The lone no vote shouldn’t have even been there.

SANDAG’s board of directors voted 20-1 last week to appeal its long-term transportation plan to the state Supreme Court. Chuck Lowery was the one.

Two lower courts have ruled that the plan doesn’t meet state requirements to reduce greenhouse gases. Those who sued over the plan want it to spend more on public transportation and less on freeway widening.

Lowery is the deputy mayor of Oceanside. He’s an alternate to the SANDAG board – meaning he rarely ends up voting.

Since the vote took place in closed session, the board’s deliberations aren’t public. All everyone saw was the lopsided vote total. So I asked Lowery to explain why he voted against the plan, what he’d like to see from a long-term transportation plan and the dynamics on the board that led to such an overwhelming vote.

Can you walk me through your reason for voting against the appeal?

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

I think everyone else approved because they think our only response to two previously failed cases was to do another one. That we have to go down that road. We’ve lost twice, let’s go for a third. My thinking is, let’s take the money we would spend on yet another legal exercise, and fix the plan to come into compliance with state guidelines.

But was your vote motivated by the content of the plan, or a legal decision based on what’s in the initial decisions? Basically would you prefer that the plan had a larger emphasis on public transportation than freeway widening?

Personally I use all modes of transportation. I use public transportation, I ride a bike, I have a relatively new car, I walk. I’m happy to use all forms of transportation, without making one, auto-centric choice be the only choice. I argue with friends that if we get there and it takes an extra 20 minutes, isn’t that worth it if we use the Sprinter or the Coaster, and it could take us an extra hour if we drive and there’s an accident? I’d prefer we use all avenues available instead of pour $1.6 billion into widening roadways. My thinking on it is, we have a plan that’s great for 35 years, but what about after that? We can’t widen the freeway again. We can’t widen it again—or maybe we can. Maybe we can go all the way to the beach.

So it sounds like your decision was about an objection to the content of the plan itself, not just a legal argument about what’s been in the two court decisions.

Yes. I think that my decision was based upon saying, ‘Let’s stop at two losses instead of going for three, and use that money to reconfigure the (transportation plan) so it’s more in compliance with state requirements.’ It was a little odd to hear at least twice during the discussion that we were the first ones to have a plan in with the new state requirements. That’s fine if the plan is acceptable, but it’s not. How is that saying something? I don’t understand why that’s important. If we’re the first ones in the state, but what we’ve done is wrong. We can’t use that and say, ‘Because we got it done first, we’re going to go to court and bully our way through you, because we responded first.’

From emails and things like that I’ve received, I think people were really surprised how overwhelming the vote tally was …

I guess I was surprised too, when people I thought would vote like me made statements in support of what they thought we should do.

What do you think motivated the vote to appeal? We only see the vote total, so there’s been some speculation that maybe certain people were really voting that they should play out the string, or other attempts to explain why someone may have voted the way they did, beyond simply thinking this was a good plan that was worth defending.

I don’t think that they thought this was necessarily a good plan. I think what other members of the board believe is that if we don’t as an organization respond to the quality of — it’s like some of that was covered in the piece you wrote — they thought they were responding to the needs of communities, as if the needs of their communities are represented by catering to people who want to get home from work in 30 minutes just like it takes them today, which in fact isn’t the case. In five years, it’ll be 45 minutes unless we build out the freeway again — and then it’ll fill up again. The research shows very clearly that they all fill up again in two years after expansion. (Expansions) don’t buy us anything. They’re huge, multiple billion-dollar projects that don’t get us anything. I’m not saying SANDAG is auto-centric, but I’m responding to people who think we should spend—let’s just say it’s only $250 million—so they can get home on the freeway like they do today, but it won’t actually work that way. I’ve talked to the people at Caltrans, and they know they can’t hold traffic flow to those numbers even with expansion. If that’s the case, and these agencies know that’s the case, and based on their own information — and we the public know this — then they have to think ahead, and this one plan can’t be satisfactory 50 years from now.

Do you think being an alternate had anything to do with your casting the lone dissenting vote?


You don’t think there is a culture or dynamic within the SANDAG board that influences votes to often be unanimous or near unanimous?

I think there probably is a culture. And I think because I’m not a part of that culture that has developed over a period of years, I feel more freedom to represent what is not represented. And I think that’s what I have to do anyway. If I — I don’t know if it would have been any different a vote if it was (Mayor Jim) Wood or Councilwoman Esther Sanchez at the meeting. I don’t know. There’s a lot of, you just want to get along with the peer members because the county and city hold so many votes on that board. If the county and city votes go a certain way, it’s like, why even have the meeting with Oceanside and San Marcos and Vista? Why did we even bother to take the train down? Mayor (Wood) realizes that’s the dynamic, that we don’t have equal representation, so you have to work with members, so maybe he would have voted no not to make waves, to have certain benefits for Oceanside. I was thinking in terms of a larger regional need, not just what works for San Diego or Oceanside. One of the — I spoke with another member who is a mayor — and I was asked if I’d ever been on boards with this kind of dialog and desire to work together — I said, “Yes, for years I’ve done that.” We share a common goal on most other boards I’ve worked on. In this case, we have divergent goals, and the common goal is to do what’s best for the region. If people in the region think, based on their lives today, that more cars and more infrastructure for cars is always going to work for us, then they need more education. We are becoming an urban area, not just a series of suburbs with a freeway connecting one to the next.

If you go to San Francisco, you don’t want to go there with your car anyway. It’s crazy, you’d spend $50 just to park your car. We don’t have that here. People still expect free parking. You hear, “The reason your business failed is because you don’t have free parking.” That might be true, but it won’t be true by 2050.

