San Diego Traffic Planning for Increasing Private Vehicle Use
This article is revealing commentary on human priorities and choices in a city which has one of the longest operating US light rail systems and which has often been touted as one of the most effective rail transit systems in the nation.
By: North County Times Opinion staff –
Our view: Planners betting big on car-pool lanes that are filling up with non-car-poolers
You have to admire SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments that plans our traffic. Confronted with news that the decades-old push to get American drivers in general, and Southern Californians in particular, out of our cars and into public transportation has failed, regional planning agencies of less nerve would blink. Perhaps change their plans.
Not SANDAG. They’re not about to let the facts get in the way of their plans to continue spending billions of our TransNet tax dollars on social engineering and public transportation, at the expense of our freeways and the cars we Californians stubbornly refuse to abandon. It’s almost as if we still believe, despite the best efforts of SANDAG and their co-religionists to persuade us otherwise, that our personal automobiles are still the best options for our increasingly dispersed and unscheduled lives.
A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey reveals that in 2005, more commuters in our region drove alone to work than did five years earlier. In North County cities such as Carlsbad, Oceanside and Escondido, the number of solo commuters was above 75 percent. Even in San Diego — which for decades has enjoyed an easily accessible trolley system paid for with transportation funds that otherwise could have come north — about 80 percent of commuters go it alone. In their cars.
To our north, commuters starting from Murrieta in Riverside County are cited by SANDAG as early adopters — some 17 percent of its commuters carpool, up 4 percent from 2000. But that glass is also half-empty, and so are the cars: The city’s drive-alone rate declined slightly, but still roughly tracks the region’s average at 75.3 percent. Arguably, folks commuting to San Diego from Murrieta down the dreadful Interstate 15, during these days of construction, have as much incentive as anyone to carpool, and most aren’t.
But someone’s clogging up SANDAG’s car-pool lanes, it seems. The Federal Highway Administration recently informed California that it is out of compliance with federal law because
its car-pool lanes have become too congested . Caltrans says that the 85,000 hybrids now allowed to share the car-pool lanes aren’t to blame. But who then? Perhaps our transportation planners can poll the families, laborers and scofflaws we see zipping past traffic down the center of I-15.
Here is where the visionary nature of SANDAG’s transportation planning really shines through: With solo commuting and congestion in car-pool lanes both on the rise, SANDAG rolls out a regional transportation plan largely reliant on, yes, you guessed it, car-pool lanes.
According to the plan, which is available online at www.sandag.org/2007rtp, most of the freeway upgrades we’ll be paying for through 2030 will be car-pool lanes. Today’s 13 miles of car-pool lanes will stretch to 143 miles, including 83 that would double as toll lanes. Almost no general-purpose lanes would be added.
There’s at least one important reason why this isn’t as terrible as it sounds, given our dogged persistence in driving ourselves: Unlike trolleys and trains, it’s fairly easy to convert toll and car-pool lanes back into lanes for all. And tolls would be a step toward replacing the power of SANDAG bureaucrats to regulate traffic with the power of the free market.
Still, North County’s taxpayers will have plenty of time to chew on and stew over SANDAG’s planning. By SANDAG’s own admission, the billions of tax dollars that San Diego commuters approved, most recently in 2004, to decrease drive times will actually lead to longer trips for solo commuters. No one tops our traffic planners at planning for traffic.
After you visit the Web site, plan to attend one of the two public forums SANDAG is hosting in North County to hear public comments about their traffic plans. They are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. July 17 at the Encinitas Community Center and 6 to 8 p.m. July 25 at the San Marcos Community Center. For more information, call (619) 699-1937 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.