Opinion by Coronado Mayor Bailey: SANDAG’s latest plan is a $177 billion train wreck

By Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – As SANDAG continues to push a new, $177 billion transportation plan for the San Diego region, elected officials who oppose the plan are voicing their opposition.

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey wrote the following opinion piece detailing his opposition:

Nearly 16 years after voters approved a one-half cent local sales tax measure to collect $14 billion to fund regional transportation projects, 97 percent of commuters are still waiting — in traffic. Now, SANDAG is pushing a new, $177 billion transportation plan that prioritizes political ideology over technological innovation by doubling down on failed past promises that will leave the San Diego region mired in traffic for generations.

For the past twenty years, in San Diego County, public transit, such as buses and trains, received over 50 percent of all local transportation funding, while highways received just 15 percent. What makes this funding disparity even more astounding is that the percentage of commuters riding public transit today is just 3 percent and falling.

Yes, you read that correctly: More than 50 percent of local transportation dollars are spent to move just 3 percent of commuters. Spending the majority of resources to move a fraction of commuters is part of the reason why the vast majority of us sit in traffic each day.

The new $177 billion transportation plan does not add a single new lane of highway expansion but instead constructs several new train lines at a massive cost to taxpayers to build and operate.

Transit advocates suggest government-operated transit provides a cheap alternative to a car. However, transit operations are very expensive for taxpayers. A typical one-way fare for buses and trolleys of $2.50 would need to increase to nearly $10, without a decline in ridership, for the existing transit system to become self-sufficient. Currently, taxpayers are spending nearly $450 million annually to subsidize government-operated transit fares in San Diego County.

SANDAG’s latest plan digs an even bigger operating deficit by building more rail lines that require even larger taxpayer subsidies to operate.

Even worse, SANDAG’a new plan is built around fixed routes to fixed destinations on fixed schedules.  This model is financially irresponsible and increasingly undesirable as consumers value choice, flexibility, and on-demand services more than ever before.

The future of transit and transportation is likely to be autonomous, zero-emission vehicles, providing on-demand, door-to-door service, while carrying multiple passengers along the most efficient route possible.

Until this technology is deployed, tax dollars should be focused on relieving the most congested bottlenecks with selective highway expansions utilizing “flex lanes.” A flex lane could be added using the existing shoulder lane on highways or installing a movable center divider, similar to the Coronado Bridge, that “flexes” lanes between morning and afternoon rush hours. This approach would add 25% capacity to many of our highways by making better use of our existing infrastructure with minimal capital costs.

Next, we should abandon failing bus routes and rethink “transit” by implementing pilot programs to provide transit-dependent riders with credits on car-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft—a better service for riders and a cheaper alternative for taxpayers.

If we are willing to prioritize innovation over political pandering, we can avoid another taxpayer-funded train wreck while providing a better transportation

Categories: Local San Diego News, Politics