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Here’s what a real public meeting on rail transit looks like … in San Antonio

18 October 2013
Kyle Keahey, Project Connect's Urban Rail Lead and a consultant to San Antonio's VIA Metropolitan Transit, speaks during a VIA public meeting discussing San Antonio's modern streetcar plans this past July.

Kyle Keahey, Project Connect’s Urban Rail Lead and a consultant to San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit, speaks during a VIA public meeting discussing San Antonio’s modern streetcar plans this past July.

As this blog has been reporting, despite promises and assurances to local community leaders and activists who’ve been asking for bona fide public meetings to discuss local urban rail planning, Project Connect can’t seem to make one happen. Instead of real meetings, the Austin community has been offered “open houses”, which we’ve compared to “art galleries”, where people can walk through a room of “pretty pictures” (maps, charts, renderings, etc.), supposedly admiring and considering them and submitting comments or questions to the “guards” (planning personnel standing around). See: Back to “art galleries”! Project Connect reneges on community meetings and Meetings, “open houses”, workshops … and democratic process.

But while urban planners here in Austin haven’t been able to pull together a true public meeting, San Antonio has been holding real meetings — such as the one shown in the photo at the top of this post. And Kyle Keahey, Project Connect’s Urban Rail Lead, is also the lead rail planning consultant to San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit — and there he is, speaking to a San Antonio community meeting on urban rail!

San Antonio streetcar simulation. Graphic: VIA, from Rivard Report.

This was a meeting sponsored by VIA on 30 July 2013 at San Antonio’s Temple Beth-El to discuss the agency’s downtown modern streetcar project. According to a July 31st report in the San Antonio Express-News, “VIA officials gave more details about the possible streetcar routes, including two new ones ….” As the report noted, the two additional route alternatives “resulted from input from many directions — stakeholders along the route, movers-and-shakers and comment sheets from everyday citizens.” The paper also quotes VIA’s chief development officer’s assurance that “The process is to provide public input.”

And, in contrast to Austin, what has San Antonio got going for it — other than a far more realistic timeframe for decisionmaking, and an authentic official commitment to encouraging community participation?

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