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Transit Funding Emerges As Key Issue For SANDAG Tax Increase

A view of the San Diego trolley yard at 12th Street and Imperial Avenue in the East Village, June 1, 2014.
Michael Schuerman
A view of the San Diego trolley yard at 12th Street and Imperial Avenue in the East Village, June 1, 2014.

Board members of the San Diego Association of Governments on Friday debated prioritizing public transit over highways, as the county planning agency mulls placing a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot.

Several board members said roads and highways need more funding because that's what their constituents depend on most.

"There is no way that mass transit — buses, trolleys, whatever — is going to be going out to the far reaches of the East County," said county Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "So roads are our only way."


But others countered that San Diego's dependence on cars is fueled by the lack of a competitive public transit system, and that future population growth would be happening in urban areas.

"As a region matures, it changes — all of you know this," said county Supervisor Ron Roberts,chairman of the SANDAG board. "And what we’re seeing, and what you’re going to see, is a TransNet 20 years from now is probably going to be very heavy in public transit."

SANDAG Spending Options
SANDAG presents two options for spending revenue from a proposed half-cent sales tax increase.
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TransNet, a half-cent sales tax first approved by county voters in 1987, split funding evenly between public transit, highways and local roads. The car-heavy spending was seen as a way to reach the two-thirds majority needed for special taxes to pass under California law.

Board members first discussed specific spending plans at a meeting last month, when SANDAG staffers presented them with two options. They continued the discussion at the board’s retreat on March 10, when staffers presented a "hybrid" plan of the original two alternatives.


That hybrid plan gave 50 percent of the hypothetical tax revenue to public transit, 14 percent to highways and 21 percent dedicated to local infrastructure. Friday’s discussion was of a revised hybrid plan, giving 42 percent to public transit, 14 percent to highways and 30 percent to local infrastructure.

Staffers plan on conducting a survey of voters before the board's meeting on April 8, when they will finally be asked whether to place the tax hike on the ballot.