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Via, Streetcar Opponents, Accuse Each Other of Hurting the Poor

Via, Streetcar Opponents, Accuse Each Other of Hurting the Poor

  Via Metro Transit said today the denial of the use of bonds to build two downtown stations for the proposed streetcar system will not stop the streetcar, but the bus line said it will hurt every day bus customers who rely on the bus to get to work, 1200 WOAI news reports.

 

  It’s the latest volley in the increasingly angry rhetoric over the proposed $280 million streetcar plan, which is wildly unpopular among the citizens, but is being pushed through by the Via Metro Transit board in conjunction with top city and county leaders.

 

  "The Attorney General's denial will prove to be a disadvantage to our current riders while not affecting the progress of the modern streetcar project, which remains on schedule," Via said in a statement released today.  "VIA will continue to strive to become a truly regional and multi-modal transit agency despite the efforts of some parties to disrupt our projects."

 

  But LULAC official George Alejos said it is VIA itself which is hurting the poorest citizens of Bexar County.  He says VIA has turned its back on poor and minority riders in order to build a streetcar which will be used exclusively by wealthy Anglo businessmen and tourists to the city.

 

  He said VIA is even disrespecting its low income riders in its literature.

 

  "Specifically VIA states in its literature that it wants to attract a higher quality of ridership," Alejo said.  "What does that say about the current riders, they're not the high quality you want riding the busses?"

 

  VIA says it will move ahead with streetcar construction, even though the company itself admits that it is $70 million short of the estimated $280 million cost of the project.

 

  Another angle was added to the streetcar battle today when George Rodriguez, the former head of the San Antonio Tea Party and a long time activist, accused VIA of 'threatening and intimidating' him because he was one of the people who filed a lawsuit demanding that VIA not use ATD funds.  That lawsuit has been withdrawn following the Attorney General's ruling.

 

  "They want us to go away, they threatened us?" Rodriguez asked.  "Give me a break.  We're not going to go away."

 

  Anti streetcar activists say the only fair way to proceed with the streetcar plan would be either to call another election on the use of Advanced Transportation District sales tax funds, which voters were promised would not be used to pay for 'light rail' systems, or to call an election on whether to approve the streetcar itself.

 

  There is also a call for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate VIA for allegedly conspiring to deprive minority citizens of their right to vote due to VIA's refusal to put the streetcar issue before the voters.

 

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