San Diego Quality of Life Coalition speaks up for a world-class transportation system
A group of environmentalists and labor organizations billing themselves as the San Diego Quality of Life Coalition rallied in National City yesterday (January 25), calling on the San Diego Association of Governments to focus on mass transit as the agency drafts a plan to raise sales taxes countywide to fund transportation development.
The association’s current transit plan, funded by a half-cent sales tax, has already received considerable criticism from environmentalists and advocates for low-income workers who say it promotes mostly freeway expansion while pushing improvements to light rail and pedestrian options to the back end of the plan's timespan, which runs through 2050.
Beginning today, the association of governments will conduct a handful of outreach events, including "telephone town hall" meetings, soliciting emailed comments and inviting public comment at board meetings on how spending should be prioritized before releasing a final proposal. Coalition members, however, already have suggestions.
The group focuses on several avenues of investment aside from transit development. These include funding the purchase of land for dedication to open-space preserves, spending on storm-drain upgrades to improve local water quality, and increasing affordable housing development along already-existing transit corridors. Priority investment areas, they say, should include low-income communities most affected by existing roadways and their attendant pollution, such as Barrio Logan.
"This is potentially an $18 billion opportunity to invest in a socially and environmentally equitable manner," said Monique López, a policy advocate at Environmental Health Coalition. "The San Diego region cannot afford to spend new money on old ways of thinking.
"We want to partner with SANDAG, but only if their ballot initiative invests in clean air, better transit, safer streets and good jobs."
Jeanne Peterson, a La Mesa resident, addressed the media with complaints about the difficulties of using the city's patchwork public transit network.
"I've gotten my kids hooked on taking the trolley — they love it," Peterson says. "But going to a friend's house? We'd have to walk a half hour each way. An event in Point Loma? That's all but completely impossible.
"I feel like I'm forced to use my car. I'm a voter, and I'm really hoping SANDAG will address this and give us a world-class transit system."