The wheels have begun to spin off the dreams of VIA Metro Transit to build a streetcar through downtown San Antonio, with the second significant setback in two days to the very controversial idea, 1200 WOAI news reports.
LULAC activist George Alejo has filed an appeal of an Austin judge's ruling that VIA can use money from the 2004 Advanced Transportation District sales tax increase to build downtown streetcar stations, even though voters were promised before approving the ATD that the money would not be used for 'light rail.'
Alejo's appeal is based on the negative impact he says the streetcar will have on the low income San Antonians who need to ride the busses in order to get to their jobs.
"VIA's mission should be to provide the least expensive and most affordable transportation to the people who ride the busses," Alejo told 1200 WOAI news.
Alejo says VIA is going outside of its mission by building a streetcar which will be used by what LULAC activists call 'The Ricos,' a Spanish pejorative for wealthy individuals.
"We have reason to believe that the majority of riders who rely on the VIA busses will never, ever set foot in those streetcars," Alejo said.
The free market Heartland Foundation says 'every barometer of public opinion' is overwhelmingly against the streetcar, something City Councilman Joe Krier, who is calling for a public vote on the streetcar plan, says is accurate.
"I have not seen any arguments yet that would see me on the proposed streetcar project," Krier said.
County Judge Nelson Wolff, a major streetcar backer who is finding his support for streetcars eroding his re-election bid, said on Wednesday he would support a public vote.
It is believed that if a public vote were ordered, VIA would simply scrap the streetcar plan, because VIA and other streetcar supporters know full well it would be overwhelmingly rejected at the polls.
Krier agrees with Alejo that VIA has ventured too far afield from its mandate in the streetcar plan.
"Frankly, I think our busses do a good job of that currently," he said. "Too many of them are empty when I get on them. We need to do a better job of running the transit system that we have."
Far from letting the people decide, Alejo says VIA attorneys have dug in their heels and have begun to 'bully' him for daring to question VIA's wisdom in pushing for a streetcar plan.
"As far as I'm concerned they can threaten me any way they want, they have deep pockets, but I think I have the support of the people of San Antonio in this fight,"Alejo said.