Scott Ball / Rivard Report
A preliminary draft of the city’s first comprehensive multimodal transportation plan calls for an estimated $1.3 billion in additional funding for projects and initiatives through 2025 and an additional $1.4 billion through 2030.
Leaders of ConnectSA, a nonprofit Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff formed to shepherd the plan’s creation, presented a preliminary draft Wednesday to the two officials, VIA Metropolitan Transit President and CEO Jeff Arndt, and other transportation leaders.
Click here to download the draft plan. ConnectSA will convene dozens of public and stakeholder input meetings over the next two to three months, former Mayor and ConnectSA Tri-Chair Henry Cisneros said, using the feedback to finalize a draft in May 2019.
“The community should be assured that this is a living document,” Nirenberg said. The draft is a “starting point.”
Nirenberg and Wolff gave ConnectSA, which formed earlier this year, a deadline of Dec. 21 to deliver recommendations for a plan and a way to fund it.
“Today is not the presentation of a plan,” Cisneros said. “[We’re] putting forward options, a vision, a framework.”
The draft outlines eight recommended goals and 10 possible funding mechanisms for the community to consider. Some of those funding mechanisms would have to be voter-approved, Cisneros said, while others can approved by City Council, County Commissioners, or other public bodies.
The draft looks at integrating almost all types of transit except rail, which was soundly rejected by voters in previous elections. The draft does not include toll roads.
“It’s very possible, and it is our thesis, is that San Antonio has jumped over the era of rail,” Cisneros said. “By waiting, new technologies have appeared that make it cheaper, make it easier to build new transportation systems … without rail.”
There are also 25 projects suggested in the draft that should be completed by 2025, including 200 miles of sidewalks, 40 miles of “micromobility” lanes for bikes and scooters, a universal app to pay for transportation fees, and an advanced rapid transit corridor (long buses traveling on dedicated, priority lanes) from South Loop 410 through downtown and north to Loop 1604.
The draft’s recommended goals include:
- Leverage technology: All transportation solutions should leverage technology to make travel safer, more convenient, predictable, and accessible;
- Manage congestion: While congestion will never be fully eliminated, steps can be taken that ease congestion by optimizing existing infrastructure and providing new options and services;
- Connect to jobs: All citizens should be able to reach employment opportunities reliably and effectively;
- Enhance access for residents: All residents of Bexar County should have access to a host of effective transportation options;
- Provide more choices: Whether it be dedicated transit lanes, smart traffic signals, or new sidewalks, all identified projects should enhance mobility for all residents via all modes of travel;
- Integrate mobility networks: Transportation options like Uber, Lyft, and bike share should work together to become seamless for users to complete their trips;
- Promote sustainability: Solutions and projects should be identified that provide an environmentally and financially sustainable transportation network.
Roughly five out of the 10 potential funding sources will be needed implement the draft’s goals, Cisneros said. The draft identified the following possible revenue sources:
- Reallocation of existing sales tax
- Redirect existing sales tax within San Antonio when the Edwards Aquifer and Linear Creek tax expires.
- Redirect the City’s share of the Advanced Transportation District.
- General obligation bonds from both the City and Bexar County could set aside funding for ConnectSA projects.
- Leverage funds
- Utilize state or federal funds, wherever possible, to help deliver project funding.
- Utilize public-private partnerships, wherever possible and appropriate, to help with project delivery.
- Utilize Transportation Reinvestment Zones around key corridors to help provide funding for projects.
- New revenue sources
- Support the legislative request for additional $10 per vehicle per year registration fee in Bexar County to go to the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority for non-toll projects.
- Consider the creation of a Transportation User Fee, similar to other cities in Texas, to provide additional revenue for mobility projects.
- Consider additional land use-related policies and fees that could generate revenue to support mobility projects.
ConnectSA recommends that the City dedicate just 50 percent of its 2022 and 2027 bonds to transportation, Cisneros said, compared to more than 70 percent in the 2018 bonds.
“It’s well within the practical realm of what can be done,” he said. “This is not a ‘pie in the sky’ plan. … It is a measured plan” in terms of goals and funding.
The plan also has a looser framework for what could be done from 2030 through 2040, but planning for that timeframe when it comes to transportation is tricky, he said, because technology surrounding transportation is always advancing.
The 21-year horizon of the plan may be a challenge politically, Nirenberg said, but far less of one if the community has a sense of ownership – and a vote – in the plan.
“Demonstrating confidence from the public when we start this effort is incredibly important,” he said. “It’s also necessary for certain elements to fund the plan. When the public speaks with one voice about improving our transportation system and they’re voting on this plan, that will give subsequent decision makers [elected officials] the authority and public approval to implement the plan.”
The San Antonio area is expected to grow by more than 1 million residents by 2040 and San Antonio’s relatively minor traffic congestion problems – compared to other Texas cities – will only get worse, Nirenberg said.
“We are ahead of the game and there’s no reason for us to be stuck in gridlock before we start our planning effort,” he said.