to transport folks to and from ParkandRides located in the outer city limits.

  3. I do not trust Cisneros anymore. He and the other past mayors actively opposed the charter amendments and nobody listened to them. Since Cisneros and the city’s power brokers said that if we would build the Alamodome we would get an NFL team where is Cisneros now on that? The community meetings are a joke-you go and no commttee members are present. Instead some city emploee will say you can speak up and the City will send transcripts of what the comments were to the Committee members to read-joke again. But athe City is insistent that you sign in when you arrive so they later they can claim that the “meetings”drew thousands of citizens-jokie again! Transparency? The CIty refuses to say where the old beloved HemisFair sign is or where the old Confederate statue is hidden.

  4. I’m a real estate broker and read the growth reports. I also lived in Austin for a bit & I’m there often since my daughter lives there. Austin’s infrastructure is beyond horrid.

    The growth will exponentially expand. CA & cold weather neighbors continue to move here. Austin is tapped out. The parking downtown is ridiculous and Austin knows this issue well. The scooters are a death waiting ti happen not to mention is street litter.

    We need a serious solution fast for downtown transportation & work related traffic solutions.

    I agree the current team lacks experts. It reminds me of the mess the consumer protection bureau created for home buyers when Congress’ committee had no real estate or lender members. It seriously hurt buyers.

    The TREC Broker-Lawyer committee has the right idea. Six real estate brokers. Six attorneys. One civil member.

    In this case is say 2 public transportation reps, 2 realtors, 2 engineers, 2 builders, & a civil.

    • I’m a real estate broker and read the growth reports. I also lived in Austin for a bit & I’m there often since my daughter lives there. Austin’s infrastructure is beyond horrid.

      The growth will exponentially expand. CA & cold weather neighbors continue to move here. Austin is tapped out. The parking downtown is ridiculous and Austin knows this issue well. The scooters are a death waiting ti happen not to mention is street litter.

      We need a serious solution fast for downtown transportation & work related traffic solutions.

      I agree the current team lacks experts. It reminds me of the mess the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created for home buyers when Congress’ committee had no real estate or lender members. It seriously hurt buyers.

      The TREC Broker-Lawyer committee has the right idea. Six real estate brokers. Six attorneys. One civil member.

      In this case is say 2 public transportation reps, 2 realtors, 2 engineers, 2 builders, & a civil.

  5. We could all personally be proactive and make changes by carpooling, taking the bus, riding bicycles, and walking. The alternative is to watch traffic problems exacerbate as we focus more on our individual convenience.

  6. I agree that this is not the group to look at our transportation issue. Where are the experts? Where are the fresh ideas? Cisneros should be excluded immediately as he now has a company whose purpose is infrastructure projects! (He knows there will be untold billions spent across the country in coming years.) Although he said he would not be involved directly in any SA projects we all know how that works-you make deals with others that benefit you!

    Why does SA keep going back to former mayors to plan….aren’t they largely responsible for the current situation? The current mayor has zero experience in urban planning. Get some experts to come up with a real plan—the current one (bike lanes and scooters) is amateurish and doesn’t improve the problem.

    Act fast and professionally or SA will miss the boat on this one too!

  7. Interesting makeup of chairs for this committee. I can buy Hope and Henry, but Jane?? Henry and his team need to have better responses to where the money will come from than other cities have come up with money. Whatever ends up being approved, the well-connected within the city will definitely be given their share. It amazes me how the same group sits on committees, approves projects, and then ensures their family and friends benefit. The city needs truly independent consultants to being doing this work.

  8. Look for “new faces” and ideas to study transportation ideas.. The older persons have older ideas and therefore may miss some great new ideas. Perhaps thinking out of the box is a good thing.

  9. So many things could be done RIGHT now. For example, VIA could offer discount ride coupons to downtown businesses like my dentist. My dentist validates my parking and a VIA bus voucher would be much less expensive for him.

    Second, offer discounted ride packages. The last time I checked you could buy a 11 ride package but there was no discount off the regular fare.

    Third, make riding on Saturday free, or maybe at least the first Saturday.

    Fourth, VIA should offer a weekend pass.

    Fifth, VIA should promote ridership among downtown businesses and their employees who live on a bus route that would require no bus change. For example, contact downtown businesses and obtain addresses of each employee for mapping purposes. For the buses that come to downtown, give those employers the info they need along with some free passes.

    Sixth, in Italy, the larger cities have smaller busses for low ridership routes. Why don’t we?

  10. I have an idea for VIA Bus Transit.

    Promote VIA bus route 40 to tourists throughout the world.

    I recently spoke with two tourists at Mission San Jose.

    They were exhausted after biking from downtown San Antonio to Mission San Jose. They rode bikes from downtown San Antonio to Mission San Jose. They were too exhausted to make it to Mission Espada further south. They did not know about VIA Bus route 40.

    Tourists can have a fantastic experience. They can experience nature along San Antonio river walk trails, enjoy a meal on a river walk trail, then take a VIA bus to all the Spanish Missions.

    Popularity of VIA Bus routes with tourists will increase bus ridership, which in turn will make VIA Bus transit for San Antonio residents viable.

    Click on Trails and Transit above for an example of how to promote trails and transit as a transportation system.

    • VIA is not a sustainable solution if they continue to be forced to share the lanes with the rest of the traffic. Most people think they can navigate traffic congestion faster and better than a VIA bus… and they’re right.

      This project is going to take some real leadership and political willpower to get pushed through. The majority of the voting population (that votes) doesn’t want public transportation because they can never see themselves using it.

      Would be a great final project for Nelson W. to push through in his last term.

  11. With respect to “the reality of growth”, there is natural, supply/demand growth, and there is facilitated, heavily subsidized growth, with an agenda to become a metroplex, working hand-in-glove with the commercial real estate industry, who support incumbent office holders. Which of the two realities best applies to San Antonio? And, who are these presenters really representing, and who is representing the citizens being left behind the “world class” city officials tell us we are?

  12. Please be careful with any “light rail.” I lived in San Jose CA and the light rail there was very inconvenient for most people to use. I would have to travel 20 minutes in the north wrong direction on the light rail before it would turn and head back south in the direction I needed to go. Took forever to get anywhere. Especially if you had to take a bus to get there and then a bus once you got as close to your destination as the light rail would go. Sigh.

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