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SANDAG Wants Your Opinion On Regional Transportation

Aired 6/6/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Starting this week, the people of San Diego get to weigh in on a wide-ranging plan to tailor the county's bus, train, trolley, bike and highway options for the next 40-years when Sandag, the San Diego Association of Governments, holds a series of public meetings on their draft 2050 Regional Transportation Plan.

SANDAG RTP Meetings

SANDAG will hold several community workshops and meetings about the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan. Workshops are 4 to 6 p.m.; meetings are 6 to 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 7 - Encinitas Community & Senior Center

Wednesday, June 8 - The Joe & Vi Jacobs Center, San Diego

Thursday, June 9 - Sonrise Community Church, Santee

Monday, June 13 - Martin Luther King Jr. Center, National City

Thursday, June 16 - San Marcos City Council Chambers

The people of San Diego get to weigh in this week on a wide-ranging plan to tailor the county's bus, train, trolley, bike and highway options for the next 40-years. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is holding a series of public meetings on their draft 2050 Regional Transportation Plan.

Guests: David Schumacher, SANDAG Principal Planner

Coleen Clementson, SANDAG Principal Planner

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The people of San Diego get to weigh in this week, actually longer than this week on a wide ranging plan to tailor the county's bus, train, trolley, bike, and highway options for the next 40 years. The San Diego association of governments is holding a series of public meetings on its draft 2050 regional transportation plan. Here to tell us more are my guest, two of SANDAG's principle planners, Colleen Clementson, and David Schumacher. Welcome to you both.

SCHUMACHER: Thank you.

CLEMENTSON: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And if any of our listeners have already gotten a look at this plan or have a question, you can give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. David, the executive summary of SANDAG's 2050 regional transportation plan says it will enhance our quality of life, promote sustainability, and offer us more options. How does it enhance our quality of life?

SCHUMACHER: Well, obviously getting around we transportation -- we all do that. Whether we bike, walk, take transit today. A lot of people are aware that there's increased congestion as the region grows. We've seen increased congestion as we've been out -- I've been in this business for 28 years, and one of the things I hear over and over again is please provide us more transportation options. One day maybe I could take the bus to working but the next day, I need to drive because I need to drop my kid off at daycare or whatever. So I think people feel constrained in their choices today, so the aim of this plan is to provide a lot more options, whether it being biking, walking, driving, car pooling, and providing the incentives for them to do so.

CAVANAUGH: I'm sorry. I was just curious, you made me curious, how does it provide these options? If somebody now wants to take the bus one day, and the next day wants to drop off their child and use the freeway instead? You're right. It is -- you do have kind of limited options. Especially if you're talking about getting some place on time. So what does this plan do to increase those options for people?

SCHUMACHER: Well, for example in public transit, one of the things I hear over and over again is two things, one, the buses and trains don't operate frequently enough. And we know from market research that we can operate every 10 minutes or better throughout the day. You don't have to plan your day around transit. Transit is planned around you. And in other cases we simply don't connect point A from point B very well. And so we're introducing new trolley lines, new bus rapid transit lines to get people to job centers faster than they do today.

CAVANAUGH: And what ever some of the other main elements of this plan?

SCHUMACHER: Well, on the highway side, I mentioned the transit side, on the highway side, other than a short segment of state route 11, to connect to the planned third boarder crossing, there are no new freeway options. What we want to do is manage our freeways better, more efficiently. And again, getting back to the incentives, if I want to car pool -- if I'm sitting in congestion with everybody else, that's not much of an incentive. But if I have a car pool lane like you see in Los Angeles and many other cities, that can get me from point A to point B faster and by pass that congestion then I'm more than likely to consider car pooling to be a much better choice.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly. And there is also is gonna be improvements to the coaster and other trains in the area? ; is that right?

