June 11, 2023 - TRA Newswire -

"Imagine a fast, frequent, reliable train running between San Antonio and Austin. Say goodbye to traffic." That is the aim of a new, grassroots organization formed in the Austin area called RESTART Lone Star Rail District. The organization, headed by Clayton  Anderson of Austin, has launched a website  (restartlonestarraildistrict.org) to ramp up public interest in the regional rail service that never got past the planning stages.

It follows a San Antonio-based grassroots organization called SART, San Antonians for Rail Transportation, that is developing at a rapid pace. SART started in mid-2022 and has now officially become a tax-exempt non-profit, adopted bylaws, elected a board and established a credit union account, on their way to building a war chest to get their voices heard. 

SART, similar to RESTART Lone Star Rail District, is a very young group of determined citizens but has some seasoned transportation advocates on board as well. The aim of both organizations is to improve rail transportation in Texas, with an emphasis on the heavily travelled Austin-San Antonio corridor.

RESTART, founded last month, is showcasing a lengthy academic analysis of why the original plans for the Lone Star Rail District failed. The case study into  The Demise of the Lone Star Rail District: A Case Study in the Failure to Expand Passenger Rail Service in Texas was submitted to the Temple University Graduate Board by Robert C. Andrews in May of 2022. 

The Lone Star Rail District began in 2003 and was decommissioned in 2016. A number of factors in the analysis led to the project's demise, including funding deficits, faltering negotiations with freight rail operators, and the lack of a champion for the project. RESTART Lone Star Rail District said they plan to unite Central Texans to support the establishment of high quality passenger rail service, pushing elected officials to take action. 

RESTART Lone Star Rail aims to foster regional cooperation between the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) and the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) to restart planning for the Lone Star Rail. They also plan to door-knock for support of their petition as well as recruit new volunteers through their website and get citizens to sign up on their mailing list. 

While Austin has a single rail line that serves the city from downtown up to suburban Leander and Austin and San Antonio both have one Amtrak daily round-trip between the two cities, San Antonio remains the largest city in the U.S. without any rail-based mass transit.

On their website, SART points out that there is no metro, no light rail, streetcars, tramways, trolleybuses of even people movers like cities half the size of San Antonio's almost 1.5 million residents. San Antonians for Rail Transportation also has a petition for better rail service on their website and indicates they are not opposed to bus systems, but modern transit requires a multi-modal approach to maximize the benefits of each form of transportation. 

San Antonio is the terminus of the one-daily Amtrak Texas Eagle service and is a stop on the tri-weekly Amtrak Sunset Limited which serves cities along the I-10 corridor in Texas from California to New Orleans. 

SART would like to see the Sunset Limited expanded to daily service coast-to-coast, which Amtrak now has under study. The group also wants to see better food service on the Texas Eagle with both a dining car and sightseer lounge restored for all passengers to use. Those amenities were cut before the pandemic in 2020 by former Amtrak President Richard Anderson, former Delta Airlines chief. 

The next SART meeting in San Antonio is June 21st, according to their website.  

RESTART Lone Star Rail District plans to have future meetings in Austin, San Marcos, New Braunfels and San Antonio to energize the public. They are most active on Twitter @restartlsrd.