San Diego claims a vast network of highways, rail lines, ports, cycling lanes, walking trails and smaller roadways which help us to conduct business and enjoy San Diego’s quality of life. Decisions we make now about where to put new roads, light rail, bus lines, and walking and cycling paths, directly impact our long term energy consumption, convenient access to our daily needs, such as jobs, schools and services, and protection of open space and natural areas.
CONGESTION AND COST OF TRAFFIC DELAYS STEADILY INCREASING
San Diego is dominated by automobile usage as a result of our increasing population, suburban lifestyles, and land use decisions dating back to the early 20th century.
San Diego has made strides in providing designated bicycle paths and lanes, greening our bus fleet, and expanding our light rail system. However, we still face impediments to creating a transportation network for the future that gets us where we need to go in a timely manner, enhances our health, and makes moving through our region an enjoyable and safe experience at all times of day.
For example, only 3% of our workforce commutes to work using public transportation (ranking 33rd out of 50 cities).76% of San Diegans drive to work alone; 10% carpool, leading to one of the highest congestion rankings in the country (41 of the 50 largest cities).
Other challenges we face in the transportation realm:
- San Diegans spend 100% more time in traffic delays and almost 300% more in travel delay costs than they did in 1988.
- The cost of congestion to an individual commuter in San Diego in 2007 was estimated at $1,081, including lost wages and fuel expenditures.
- On-road transportation is the leading source of air pollution and the largest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (46% of emissions) in San Diego.
- 75% of local businesses consider traffic congestion a significant challenge to doing business in our region.
- San Diego ranked 6th among 50 large cities for sustainable transportation in the 2008 Smarter Cities project by the National Resource Defense Council
Source: NRDC, 2008
SAN DIEGANS WANT ADDITIONAL TRANSIT OPTIONS
75% of San Diegans believe we need to expand mass transit in our region
Source: SANDAG, 2008
As our families grow and our economy develops, bringing new employees into our region, continuing down the path of “business as usual” could jeopardize our quality of life by worsening our air quality, increasing congestion, hampering economic development, and encroaching on our more rural landscapes and sensitive habitats.
One impediment to improved transportation in the region is the perceived and real inadequacy of public transit in San Diego County. In a 2008 survey conducted for SANDAG, the most commonly mentioned obstacles preventing increased ridership, even among those who were interested, were that the system didn’t travel to places they needed to go, inconvenience, travel time and few transit options near home.
Other cities, such as Portland and Denver have seen 15-20% annual ridership increases on new light rail systems, even in less dense neighborhoods. What can we learn from them about how they overcame these obstacles?
Adequate funding is another major challenge to improved transportation networks in our region. Operating costs of our mass transit systems have risen, in part due to rising fuel and insurance costs, but the revenue generated from fares has declined. State and federal funds used to support mass transit or cycling lanes and enhanced walkability are unpredictable and have been severely cut or eliminated in times of economic stress. Learn more about funding.
TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS WILL FOSTER ECONOMIC GROWTH, IMPROVED HEALTH
Research on algal biofuels employs about 272 scientists and other workers in San Diego, provides nearly $16.5 million in payroll, and results in $33 million in economic activity for the region, according to a recent SANDAG assessment.
Source: SANDAG, 2009
The impetus for innovative policies and opportunity for action is clear.
- Federal economic stimulus funds incentivize consumer and local government purchases of more fuel efficient vehicles and support the development of alternative fuels, such as algae based biofuels being developed here in San Diego.
- Recent state legislation is forcing us to re-think our transportation and land use decisions. The Global Warming Solutions act of 2006, or AB 32, sets aggressive targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions in California, while SB 375 is designed to reduce the state’s GHG emissions through a reduction in vehicle miles traveled. The chart below shows that the greatest potential for our region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach AB32 targets, based on existing or expected policy changes, is the on-road transportation sector.
Potential Emissions Reductions by Sector to Meet AB 32 Targets
- At the county level, SANDAG’s 2050 draft of its Regional Transportation Plan calls for more integrated regional planning on land use, energy and transportation issues, and more aggressive approaches to developing infrastructure for cycling, walking and alternative fuels.
- Public health studies have shown that people who live in more walkable, bicycle friendly communities are 32% more likely to use active modes of transportation, and therefore less likely to be obese. Obesity and chronic diseases associated with it, such as diabetes, are major concerns for the San Diego region.
Equinox Center Priorities:
Equinox Center will research and advance policies that promote affordable, efficient, cost effective modes of transit to reduce congestion, reduce emissions and improve air quality, and get people where they want or need to go in a timely manner. Our priorities are the following:
- Identify and advance effective practices to improve mass transit & increase ridership
- Support opportunities for safe cycling & walking in our communities
- Explore the use of viable, environmentally sound alternative fuels
- Engage the business community to identify ways to enhance the business climate of the region from a transportation perspective.
- Research creative solutions for funding alternatives to single occupancy vehicle transit in the region
- Air Pollution Control District County of San Diego,Air Quality in San Diego: 2007 Annual Report
- County of San Diego, Call to Action: San Diego County Childhood Obesity Action Plan 2006,
- County of San Diego, New Leading Cause of Death in County, 2009
- Energy Policy Initiatives Center, San Diego County Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2009
- Frank, Lawrence et al., Many Pathways from Land Use to Health, Journal of the American Planning Association; Winter 2006; 72, 1;
- Public Policy Institute of California, Californians and the Environment,2009
- SANDAG, 2030 Regional Transportation Plan, 2007
- SANDAG, Economic Impact of Algal Biofuel Research, April 2009,
- SANDAG, San Diego Region Transit Public Opinion Study, September 2008,
- SANDAG, Transit Impediments Study, 2009
- Texas Transportation Institute, The 2009 Urban Mobility Report,
- Sustain Lane, 2008 U.S. City Rankings,