Author of Blog: Daniel Day
New Post once a month.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mr Nirenberg, Ever think of Walking?

When a Council person or any other similar politician complains about the state of transportation in San Antonio, I wonder why they aren't walking, taking the bus or riding a bicycle for if anybody did any of that, then their complaints would have merit.  But no, they complain about how there's too much traffic and we need a Comprehensive Transportation Plan on the books to fix it.  I've been hearing about this for over 10 years and during that time, I've seen very little improvements in the area of a "comprehensive transportation system" for San Antonio. 

On Sept 12, mysanantonio.com published an opinion from District 8 Councilman, Ron Nirenberg titled "Times Have Changed; So Should Transportation."  In his opinion piece, he highlights the problems in transportation that we all know about, lack of funding, how there's no rail, and how we need a "Comprehensive Transportation Plan" to fix the problem.  Um here's the thing Mr Nirenberg, we have a comprehensive transportation plans already, just go to the Alamo Area Planning Organization, or look up the City's own Bicycle Master Plan. Governments are full of plans on the books.  A good example is the Austin/San Antonio Commuter Rail has been on the books since 1998 and I believe that a hard copy of this plan sits at the Central Library downtown at 600 Soledad collecting dust. Via also has their long range transit plan on their website aptly named "Long Range Comprehensive Transit Plan."

Ron Nirenberg highlighted the problem with transportation in his opinion quote: 
"Rail relocation, which would make those routes safer, faster and less congested, has been proposed, but it thus far has not gained enough political or financial momentum."
Not enough political or financial momentum is the problem that he's sites as the reason why we're stuck in traffic or at least in the context of this quote, of having hazardous material on freight trains traveling through the central part of the city.  Well he's only half right because he, like the rest of the City of San Antonio and the entire state of Texas for that matter cannot comprehend the ideal of not needing a car to get around. Think about this concept of not needing a car for a minute, because when you go from point 'A' to point 'B' in San Antonio, you get there by driving a car, so how can we have "Comprehensive Transportation System" in place when the average person can't realize the alternatives because the only alternative that they can think of involves driving a car going from point 'A' to point 'B'.  There is no walking, there is no taking the Via Bus, there is no riding a bicycle, there is just the car traveling on the clogged stroads to get there.

The reason why the Representative for District 8 and the people he represents cannot understand the basis for a "comprehensive transportation system" which is using the two feet that god gave them is because they live in a place where the places, from home to the grocery store and to work are separated by extreme distances that make walking impractical.  This is because as they were building houses and retail outlets in this part of town, they never took time and thought how one could walk from their house to the grocery store or bicycle between those places safely. At the time gasoline was cheap and this was the American Dream. District 8 is a great example of the failure of suburban sprawl exemplifying how it makes sure everyone who lives out there, has to own a car to get around and because gasoline is now staying roughly at $3 a gallon, the money that is needed to keep the car up and running doesn't stay in the community but leaves that community because the majority of those places that fuel and repair cars aren't local except for Valero. That money doesn't stay in the community except for the minimum wage clerk's paycheck. Over time, we'll continue to see less and less local tax revenue to pay for road repair.  It gets even worse when you have parking minimums for business making it impossible for the average joe to start a business.  Chuck Marohn, the host of the Strong Town podcast explains it better than I on why in the long run, the suburbs are doomed. 

When you ask the average San Antonion on what they want in rail transit, they'll say that they want a Subway, they want a Monorail. They want these very expensive forms of rail because they don't want that rail take up space on the ground that is used for cars. But this isn't what Via's 2000 light rail plan had in mind that Mr Nirenberg mentions at as quote, "a large scale, regional commuter rail plan." As you look at the maps for the light rail, (Image 20-1) you'll see how it will most likely go down Commerce/Buena Vista east/west and north/south on Flores/San Pedro. The reason for this, unlike Dallas Light Rail which goes down old railroad tracks, we here in San Antonio lack such old railroad tracks, also known as right of way to put the light rail down. Personally, I don't believe we'll ever have rail transit or a sufficient bicycle lane network because we're not willing to give up that lane that we currently have for cars for those alternatives. If we're going to have a "comprehensive transportation system" in San Antonio, the basis of this blog, we need to start making political sacrifices to take spaces that cars use and turn them into sidewalks and protected bicycle lanes. Even the latest plan from Via still has some light rail, but not as much.(Image 20-2)

As time goes on, we'll have less and less of federal dollars to put to roads not because the political will for more car lanes isn't lacking, or as Mr Nirenburg says, "Conflicting political agendas have led to the diversion of funds that should be spent on basic road construction and maintenance." Because we depend on these handout of the federal government to keep San Antonio moving, we're going to have less and in my opinion, no more chances of putting in rail either down the stroads by removing a car lane or above the traffic.

The reason why we have no "political momentum" for rail, for sidewalks, for alternatives because everyone is driving. Your action confirmed that you, Ron Nirenberg has no political will for "Comprehensive Transportation System" for you voted to remove that alternative, comprehensive transportation infrastructure on S Flores. Even though I wrote how we didn't need a streetcar to improve development on Broadway, you sir made sure that Via's attempt to change the political momentum to a more alternative, comprehensive transportation system was derailed even before the first rail was laid.

To go forward Mr Nirenberg you and your peers need to understand that if you want that "Comprehensive Transportation System" as you stated in your mysanantonio.com opinion, you and your peers are going to have to make political sacrifices standing up for unpopular projects such as removing a drive lane for a protected bicycle lane and wider sidewalks.  The rail transit you want is out of the picture at least for the next few years for the money that you need for that rail is not coming home.  All you can afford now is what you voted against, bicycle lanes and more bus service. I understand better than anybody out there on why people won't use the bus, why they won't ride a bicycle but these are the only alternatives you have left for a "comprehensive transportation system." This is all we can afford to do now.  We have plans on the books, but if we don't follow through with those plans, what's the point with having one?

Personally when I read your opinion piece, I yawned and thought how you, like the rest of the city will always be complaining and whining because they're stuck in traffic and maybe stuck in traffic because a cyclist like me is taking the lane to safely share the road.  Think about that next time Mr Nirenberg when your stuck in traffic.

20-1:   Via's Original Light Rail Plan which was killed back in 2000.  You can see this map forever immortalized by the blog Light Rail Now.org. http://www.lightrail.com/maps/sanantonio/sanantonio.htm
20-2:   Via's Current Long Range Comprehensive Transit Plan map which can be viewed at it's entirety at http://www.viainfo.net/Planning/Documents/FinalPlan/08_The_Plan.pdf

Upcoming Planning Meetings

Speaking of comprehensive transportation plans, it's that time again when the MPO dust off the old 25 year long range plan and starts to make a new one.  You can find out more at this web address.  http://www.mobility2040.org/

Also I've been unable yet to get a meeting page up and running, however, my Bicycle Events page is ready for Viewing.  http://bikesanantonio.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

1 comment:

  1. Very well written Daniel and as always I like how you use facts and real documentation (such as the Via plan) to prove your points.