Community Advisory Committee members indicate their transit priorities with colored stickers. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Buoyed by a poll showing broad public support, transit advocates gathered at City College Tuesday to begin work on a 2020 ballot measure to finance major projects in the San Diego region.

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Chair Georgette Gómez and CEO Paul Jablonski opened the first meeting of the 40-person Community Advisory Committee for the Elevate San Diego 2020 effort.

“I’m a firm believer that transit can do many things for the residents of San Diego in terms of creating opportunities,” said Gómez.

Currently transit gets one-eighth of a cent from the half-cent TransNet sales tax administered by SANDAG. But Assembly Bill 805 sponsored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez in 2017 gives MTS and the North County Transit District the power to propose tax increases directly.

The goal of the effort that began Tuesday, and which will continue into February 2020, is to develop  a “transit-specific ballot measure for the 2020 election cycle.”

MTS Chief of Staff Sharon Cooney shared the results of a poll of 800 people in early February that showed seven in 10 voters would approve a sales tax increase to fund transit.

“We are highly regarded by voters. It does suggest that a two-thirds vote is within reach,” she said.

Committee members, who represent numerous local community groups, were asked to rank 10 objectives in the first of five meetings planned in different parts of the region. The committee’s top three were:

  • Provide access to jobs and education
  • Reduce greenhouse gases and benefit the environment
  • Provide more frequent service

MTS officials outlined project options that ranged from faster bus service to new trolley lines and automated people movers, but Jablonski stressed the need to achieve results in the short term.

“The Purple Line is going to take a long time and it will be very expensive. What can we do in the short term?” he asked, noting that “utilizing existing infrastructure better than we do now could be a real enhancement to transit.”

Of all the projects potentially under consideration, a better transit connection to the airport received the highest ranking in the February poll, with 68 percent calling it extremely or very important.

Jablonski said the process is intended to offer “a big platter of options for this community” from which the best would be presented to voters.

“What we are really committing to is creating a plan for this community that the community had a say in creating,” he said.

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Chris Jennewein

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