By Dave Schwab
Circulate San Diego and the Climate Action Campaign held a joint press conference Downtown on Sept. 23 and accused SANDAG, the region’s transportation planning agency, of erecting planning “roadblocks” that could bar the city of San Diego from achieving goals set forth in its Climate Action Plan.
The city is expected to adopt its Climate Action Plan before the end of the year. That initiative seeks to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035. That be would accomplished, in part, by getting 50 percent of the people who live near high-quality transit stations to walk, bike or take public transportation to work.
But SANDAG has shed doubt on the achievability of those climate action goals, based on an analysis of how people are likely to commute in 2035, conducted as part of the agency’s long-term transportation plan that its board is expected to adopt soon.
The agency’s board includes elected officials from across the county. Its draft transportation plan outlines bus, light rail, bike, road and highway projects throughout the region in coming decades.
Colin Parent, policy council for Circulate San Diego, a nonprofit promoting public and active transportation, called upon SANDAG to do more to help the city reach its goals.
“The city of San Diego is currently in the process of adopting a whole new Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as they relate to the region’s transportation policies,” Parent said. “Public transit and bicycling are a crucial component of reducing the risk of climate change.”
To accomplish transportation goals in the Climate Action Plan, Parent said the city has two tasks.
“It needs to develop policies at the local level to make non-motorized transportation easier, cheaper and more safe via creation of more crosswalks and bike lanes,” Parent said. “And the city needs to ensure that SANDAG provides enough funding — and prioritizes — active public transportation.”
Parent said SANDAG’s draft long-range transportation plan “creates barriers to San Diego achieving its climate goals,” noting the city’s climate goals call for 50 percent of commuters to use non-motorized transportation.
“SANDAG’s own data in their (transportation) plan will result in less than 15 percent of commuters using non-motorized travel,” Parent said. “We call upon SANDAG to meet the city halfway. The city must use its influence on SANDAG board members to get a reasonable plan that advances the city’s climate goals.”
Nicole Capretz, spokesperson for the Climate Action Campaign, a watchdog group striving to stop climate change and protect quality of life, said achieving goals set forward in the city’s plan to curb greenhouse emissions from transportation sources is critical to protecting the region’s environment moving forward.
“We cannot be a world-class city without a world-class transportation system,” Capretz said. “We can’t be a world-class city without tackling the biggest challenge we’ve ever face in humanity — climate change.”
Capretz said the city is “on the cusp of passing one of the most ambitious (climate) plans in the nation.”
She accused SANDAG of “thumbing their nose” at the city’s Climate Action Plan by “failing to pull their weight to help us meet our climate goals.”
Capretz called upon the city and SANDAG to collaborate to “take the necessary action to protect the future of our kids.”
Toward that end, Capretz urged the mayor and the City Council “not to support this [SANDAG’s] fundamentally flawed transportation plan.”
“We call upon the mayor and Council to demand that SANDAG do their fair share to ensure we meet out biking, walking and transit goals, and provide real transportation alternatives for us in San Diego,” Capretz said. “The mayor and Council should vote no on this regional transportation plan, unless — or until — there is more investment and resources put toward building the necessary infrastructure to make people feel safe biking, walking or taking public transportation to work.”
Parent said the issue is not about “getting people out of their vehicles,” but in “creating a transportation plan that makes them want to do something different, by creating the infrastructure necessary to give people who prefer to bike, walk or take the trolley an opportunity to do so.”
— Dave Schwab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.