SCHUMACHER: Right. The costar, we're looking at -- one of the limitations of the coaster today is there's a lot of single track section, and it line dates back to the 18 '80s, so it's needing -- need an upgrade where we double track it all the way from Oceanside to downtown. That allows us to operate trains every 20 minutes throughout the day. And then all the trolleys, and the sprinter Hine would great every seven and a half to 10 minutes throughout the day. So much richer network, a lot easier. Again you don't need a schedule. You just go out there, and something's by to pick you up pretty quickly.

CAVANAUGH: So just to recap, we are talking about trains and trolleys and buses and bikes, and also cars in a highway expansion, a freeway expansion along I-5, which I'll get to in just a moment. Is part of the goal, though, of this 40 year plan to meet air quality standards set by the State of California?

CLEMENTSON: Right, the Senate Bill 375, there are goals we have to achieve in terms of green house gas reductions per capita. And our plan does meet those goals both in the year 2020 and 2035.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with David shoe maker, and my other guest is Colleen Clementson. Two of SANDAG's principle planners, and we're talking about a series of public meetings starting this week, to take a look at their draft 2050 region transportation plan. Colleen, let me get you into the conversation. This plan promotes sustainability. That's one of its goals. That's your area, I know. What does sustainability mean in terms of transportation?

CLEMENTSON: Well, what we're looking at is really doing a better job of connecting our local land use plans with the investments that are being made in the regional transportation network. So some of the exciting things that Dave mentioned on the transportation side, we need to have the right sort of land use pattern to support that. And in this region, the local justification in the City of San Diego, the cities, are really planning for a lot of higher density development in the western third of the region. Which really provides this excellent opportunity for the region to invest in more transportation options that are concentrated in that urbanized area of the region. So when we talk about sustainability, it's how does the region grow in sustaining a quality of life that still allows us mobility, economic prosperity, and really looking at this across all segments of the population.

CAVANAUGH: In terms of growth, what kinds of growth does this plan predict?

CLEMENTSON: Well, we did a region growth forecast, that's one of the first steps in preparing the regional transportation plan, and looked out to 2050. The region is projected to grow by another one point three million people. That will require another 38 -- three thousand eight hundred and 88 new homes, and just about half hay million new jobs. So where these new jobs are in comparison to where they are today, where the new homes are built in comparison to where they are today. We're seeing all of that really occurring in the areas where we are making the largest investments in the transportation enhancements.

CAVANAUGH: Now, just to be clear, SANDAG doesn't make any plans for the local justifications. The local justifications tell you where they're expecting growth in urban areas and so forth, and that you use that information to make your transportation plans; is that right?

CLEMENTSON: That's exactly right. And so the -- probably the biggest component into that region growth forecast is understanding the local general plans. And so that's one of the major inputs into the growth forecast, we use a forecasting model to determine where and how that growth will actually occur.

CAVANAUGH: We do have a listener on the line. Ruben is calling from La Mesa. Okay. We'll take that in a moment. I think that -- what is an example of a community that is not sustainable?

CLEMENTSON: Well, one of the things that we have in the region that I think is of enormous benefit is the amount of habitat manning that we've already done. We've taken a lot of land in this region off limits to future growth and development and are preserving that for open space park land and habitat areas for our native species, plants, and animals. And many other regions throughout the State of California haven't been able to do that. And that that's an area where this region has really come together and identified the areas that are off limits to development. And we really see that as a critical component to being sustainable on into the future.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Is there anything we're doing now in terms of our transportation that you both or this plan sees as something that we can't continue to do? That is just not gonna work well into the future? Is that freeway travel? What would that be?

SCHUMACHER: Well, again, I think it gets back to providing people choices. And so the more -- and transit for the people like transit before, we used to spread the peanut better across the region. Give everybody a little transit. And we learned over the years, especially since we have limited dollars, let's put those transit dollars where they can get the biggest bang for the buck. So giving everybody a little bit doesn't quite work so well, because some routes are empty, and some routes are overcrowded. And on the land use side, as Colleen was mentioning, the more people we can house and put jobs next to transit, that makes the transit system work better. Not only for the transit system in terms of lowering its cost, but also in terms of the people we're serving.

