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Anti-Sprawl Group Calls SD Transportation Plan ‘Disastrous’

San Diego’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) today drew fire from a group that called it illegal and environmentally disastrous. The Cleveland National Forest Foundation also offered an alternative plan that would implement all the mass-transit proposals in the 40-year RTP during the coming 10 years.

They’ve dubbed their proposal the “50-10” transit plan.

The Regional Transportation Plan was created by SANDAG, San Diego’s regional planning agency. The RTP would spend $196 billion in state, federal and local tax money over the next 40 years to build roads, mass transit systems and related developments.

Lawyers for the Cleveland National Forest Foundation submitted a 100-page document to SANDAG, criticizing the RTP and SANDAG’s draft environmental impact report. The foundation said the transportation plan was a recipe for increased car traffic and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“Rather than reducing VMT (vehicle miles traveled),” they wrote, “VMT would increase by 50 percent between 2010 and 2050… It comes as no surprise, then, that the plan would also fail to achieve any sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The man behind the critical report is Duncan McFetridge. A resident of Descanso, McFetridge headed up a voter referendum in 1998 that would have created a “greenbelt” around urban San Diego to dramatically restrict suburban housing developments. The countywide proposition was defeated at the polls.

But the gruff anti-sprawl activist continued his mission. He is now the director of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. McFetridge spoke to me in familiar tones as he called the planning process dysfunctional and corrupt.

“You know, sprawl developers have the greatest thing going possible,” he said, “because SANDAG builds their freeways for them. The public pays for the infrastructure for sprawl development, and these guys laugh all the way to the bank!”

Some transit supporters give SANDAG credit for budgeting an unprecedented level of funding for mass transportation and active transportation … biking and walking. But many people agree with McFetridge when he says mass transit has to be developed before more roads are built and more freeways are widened.

The backers of a “transit first” approach argue you can’t expect people to choose mass transit when the expansion of highways encourages them to stay in their cars. Members of McFetridge’s group say their alternative, the 50-10 plan, is a better way to go.

“The premise of the plan is quite simple,” they write. “Fifty years of transit improvements would be implemented over the next decade. … Thus the plan would foster two main goals: To make transit time competitive with the automobile within the urban core; and to create neighborhoods that are close to needed services and amenities.”

My attempts to get comment from SANDAG on the 50-10 plan were unsuccessful. Lawyers for McFetridge’s group claim SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan is in violation of CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.

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Avatar for user 'jackkshu'

jackkshu | July 29, 2011 at 7:40 p.m. ― 5 years, 7 months ago

This is one of the most important issues in our region. However it is not being covered very much by our local media. Thank you Tom for interviewing Duncan who is not only knowledgeable about transit and local processes but is also driven to help our communities be healthier as well as economically viable. We need to implement more forward thinking ideas in our local planning like 50-10. I hope you continue to cover this issue and not let SANDAG continue to do what it has done in the past. Local cities and communities will want 50-10 if they find out what it is and how bad the other alternatives are.
Thank you KPBS

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | August 2, 2011 at 1:06 p.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Jack. We've yet to see what form the RTP will take. The logic of "transit first" is compelling. The only way you can get people to take transit is to make motoring less convenient and efficient (or a LOT more expensive). My reading of the SANDAG board is there isn't the support for an aggressive transit-first policy. It will be interesting to see if Duncan and his friends, who claim the RTP violates CEQA, will file suit.

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