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SANDAG Vice Chair On Future Of Transportation In San Diego County

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The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, is currently in the process of updating its regional transportation plan to bring it in line with state targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, vice chair of SANDAG, joins Midday Edition to discuss the development of the plan.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 One of the biggest challenges facing the San Diego region in the next few years will be how to invest in ways of getting around. Everybody wants to avoid worst traffic gridlock on the roads and for our own long term survival we have to cut carbon emissions. Catherine Blake Spears, a mayor of Encinitas and the vice chair of Sandag, the agency responsible for planning all the transportation. That's the San Diego Association of governments, a mouthful of a name for the group of political leaders from all 18 cities in the region and the county. Mayor Blake's spear. Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 2: 00:32 Well thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:33 So now this is becoming a hot political potato and candidates are already taking positions on, on a new vision for how we keep San Diego moving. And some people are describing this debate as a battle between investing in roads versus in public transit or between the city of San Diego and the surrounding suburbs or some people said it's a battle between liberals and conservatives. Now, what would you say is wrong with that picture?

Speaker 2: 00:59 Well, I don't think we should see this in terms of either or. I think what we really need to do is to look forward 50 years, this is what the agency is actually doing, looking forward 50 years and saying what type of transportation network do we want to see in this county? And we are in the process of doing that. So that's basically what a regional plan is for transportation. And undoubtedly the ultimate plan will involve improvements to roads and freeways as well as to transit trains, bus lines and active transportation like biking and walking.

Speaker 1: 01:34 Do you think it's going to be possible to keep politics out of it in order to focus on what's best for the, for the county?

Speaker 2: 01:40 No, I think that the public policy discussion we're having is really important, but I think politics will definitely be part of it. You already see that happening because there can be political value and demonizing one side or over simplifying. And I think what really, what we need to do is to let the SANDAG agency come up with a plan that meets state law and then discuss the different options that we have within that plan.

Speaker 1: 02:09 We've already seen some fairly harsh words being exchanged between longtime county supervisor done and Jacob and the new director of Sandag, Hassana Karata Jacob wants road improvements in the back country. The crowd was hired to craft this whole New Vision. Do you think that crowd is somewhat brash? Style could be a liability for Sandag and the coming debate,

Speaker 2: 02:30 I think very highly of our executive director who we've only recently hired, so he's been with the agency about six months, maybe a little more than that, and he comes with a wealth of experience from having run the largest similar type of agency in the entire country, which was in the greater Los Angeles area. I think that he's a straight shooter and that he knows his stuff in terms of being an engineer and being involved, the transportation policy debates for many years. So I in some ways I think that he's unapologetic and just saying it as it is. I don't think he's engaging in an emotionally heated type of discussion. I think he's just saying it straight and sometimes people don't like to hear the truth. I will say that supervisor Jacob is not on the SANDAG board. So I'm just more involved in who's on the Sandag board because those are the decision makers. So sometimes, uh, press conferences and press releases from other people, it doesn't, it seems as if that might be more of a political theater than it is actually a discussion about what it is that we can and we'll see in the county when it comes to transportation. So from my perspective, I'm less engaged in that part because I think it's important that we do sit down with the decision makers and try to hash it out.

Speaker 1: 03:51 Well, let me just ask you, what would you like to see people who have disagreements or concerns with the crowd as vision do?

Speaker 2: 03:58 Well, I th I think the most important thing would be to have a straight dialogue. One to one with any board member who has concerns, needs to spend some serious time working through what those are so that it's really clear in, in depth. And I think ultimately solutions and compromises will need to be made. And so we have to be able to get beyond the soundbites that come out from the dueling press releases or that kind of thing. So, so I think that's the first thing. And in some ways that's about being just a responsible adult about how do you make a change, how do you affect the levers of power you do involve, involve yourself in the deep dialogue about things. And then I think the other thing is just to really understand what drives a regional plan. Because we do work within a system, so we're not just operating out here on our own.

Speaker 2: 04:53 We do need to comply with the state's requirements when it comes to greenhouse gas reduction requirements. So it's not optional for us as a county to say we don't care about climate change. I mean, speaking personally, I care a lot about us doing what we can to address climate change. And also about us having a transportation network that provides more real transit options than we currently have. But it's, it's also just we have to be clear eyed about the fact that state law is what it is. And so the transportation network needs to meet those goals. So s so understanding the depths and nuances of, of that whole area is really important as well for, for all the board members, but particularly anybody who might be concerned about the direction that we're going.

Speaker 1: 05:41 Well, just for the average person in the street who's trying to get to work on time, you know, um, I encourage people to look up the five big moves, which is a grat as the outline of, of the vision that has, that Sandag is considering, which is quite a different way of getting around. And it complete corridors that will connect to a mobility hubs. And I quote, we'll provide travel as a true alternative for traveling to work home and major destinations as fast or faster than driving. Now this is a huge shift from how we get around now. Do you blame people for being a bit shocked? And, and having a hard time accepting that this is really possible.

Speaker 2: 06:18 Well, you know, it's interesting because one of the things that strikes me so much is that the people who prioritize roads and the people who prioritize transit all agree that we need complete corridors because complete corridors essentially means that the modes work together. Because a lot of people do use multiple types of ways to get around and a lot of trips will obviously continue to be taken in a car. So we need to have the road network be as efficient as possible. And also we need to do what we can to reduce congestion. And every person who moves onto the train from the freeway is no longer clogging up the freeway. So it does actually reduce congestion to have more people taking transit. I think that's really important to remember. So, so when we're moving forward with a plan, the plan has to include all the different modes of transportation. And I think fundamentally all of the Sandag board agrees with that as, as mostly, I mean, does the public. So it's really about being able to see what that plan looks like. And I think that's another really important point is that in many ways, a lot of the controversy seems premature to me because we haven't actually seen a plan. So we don't have anything that we can respond to yet.

Speaker 1: 07:30 My Blake's Peter, thanks so much for joining us. Well, thank you very much for having me. That's Catherine Blake sphere, the mayor of Encinitas and vice chair of Sandag.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.