The separation of church and state is about 10 feet when it comes to San Antonio bus service.
VIA Transit is preparing to place a transit shelter just steps away from historic St. Joseph’s Catholic Church to serve 10 bus lines on Commerce Street.
With barely 10 feet from the curb to the church’s property line, space is already tight. But VIA is determined to build “a shelter and seating to provide comfort and access for passengers,” the transit agency told Watchdog.org.
The Catholic Diocese of San Antonio is less than enthralled about the way VIA is crowding the 149-year-old church built by German immigrants.
St. Joseph’s conducts noon Mass daily and draws hundreds of parishoners to four services on Sundays. A Hospitality House under construction on the church grounds will add sidewalk traffic to the compact site.
VIA already has a bus stop less than 250 feet east of St. Joseph’s. Served by a downtown trolley, the stop is seldom used.
VIA spokesman Andy Scheidt said the trolley stop cannot accommodate additional buses because of limited curb space there.
But sidewalk space in front of St. Joseph’s will be even tighter at the new and expanded stop, which Scheidt estimates will cost about $25,000 to erect.
Scheidt said the sidewalk will be widened at the new shelter location. “All city codes will be followed,” he said.
VIA said the fate of the existing trolley shelter — which attracts more vagrants than riders — “will be evaluated once the new stop has been installed.” Scheidt did not provide a price for removal.
In its ever-shifting placement and abandonment of bus stops, VIA had a stop at Alamo and Commerce, 100 feet west of St. Joseph’s. It was torn down two years ago.
Jeff Judson, a fellow with the conservative Heartland Institute, accused San Antonio and its public transit system of being “insensitive.”
“Churches don’t pay taxes and because they don’t generate ‘business,’ the city probably doesn’t even want [St. Joseph’s] there,” Judson told Watchdog.
“This ought to be considered a ‘taking,’” he said.
Kenric Ward reports for Texas Watchdog. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and @Kenricward