Generally speaking, town halls take place in community centers or schools, where residents and their elected leaders talk about issues of mutual interest. San
Antonio District 4 City Councilman Rey Saldana recently took it one step further. He got with VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO Jeff Arndt, VIA’s Senior Vice President of Public Engagement Charlie Gonzalez, and 26 District 4 neighborhood association leaders for “town hall on wheels” on Nov. 8.
The town hall attendees toured parts of the Southwest Side. The tour began with a look at two of the area’s main transit hubs, the Frank Madla Transit Center and the Kel-Lac Transit Center. According to a news release, town hall attendees wanted to see the transit hubs in action on a typical day. On average, 4,500 riders board or transfer at these centers daily. These rides provide patrons connections to schools, jobs, and medical centers across San Antonio.
The tour members also visited Pearsall Park where Saldaña discussed the latest improvement plans coming to the Southwest Side regional park. Pearsall Park currently measures 91 acres and includes a dog park, a short trail and the District 4 field office. But it’s part of what used to be the original Pearsall landfill, a vast stretch of land across from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base.
A voter-approved bond from 2012 is funding the improvements, which include a 2-acre playground, splash pads, zip lines, a fitness center that would accommodate Crossfit activities, and 5k and 10K running trails. Saldana said the playground would be the largest public playground in the city. Saldana added the land will be environmentally safe when it’s opened as a larger, enhanced park in late 2016.
During the town hall tour, VIA representatives addressed the South/West Connector Corridor Analysis (SWCCA) transit improvements study, which VIA is conducting. This study is designed to identify transit improvements in the South/West corridor, with an eye toward upgrading connectivity with major activity centers around the region.
The planned improvements include the addition of a Primo bus line along Southwest Military Drive, which will provide people with a stronger link to key job centers such as Brooks City Base and Port San Antonio. South/West Connector Corridor links other vital destinations, including the Mission Trails, South Park Mall, Las Palmas shopping center, Woodlawn Lake Park, Our Lady of the Lake University, St. Mary’s University, the Deco District, and the South Texas Medical Center. VIA intends for the east/west connector to align with North Zarzamora Street to provide the north/south connections. During the tour, Southwest Side leaders also got to talk one-on-one with VIA personnel on service requests for bus shelters, new stops, frequency of service and other concerns related to their neighborhoods.
Saldana said he plans to host a follow-up meeting with District 4 neighborhood associations early in 2015 to discuss updates on VIA projects. “We’re taking the town hall concept to a new level, one that allows our residents to see and feel what it’s like to share the vision of their neighbors’ concerns and issues,” said Saldaña in the news release. “This makes for a more engaging relationship with your community and provides a glimpse of a vision for the entire district – something council members and elected leaders have to do every day.”