SANDAG’s Gary Gallegos: “Transit is not going to work for every person in the region”

Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, the region’s metropolitan planning agency.

“We are not going to put everybody on a bike, we are not going to take everybody out of their car, transit is not going to work for every person in the region.” – Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, San Diego’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. January 8, 2014.

the SANDAG plan is to spend more than half the $204 billion on mass transit, adding five new Trolley lines, 32 new rapid bus lines and 275 miles of new bikeways, as well as 160 miles of freeway lanes intended to help transit and encourage carpools and van pools. The net effect would be to reduce county greenhouse gas emissions by considerably more than state targets.” – UT Editorial Board


I don’t know what sort of drugs the UT Editorial Board is consuming, because if they bothered to read SANDAG’s own analysis they would have seen that implementing the existing Regional Transportation Plan (scheduled for a SANDAG board vote on October 9th) in its current form is going to increase the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. Check out the below graphic for a visual, taken right from SANDAG’s own documentation

Screenshot from 2015-09-29 15:25:18
On the left, where we need to be. On the right, where SANDAG plans to take us.

SANDAG’s own analysis shows an increase in vehicle miles travelled between now and 2050, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis goes on to state that in order to meet the state goals of reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, SANDAG needs to encourage “more compact development than a multiple dense cores scenario, further substantial increases in the cost of driving, and further substantial transit service improvements,“

This same document by SANDAG staff discusses induced demand, in that increasing roadway capacity induces driving (and thus more greenhouse gas emissions). The document also points out that congestion is good because it “may then lead to longer trips and a change in mode.” Between 2012 and 2050, SANDAG’s own analysis shows that they are planning to increase freeway capacity by an additional 1, 757 miles of freeways.

Screenshot from 2015-09-29 14:47:27

The implementation of the entire 2050 plan is divided into three phases summarized below in the table by expenditures (in millions)


Project Categories 2014-2020 2021-2035 2036-2050 Total
Transit $6,161 $27,756 $66,999 $100,916
Managed Lanes and Highway Improvements $4,070 $16,200 $37,041 $57,311
Local Streets and Roads $3,180 $8,573 $14857 $26,610
Debt Service $863 $3,834 $4,477 $9,174
Active Transportation/Systems Management/Demand Management $1,107 $3,459 $4,846 $9,412


To SANDAG’s credit, Active Transportation investments have been increased to $4.9 billion – no small amount. But if Uptown was any indication of how future projects will proceed, the future for walking and bicycling looks very bleak in that projects will continue to be implemented in a hodge podge manner, watered down over the smallest of whining over loss of curbside parking instead of implementing proven methods that actually connects communities and addresses the barriers to walking and bicycling and transit use in the region.

Within the 2050 RTP Update, SANDAG is proposing to leverage a little over $98 billion in local funds to receive $68 billion in state funds and $36 billion in federal funds. A cursory glance at the state and federal funds scheduled to come into the region seems to indicate that these funds can be used toward providing increased transportation choices like dedicated rail transit which can also increase bicycle ridership, but the board (our own elected officials) has – at Gallegos’ behest – continued to prioritize freeways over transit and active transportation projects.

Screenshot from 2015-09-29 15:56:16
Source: SANDAG

I wanted to take a cursory look at the transit investments however. Out of the $100.9 billion devoted to transit, $17 billion is allocated toward the California High Speed Rail that wouldn’t be in operation until the later part of the plan’s implementation. Further more, $39 billion is for transit operations and given the region’s high farebox recovery rates, we have proof that transit pays for itself more than highway projects do. In the first phase of the plan’s implementation (2014-2020), $2.1 billion (out of the total $15.4 billion) is being spent on transit: the Mid-Coast Trolley and double tracking the Coaster. The rest of the money is being spent on Rapid Buses and a Airport Shuttle that sounds like it was designed by individuals who haven’t experienced airport transit systems in nearly every major city in the country.

To summarize, SANDAG’s own plan won’t meet the governor’s order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SANDAG continues to build freeways and increase road capacity for drivers while failing to push for either a means to pay for driving use or provide an alternative that would induce San Diegans to shift travel modes.

So what is the SANDAG board going to adopt next week? More of this:

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and less of this:

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Change to a more sustainable, healthier future is well within San Diego’s reach. Changing behaviour by redesigning our region’s transportation networks for the long term sustainability is possible. It’s just too bad our elected leaders aren’t willing to be leaders.