8 thoughts on “San Antonio Needs Streetcars, But First, It Needs a New VIA Chairman

  1. Bravo Bob! Have you asked how VIA justified using taxpayer dollars at the politically charged People en Espanol event? Would it have been ok if the tea party spoke at the event and encouraged activism?

  2. Yes! Agree with both you and Randy. We will need the street car and/or light rail in the future, yet not sure SA is ready to support it and which route will work the best. Questioning the decision process and finances. Munoz adds a lot of noise to the discussion and SA would be better served with his exodus.

  3. I have been on the fence on the streetcar question. Like you, I believe that San Antonio will benefit enormously from a streetcar system. Yet, the recent E-N articles and Mr. Bear’s blog do raise the very real issue that the timing may not be right (as yet) given the lack of “ownership” and buy-in among potential private sector investors. Without it, a back of the envelope calculation shows that the numbers look bad. $270 million + X% contingency + $8.5 million/yr O&M versus “guaranteed” income of $1.20 x 1.4 million estimated riders/yr. Using the numbers we are given, assuming a discount rate (yes, remember Econ 101?) that is equal to the one the feds use for 30 year investments, the net present value (uh-oh…more econ 101) of the system, including O&M costs over 25 years and minus estimated income from ridership, is about $335 million (or $360 million if there is a 10% construction cost overrun). That is the amount you would need to have in your pocket now to cover all the costs. Where will that come from? I don’t think that federal grants are going to be enough to change the equation…nor is that a sustainable source of financing. The system shortfalls will have to come out of property taxes. Has anybody looked at what the trajectory of development (with its increased property tax income) would have to be to cover these costs without their becoming a fiscal drag? Is that a reasonable expectation? And, if it is a reasonable expectation, then we are assuming that the development community/private sector is going to be crowding in to benefit from the enhanced values created by the streetcar line. Wouldn’t it be nice to test that hypothesis by seeing if the current $70 million “shortfall” could be raised from among private investors? I would be a whole lot more comfortable about moving ahead on this if doing so was contingent on getting that $70 million from private sources (and not as a loan).

    • Jim I think you hit at a lot of what I was driving towards, albeit in more detailed financial terms. While we may differ on timing, I think Bob also agrees with you and I about financing for this project. I’m not opposed to streetcar as a need for the city. I just don’t think this project, the approach being taken, and the impetus for making VIA more viable in the future are being considered. In other words, if your house is slowly degrading, adding another room or wing doesn’t solve the problem. It just adds to it.

      But Munoz has never had long-term sustainability in any of his projects. He left Museo Alameda in such a bad shape the city and TAMU-SAT had to bail it out. The Alameda Theater? Don’t get me started. With regards to VIA and not only this project, but BRT before it, Munoz is building monuments to himself at the expense of the citizens of Bexar County.

  4. I hope this Bear character reads this.

    He couldn’t be any more wrong with regards to his way of thinking.

    The mentality he expresses with regard to streetcar is the same mentality that has plagued the far north side.

    They left the infrastructure along while growth occurred. They made minor upgrades here and there but nothing that really benefited the suburban growth bomb set off 13 or so years ago.

    Now roads are jammed packed, commutes are longer.

    Great thing, not expanding the roads before the anticipated development arrived.

  5. Castro faces a difficult decision: Force Munoz out, and risk offending powerful Democrat donors/leaders or suffer the consequences of his leadership.

    Hundreds of millions are going out the door. I want to see exactly how San Antonio obtains residents as riders on this new streetcar system. As Bob stated, without both (visitors and residents) this will fail. To me, that is key outside of the private business/route/etc arguments. Otherwise, economically, this will be a future sinkhole!

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