Massive, Multi Billion Dollar 'Connect SA' Transportation Plan Unveiled

The first draft of the master plan for 'Connect SA,' a major change in the way all of us get around San Antonio and Bexar County in the coming decades, is a multi billion dollar effort which will bring new transportation modes to the city and expand others, according to the first draft released at City Hall Wednesday night, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Henry Cisneros, who was one of three members of a steering committee which has been working on the draft for months, said San Antonio is in a situation where more than 100 additional vehicles are dumped onto the city's roads every day, and that number is not expected to slow any time soon.

"Without major improvements to our transportation system, with the growth that we expect, the congestion will get decidedly more serious," he told City Council.

Cisneros says without the level of changes included in Connect SA's master plan, San Antonians can expect to spend 166 extra hours, or seven full days, each year stuck in traffic.

"It is clear that just building additional roadways is not the solution," he said. "We cannot just build our way out of congestion."

The plan will not only rely on upgrades to traditional modes of transportation, but will make it easier to tie all the transportation modes together, from cars, 'Uber' type vehicles, buses, bicycles, even scooters,and walking. The plan does not include light rail or toll roads.

The key to the program is the creation of up to eight designated routes for what is called Advanced Rapid Transit. That has also been called 'trackless trains.'

"Rubber tired buses with multiple cars strung together, running on dedicated lanes, which means they can run on time and they are not in the traffic," Cisneros said. He says the ART vehicles would receive priority traffic signals, and even a way to give them rights of way above cars, like trains have grade crossings with arms that block traffic.

The initial ART route would run from Loop 1604 in Stone Oak, south to the airport, then to downtown, and then on south to Brooks. The route would include train-like boarding stations complete with platforms, on site car parking, and station guides. Planners say this would provide a mobility solution at a fraction of the cost of light rail.

He said the plan is also geared to provide more choices to travelers and commuters.

"The highway system, Advanced Rapid Transit, or better bus network, or sidewalk improvement, or the application of smart technologies, or multi mobility like bicycles and scooters."

'Smart technologies' are also a key part of the initiative. They would, for example, tell passengers when the bus is coming, allow fares to be paid on a mobile device without having passengers lining up at the fare box, and provide information on whether a bus, a car, or a scooter is the best and quickest way at that time to get to a destination.

The plan also involved 'better buses,' with shorter wait times, more stops, and faster trips, and potentially using 'Uber' type vans and cars for 'the last mile,' getting passengers from their homes to the bus station and from the bus station to their workplace. That is a main reason why commuters don't take the bus, even though the trip is often faster by bus than it is by car.

So, how will all this be paid for?

Cisneros floated several suggestions.

"The county now has a vehicle registration fee which is $10 per vehicles," he said. "Judge Wolff and the County are before the Legislature in ths session, asking for authority to increase that amount."

He also floated repurposing sales tax money now earmarked for Aquifer protection, floating bond issues, and other ways of raising new funding.

"Cities in Texas have the right to create a Transportation User Fee," he said. "The question at some point becomes, you can't have these improvements, without the revenue to pay for them."

Such a fee would most likely be included on a person's monthly CPS Energy bill.

Cisneros stressed that this is just a first draft, and 'probably one hundred' public hearing will be held across the city and county before a final framework is adopted.

The plan is for citizens of the city and county to vote on a final draft this fall.

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