The long-controversial transit plan inching toward implementation by the San Diego Association of Governments, dubbed San Diego Forward, could actually move the city backward when it comes to meeting pollution goals set by its own Climate Action Plan.
So say Circulate San Diego and Climate Action Campaign, activist groups that held a joint press conference Wednesday (September 23) announcing the release of a new report contrasting the transit goals of SANDAG's and the city's plans.
Not Even Close
"Not only is transportation important for economic development, lifestyle, and social equity, it's a crucial component in reducing the risk of climate change," says Colin Parent, lead study author and counsel for Circulate San Diego. "Some of the mobility strategies outlined in the climate plan must be implemented on a regional level by SANDAG, not by the city alone.
"Unfortunately, SANDAG is preparing a transportation plan that could be a barrier to San Diego accomplishing its climate goals."
Under the city's plan, 50 percent of residents living in "transit corridors" within a half-mile of a light-rail station or in an area well served by transit, walking, and cycling amenities are expected to rely on one of these methods for most trips by 2035. This includes 25 percent bus and trolley ridership, 7 percent commuting on foot, and 18 percent using a bicycle to get around.
By contrast, SANDAG envisions only 8.6 percent transit ridership in the same span (up from 5.1 percent at present). The number of pedestrians and cyclists is expected to remain virtually unchanged over the next 20 years, with just over 4 percent of the city's population along transit corridors expected to walk and 2 percent expected to travel by bike.
"SANDAG's projections show that it's mathematically impossible for the City of San Diego to achieve its transit goals using the network they're currently planning. SANDAG has to meet the city halfway, and they're not even close," argues Parent.
Can't Be World-Class
Nicole Capretz, Climate Action Campaign's executive director and study co-author, echoed Parent's concerns and joined in a call urging the city's representatives to SANDAG (mayor Kevin Faulconer and councilmember Todd Gloria) to "use the power of the bully pulpit" to push the regional organization to allocate more resources for alternatives to car-reliant transportation, a cause also championed by other local activists.
"We cannot be a world-class city without a world-class transportation system," Capretz said. "We may be on the cusp of passing one of the most ambitious climate plans in the nation, yet setting ourselves up for failure," due to SANDAG's "thumbing their nose at the city's climate plan.
"What we imagine is that our mayor and council vote 'no' on this regional transportation plan, unless and until there is more investment and resources dedicated to building the necessary infrastructure to make people feel safe in walking and taking public transit to work."
The latest revision to the SANDAG plan, released after the initial plan was struck down by the courts in 2012, is expected to come up for a vote before boardmembers including Faulconer and Gloria on October 9. The city, meanwhile, is expected to vote on its climate plan sometime in December.