SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – Former mayor and ex-HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros found himself defending public transportation during a recent presentation of ConnectSA, a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan.
After the speech earlier this month at a Rotary Club of San Antonio luncheon, a man in the audience suggested that VIA Metropolitan Transit should be disbanded. The man noted that many buses have a small number of passengers, and he said it would be cheaper to disband VIA and have the city subsidize coupons for taxis.
Cisneros strongly disagreed.
“There are people all across this city who without public transit wouldn’t be able to get to work, wouldn’t be able to get to medical care, and wouldn’t be able to get to school,” he responded.” In a big city, which we are now the seventh largest city in America with 1.5 million people and growing dramatically, every expert I have seen says we need public transit of some form.”
As one of the co-chairs of ConnectSA, Cisneros is touting a proposal to switch a 1/8-cent sales tax from Edwards Aquifer Protection and Linear Creekway Parks Program, to transportation. The plan also calls for a future bond program to fund transportation projects.
“It is very clear we are not spending enough on transportation today, but we have found a way to put a plan together that allocates $1.3 billion dollars over 5 years to transportation and does not have to raise taxes,” he told the Rotary Club.
He said VIA needs more money to make improvements, such as having buses run more frequently and preparing for another million people in the next 20 years.
While most of the ConnectSA plan deals with highways and roadways, there would be funds for more bicycle lanes and sidewalks, but no light rail.
“We learned our lesson,” said Cisneros.
He added that doing nothing to prepare for a million more people on our city would lead to more congestion, traffic headaches and would be harmful to the environment.
“This is not an ideological effort to force people out of their cars or force people into public transit. The majority of what this plan calls for is still highways.”