CAVANAUGH: I see. And Colleen?

CLEMENTSON: And I'm thinking, maybe the question you're asking, Maureen, we can't just continue to build highways and expect that to allow us to be a sustainable region. We need options for people, particularly as we need -- use land more efficiently, and we don't have the opportunity to just continue to grow to the east and north and so on and so forth. We really have mountains to the east that force our development pattern in a certain way, and we have limited land to be able to continue to expand highways.

CAVANAUGH: So let me get back to you talked about the highways, we talked about the freeways, no new freeways in this 40 year transportation plan. But I think many people will be paying attention to the part of the plan that is that expansion. The I-5 corridor between La Jolla and Oceanside. Is SANDAG still advocating adding six lanes to that five eight zero five merge?

SCHUMACHER: There are a number of different options that are being discussed. There's a bill that senator Kehoe is sponsoring, and SANDAG's staff, and our elected officials are working closely with him. Where it seems to be heading is what we call eight plus four, it would be eight freeway general purpose lanes plus four managed lanes. These are the car pool and van pool lanes. So there's a number of different options. But that seems to be where things are headed.

CAVANAUGH: Now critics who look at this plan that you've just released and the reason that we're talking about it is because this is gonna be a series of workshops starting tomorrow night. And expanding through most of this month. So that people can come in and take a look at what the plan says. People however have said that there's too much emphasis on freeway expansion and public transportation comes in second. In other words, there's an immediate emphasis on this plan to expand I-5, but the rest of it is sort of phased in more slowly. How do you respond to that criticism, either David or Colleen?

SCHUMACHER: Well, one of the things to keep in mind is that the voters back in 2004 expanded the TransNet sales tax, which is the local funding source for highway, transit, and other things. So we're keeping faith in the voters, there are a lot of improvements in there for freeway, managed lane improvements, so there's are some of our early action plans. But it's important to remember too, that there's a lot of transit improvements that'll be coming on line in the next few years. An I-15, for example, a bus rapid transit line that will provide all day service to downtown to Sorrento mesa, the midcoast trolley line, and a number improvements to local buss. So yes, there are a number of improvements in transit that were early action projects, but also a lot of transit projects as well that are early action.

CAVANAUGH: Would you like to add anything Colleen?

CLEMENTSON: So the midcoast trolley line, which will connect from old town San Diego up to UC San Diego is one of those major early action projects. And as we look at the managed lanes that Dave's mentioning, those are really about managing the demand. And as the demand for transit ridership or usage goes up, the lanes that are built for car pools and transit can be better utilized for public transit. So the idea is to build these facilities in a way that make them flexible to the needs of the region.

CAVANAUGH: What are these workshops gonna be like? In other words, when people walk into one of these workshops, what are they gonna see? What are they gonna hear.

CLEMENTSON: So it's really an open house format, Maureen. We will have several tables set up. There will be one area where folks can come in and get up to speed on what's in the plan, we'll have a copy of the plan in there, we'll have sort of a rolling presentation to get information on the plan, and then for specific questions or areas of interest, we'll have tables set up for folks to visit those areas to find out specifics on you mentioned Interstate 5 or the midcoast trolley line. What's anticipated as far as the land use pattern for the region. And then there is a part of these meetings, it is actually a public meeting where we are taking public comment. We'll have a court reporter there to document the comments. And it's really important if folks are interested in having a response made to their comments to register those at these meetings or on the SANDAG website so that we have something in writing that we can then respond to.

CAVANAUGH: Let me tell everyone the public workshops will be held starting tomorrow, through June sixteenth. You can a list of workshop locations on our website at KPBS.org. You can read the plan at SANDAG.org/2050 RTP. I've been speaking with two of SANDAG's planner, David shoe maker, and Colleen Clementson. Thank you both.

SCHUMACHER: Thank you.

CLEMENTSON: Thank you.

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