Hasan Ikhrata
Hasan Ikhrata explains the SANDAG vision at a press conference following Friday’s board meeting. Photo by Chris Jennewein

SANDAG staff proposed Friday a “bold new vision” for transportation in the San Diego region that relies heavily on transit and new technology and less on highway expansion.

The plan, presented at a meeting of the regional planning agency’s board, was offered to meet the needs of a region that will reach 4 million residents by 2050.

That plan focuses on what the agency described as “five big moves” based on new transportation and networking technology:

  • Complete Corridors: Use networking technology to manage traffic on major corridors to optimize both car and transit routing.
  • Transit Leap: Create new high-capacity transit routes, such as a trolley line from the border to Oceanside, a tunnel for trains through Del Mar, and a tunnel to Coronado.
  • Mobility Hubs: Nearly two dozen points where people can quickly and easily transfer between different transportation options.
  • Flexible Fleets: Encourage rideshare, dockless vehicles and “microtransit” while embracing the coming driverless vehicles.
  • Next OS: Using new technology and dynamic pricing to optimize the regional transportation system.

SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata said the agency cannot just continue building and expanding roads at a time when California is seeking to reduce emissions to fight climate change. He said the agency has to change its traditional approach.

“Right now we have one choice, and we’ve invested a lot of money in that choice,” he pointed out, urging the board to back the new plan.

The vision drew both praise and criticism, with representatives of inland cities stressing the need to continue to expand the highway network.

“It’s time to do things differently,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer after the meeting. “This won’t be easy, but we shouldn’t shy away from tough discussions”

There were few specifics in the plan, but a number representatives from the 19 jurisdictions on the board said work needed to continue on inland highways.

“I think we can all agree this is a big, bold vision,” said Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, who is chair of SANDAG. But, he added, “There is life east of I-15. Too often those lives are threatened by wildfires. It is my highest priority to make sure the 67 and the 52 have the capacity to evacuate those people.”

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, representing San Diego County, said highways are needed to support commuting and any tax increase to pay for the proposed transportation improvements “is a non-starter for me.”

But Jewel Edson, deputy mayor of Solana Beach, said the vision had the potential to excite voters sufficiently to approve a tax increase.

“What I hear from the folks in my community is I would love to take public transit,” she said.

The San Diego Area Association of Governments is the regions’s public planning agency. It is governed by a board composed of mayors, council members and supervisors from the region’s 18 cities and county government.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.