the Sandpiper Editors
More cars clogging our roadways or more public transit? Hasan Ikhrata, the new SANDAG Executive Director, is leading the effort to modernize the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) to achieve the state’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing more options for transportation in the San Diego County focused planning area. This makes him an outspoken proponent of more public transit. Although this view is supported by most of the SANDAG Board and particularly the heavy hitters (read weighted vote majority) of San Diego and Chula Vista, there has been pushback from the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors. They voted 3-2 to oppose the new RTP (Supervisors Gaspar, Desmond and Jacobs against; Supervisors Fletcher and Cox for). The opponents cited voter approval of the 0.5% Transnet sales tax extension in 2004 that promised funding for freeway expansion as if nothing had changed in the last 15 years.
The transportation plan is updated every 5 years, and the current discussion is focused on the proposed changes to the 2021 plan. The draft 2021 document proposes 5 new strategies to be implemented over the next 30 years.
These include: 1) complete corridors (also known as “smart streets”) that accommodate bus, car, bicycle and pedestrian travel; 2) transit leap, high speed rail or bus options with frequent service intervals; 3) mobility hubs that connect where people live, work and play; 4) flexible fleets of new mobility modes consisting of shared electric vehicles with transition to autonomous operation as technology improves; 5) and a central operations system that will monitor and integrate transportation services to ensure safety, reliability and efficiency. This is a bold vision for the future that moves beyond the history of SANDAG prioritizing freeway widening (as in the current I-5 corridor project) over other transportation modes. The simple fact is that we need to change the way we travel to have any hope of combatting climate change driven by the use of petroleum-based fuels, and each year we delay makes the challenge exponentially more difficult.
Change in personal transportation options will help, but expensive regional transportation changes will be essential to meeting the challenge. The average gas-powered car emits more than 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, and trucks emit much more. That is why we are in the midst of a transition to electric vehicles (EVs), with 18 different models currently available and 24 available next year. If you charge your EV battery with clean energy (e.g., residential solar panels), your carbon dioxide emissions drop to zero and you save the money you would have spent on gas and maintenance. At the regional level, we urge you to support the vision of the new draft RTP to invest in solutions to climate change. Future generations will look back on this time as a tipping point where we could have made wise decisions that preserved the way of life we currently enjoy, or to continue with business as usual and leave them limited options for adaptation and survival. The Board of Supervisors needs to understand this. We urge the city council to support the goals of the draft transportation plan and refute the lack of vision evident in the county supervisors vote.