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Nearly two dozen people showed up to speak at yesterday’s city council meeting in San Diego concerning a statement the council was drafting to provide the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). The letter is to provide feedback on SANDAG’s 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, which was presented to the council on May 25.

The council’s proposed comments were supportive of the plan in general, and specifically endorsed a high level of attention for mass transit related projects. Excerpts from the draft letter, specifically general recommendations 2 and 3 of 5 total: “[T]he RTP should prioritize mass transit infrastructure and sustainable transportation projects over highway expansion in order to reduce vehicle miles traveled . . . [T]he RTP should accelerate the timeline of funding projects supporting active transportation, increasing transit ridership, and transit frequency.”

Of 23 speakers who signed up to give public comment on the draft, the majority were supportive of a focus on transit over freeway expansion. Elyse Lowe of Move San Diego, an advocacy group for pedestrian/bicycle access and for transit, was first to speak in support. “A primary strategy of the general plan is to reduce dependence on automobile to achieve multiple and interrelated goals including increasing mobility, protecting and enhancing neighborhood character, improving air quality, reducing storm water runoff, fostering compact development in a more walkable city. Expanding transit service is an essential component.”

Mike Bullock also endorsed the council’s statements on behalf of the Sierra Club, as did Kevin Worsing of Friends of Rose Canyon, Evan McLaughlin of the San Diego Labor Council, and many others. Miriam, a high school senior and representative of a group called Justice Overcoming Boundaries, commented that he had a 1 ½ hour one-way commute to school using public transit, and welcomed better service that might allow her to take on a part-time job instead of spending 3 hours daily traveling across town.

Among the few critics were Kendall Helm, representing the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, who pointed out an imbalance of funds directed at transit. “Between now and 2030, planned transit investments will total over 25 billion. Planned highway investments will total 19 billion of which over 55% will be allocated for managed lane and hov connectors to support express and bus transit options.” He requested the council consider the impact to local business by focusing the majority of transportation funding on transit.

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