SANDAG board approves 30-year transportation plan in partisan vote

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Speaker 1: (00:00)

The leaders of the county and 18 cities of San Diego constitute the members of the San Diego Association of Governments or SANDAG. And last Friday, that organization approved a $160 billion proposal to transform transportation across the county. The new regional transportation plan, mass transit, including high-speed rail lines, increases managed lanes on freeways and complements San Diego’s long-term network of bike lanes. But the plan still faces hurdles, voters will need to approve sales tax increases to fund some of the proposals and SANDAG members are calling for a fundamental part of the transportation plan, the abolition of per-mile charges for drivers . Join me as KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew, welcome

Speaker 2: (00:51)

Time, Maureen. Thank you. Can you

Speaker 1: (00:53)

Remind us why sand ag has to draw up a new transport plan for the department?

Speaker 2: (00:58)

Sure. Regional transportation plans are required by state and federal law and must be updated every four years. Although SANDAG is currently operating under a two-year extension, uh, because they, they decided in 2019, they needed to put a lot more work into this revamp. The goal is simply to ensure that major metropolitan areas plan for their long-term transportation needs. So they project decades into the future. How many people will live in your area? Where are they going to live and how are they going to get around in the case of Sand A in California? Um, the state has also imposed some pretty stringent and ever-escalating requirements to reduce driving and greenhouse gas emissions. So that’s a key part of this plan and requirements often the discussion, I think, around these things ends up giving people the impression that these projects are going to happen tomorrow. Um, but in fact, the most important elements of this plan would not happen until 2035 at the earliest. And many of them not until 2050. The other thing to keep in mind is that SANDAG, as you alluded to in your SANDAG introduction, hasn’t voted on any individual project that they’re going to build. Uh, last week you can think of the regional plan as a kind of blueprint, and then implementing that plan requires a whole host of other actions that need to take place.

Speaker 1: (02:18)

Let’s talk about vision for a minute though. How would this plan transform the waste and the Diegos move? Yeah, well,

Speaker 2: (02:25)

I think maybe it’s helpful to frame that through, uh, the way that SANDAG, uh, structures, this plan, which is sort of the branding. Uh, the five major movements, so five kinds of global strategies, uh, in their approach to transport. One of them is called complete corridors, and it’s the idea of ​​transforming our road network. And, uh, in some cases, maybe even surface streets to include more high occupancy vehicle lanes or carpool lanes, uh, which would then also be open to solo drivers. If they’re willing to pay a toll, that of course already exists on I 15, the expressways there and also some sort of redirection of major surface streets to include more transit infrastructure and pedestrians cycle paths. The second big move is transit jumps. So these are, uh, big improvements to, uh, bus services, new commuter rail lines, uh, that would connect major centers of population and employment.

Speaker 2: (03:18)

Uh, next is mobility hubs. It is therefore a strategy, more oriented towards land use, where you concentrate your population growth, your housing development in dense pedestrian areas and less dependent on the car. The fourth is flexible fleets. So these are the kind of smaller vehicles that allow you to travel from your home, a major transit hub. Hmm, maybe it’s too far to walk. And those could include self-driving vehicles, uh, shared shuttles, uh, regular old bikes or scooters, privately owned or maybe even rented like the companies that exist now. And then the fifth big move is the next operating system. It’s the technology that would allow you to open your phone, look at all the different options that you, uh, have to get where you need to go, how much each one will cost, how long it will take. And then the bigger vision is just to give people more options and incentives to live more sustainably without relying on a car all the time.

Speaker 1: (04:18)

Now supporters are excited about what this regional transportation plan could mean for San Diego’s future, but there are dark clouds surrounding this particular vote. It was divided along partisan lines, wasn’t it?

Speaker 2: (04:31)

Yes. Democrats on the SANDAG board voted for the plan. Republicans voted against, which doesn’t happen that often. Usually it’s not quite sharp. Um, but in this case, it was, and there were plenty of conservative critics. One of them was just that it was too expensive. It relies on new taxes. Of course, uh, the taxes wouldn’t happen if they didn’t get voter approval. Many of them did not like the elimination of some freeway widening projects, especially in the north of the county. Uh, there are plans to increase freeway capacity, but without adding new general-purpose lanes that could be used by anyone. And also just building within the existing freeway plan, rather than, you know, expanding it with more concrete and, you know, grabbing the property to widen the overall freeway. Uh, and then they also felt that it was too focused on urban areas and not enough on suburban or rural areas where even decades into the future people will probably continue to, uh, rely on cars for their transportation . Lets go

Speaker 1: (05:32)

Talk about those driving costs per mile. We heard a lot about it when the proposal was just coming out and many believe it’s the keystone of this plan to achieve its climate action goals, but it’s still not popular with SANDAG leadership. . What is the status of this proposal

Speaker 2: (05:49)

A week before that vote, on Dec. 3, the three top leaders of the SANDAG Board of Directors, San Diego, Mayor Todd, Gloria and Sanita Mayor Catherine Blake and National City Mayor Alejandra. So Salise all three came out against this road, the user fees, quite unexpectedly, uh, and their decision was to approve the factory, the regional transportation plan as written , but immediately ordered staff to start updating the plan and eliminate that, uh, road user fee. So the SANDAG staff are getting into it now. I guess right now, uh, the discussion in council was that it was considered before we knew about the federal infrastructure bill. So I think they’re hoping that maybe SANDAG can take that, uh, burden off their funding. Again, make up the difference assuming they will just get more money from state and federal governments.

Speaker 2: (06:42)

What I haven’t really heard, as you mentioned in your question, is that the road user charge is not just a funding strategy. It’s also a strategy to reduce driving and greenhouse gas emissions when you make driving more expensive. Uh, and if public transit is fast and free, as the plan calls for, uh, in 2030 when that comes into effect, you’ll have more people choosing public transit and fewer people choosing to drive. So, you know, SANDAG is going to have to find another way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to find new ways to finance all these projects. Uh, after that, he’ll have to, uh, make, uh, an amendment to his environmental impact report, go through a whole other process of public outreach and, and review. Uh, so you know, this plan is, isn’t even fully cooked yet.

Speaker 1: (07:28)

I spoke with K PBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew. To thank

Speaker 2: (07:32)

You. Thanks Maureen.

Speaker 3: (07:38)

I.


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