SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The San Diego Association of Governments’ Board of Directors unveiled the agency’s plan to revolutionize the county’s transit network today to mixed reviews from county officials.
The agency’s proposed plan would drastically increase the county’s use of technology in its network of roadways and increase public transit services in an effort to reduce reliance on personal vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is essentially a reworking of the agency’s 2019-2050 Regional Plan, which had been in development since 2017.
SANDAG had until February expected to complete the Regional Plan by the end of the year, when it would begin serving as a guideline for future infrastructure development around the county. But the SANDAG Board unanimously voted in February to push that timeline back two years to develop a more ambitious and forward-thinking plan.
The new plan, dubbed “Five Big Moves,” is mostly conceptual and SANDAG officials don’t expect to release more concrete details until later this year, possibly by fall.
The plan would repurpose the county’s network of roads and highways to be more efficient, expand public transit to better connect residents from where they live to where they work and call for the implementation of so-called “mobility hubs,” which would include multiple mobility and transit options, dedicated bike and pedestrian infrastructure and supporting amenities for travelers.
At the heart of the proposal is “Next OS,” the “brain” of the transit network that will connect residents, transit service providers and county infrastructure to make the movement of both people and goods more efficient.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a SANDAG Board member, called the new plan “bold and exciting.”
“It will allow us to use evolving technology to get people out of their cars, reduce traffic congestion, and enhance our transportation network to improve quality of life for residents across the region,” Faulconer said. “This innovative approach puts San Diego on track to become a national leader in transportation, and I look forward to working with the county and all of our regional cities to make this vision a reality.”
Officials from the North County Transit District, Metropolitan Transit System and Caltrans also praised the plan for its effort to reshape the county’s transit network to reflect the ways in which residents traverse San Diego County.
While agency officials say the plan is still very much elastic and will include multiple chances for public feedback, county Supervisor Jim Desmond raised the question of how the new plan will utilize TransNet, the county’s half-cent sales tax on public transit that pays for local infrastructure and transit upgrades. County residents voted to extend the tax for 40 years in 2004.
Desmond suggested that the plan amounts to a bait-and-switch by the agency because it removes certain projects from the county’s future development plans that were promised to voters in 2004. He also argued that freeways and roads are necessary for the county’s rural and non-urban populations.
“The TransNet tax was adopted because the voters were persuaded that the road projects to be funded were critical,” Desmond wrote in a Twitter post. “Improvements to the 52, 67 and 78 freeways need to be funded, as that’s what voters were promised.”
Desmond said he plans to submit a letter to Board of Supervisors Chair Dianne Jacob at the board’s Tuesday meeting calling for opposition to any changes that affect the use of TransNet funds.
The letter will also request that the board support future development of the county’s network of roads and highways over public transit increases.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, the only Democrat on the technically nonpartisan board, called Desmond’s letter an attempt to cling “to a failed past.”
“The vote before the board is about choosing to believe in climate science or being a climate denier,” Fletcher said. “It is about choosing cleaner air or increased pollution for the next generation. It is about fast, reliable transportation or more congested roads.”
SANDAG plans to start holding public meetings and forums later this year to take feedback on the Regional Plan. If the agency remains on its current track, the Board of Directors would give its final approval of the plan in late 2021.
“The region’s transportation choices need to be efficient, accessible, and affordable,” SANDAG Board Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said. “People need to be able to get where they want to go, when they want to go there and how they want to go there. I look forward to working with my colleagues, stakeholders, and planners to ensure that we deliver on that vision.”