Is this vote a clear indication that the basis of SANDAG’s transportation plan, its priorities, won’t be changing anytime soon?

One response is, until the taxpaying residents of the region let their opinions be heard — and I don’t mean by not participating, but by participating — if only two of 45,000 people or whatever in La Mesa oppose the plan—I had 60 comments from my community before the meeting, they all said, “We don’t want you to sue, we want you to save money.” Until we see a lot of active responses, I don’t think we’ll see a large change in the SANDAG board. But I would say the board is open to reflecting the needs of our various communities. The residents, the tourist community, the business community, all communities are being listened to by the SANDAG board, and we need more people who see a slightly different future, than a more-of-the-same future.

    This article relates to: News, People, Public Transportation, Q-and-A, Regional Planning, SANDAG, Share

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at or 619.325.0529.

    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    Below my update comments, better matched to the main KPBS article about SANDAG waste.

    Hope it is read here in this up date. I cannot et the KPBS verification process to work.

    Walt Brewer

    SANDAG's form and process have been praised as an elected way to consolidateplanning involving interests of several constituencies interacting in one region. It has developed a competent experienced Staff, especial for transportation.

    But it is a monopoly prone to loosen criteria for internal action of questionable value to the public. Perhaps increasing scope, authority and funding separate from SANDAG for the existing Independent Taxpayers Oversight Committee augmented by "watchdogs " like San Diego County Taxpayers Association would add visibility and action by the public , the media, etc. (Has ther been numerical check up for SANDA briefing performance)? In addition to Ms. Trageserinformative elaborations, another aspect; the dust ups over implementation of smart growth transit oriented designs in several communities, question the SANDAG Public Participation Plan's value for citizens' directly affected.

    Without an authoritative quantitative means to challenge, the monopoly continues to favor even more, nearly $40 billion capital more, elaborate mass transit installations. Hoping by brute force to provide better access. Optimistic projections ad only 2 million daily passenger miles, a near meaningless 2.5 % of a rowing total.

    SANDAG Staff data show instead, support to rapidly improvinglow energy cars about 15 times more cost effective. Cars are responsible for 95% of Greenhouse Gas reduction. Daily they will save about 3 million gallons of fuel, at least 30 times more than mass transit with the proposed elaborate installations.

    Further, both driven and self driven cars by private for profit competitive companies Lyft, Uber, etc, provide a far less costly solution to mass transit access. As VOSD's current Morning Repost shows, commendably Staff is investigating. But why not phase over to the private company cars to provide all non-drivers fster single vehicle 21st Century Public Transportation?

    Considering SANDAG's Plan is for another 35 years, shouldn't the public see a clear rationale proposed and options explained to the complete list oftravelers aided by independent evaluation?

    Diogenes subscriber

    Jach Shu's arguments about transit make sense to me. If climate change is happening, we need a different form of transportation to minimize greenhouse emissions. Particulate matter is known to be a risk factor for heart disease, asthma and now autism. Automobile accidents kill and injury millions every year. 

    The California Supreme Court will probably refuse to grant the Petition for Cert just to send a message to politicians who want to delay implementing transit changes and associated changes in urban planning practices.  Todd Gloria wants the court to make the law clear. The priority should be to stop climate change. Why does he care if the law is clear? That is a political ploy in all likelihood. 

    Our state lacks high speed rail. I was in Germany where trains travel 225 mph. Sitting on the autobahn at a compkete standstill and wstching the train carry psssrngers from Munich to Frankfort is several hours makes you wonder why the US does not join China, Japan and Germany in high speed rail transit.

    I would like to get to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento is a few hours. Airtravel means driving to airports and parking.

    Someting other that gasoline-driven automobile needs to be implemented.  Vehicle miles traveled and proximity to established networks of public transportation meanwhile should govern building projects. That is the best metric for now.

    San Diego wants to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. All the court has to do is deny the Petition. Then San Diego must get real. It has a 19th Century transit system.

    l3Monk subscribermember

    This constituent has many neighbors who not only would abolish any expansion of public transportation but also would essentially close the gates to their neighborhoods. I beg to differ, and I agree with suggestions offered in some of the comments here. First, my basic premise - being a non-Southern Californian - is that the population in San Diego will certainly continue to increase, and even so, being wedded to one's car is not a responsible position. I agree with Mr. Lowery that staying in expand-freeways mode is both irresponsible and futile. I agree with one of the commenters that pushing the availability and affordability of electric vehicles would accomplish the region's environmental goals much more quickly and responsibly. I agree that the public transport we have today in many area does not yet provide the needed access and speed required. And I agree with the state's position on transportation and the environment.

    So if I believe that going places by public transport is the more responsible choice, do I walk my talk? Well, not entirely. I chose to live in a fairly central location so that both work and leisure travel would be minimal. And yet 90% of my travel is by driving. This is because many of the places I need or want to go - medical providers, La Jolla, Mission Beach, Mission Trails Regional Park, to name a few - are not easily accessible by public transportation. Make buses and trolleys more available and faster, and make electric vehicles more accessible, and I will happily leave my car at home.

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    @l3Monk Make mine a double like, one for each paragraph.

    As for your comment that being "wedded to your car is not a responsible position", I would add that for many people , it's also not a practical position (re time, costs of parking, gas, insurance, etc.) but so many have no choices available. Largely for the same reasons you cite in your second paragraph.

    Founder subscriber

     As pointed out at SANDAG's San Diego Forward 2014 Workshop, the very Leaders tasked with making these important decision about commuting in San Diego did not use public transportation to attend the meeting, so the idea that the general population will happily spend huge amounts of time riding public transportation instead of personal transportation is delusional at best.

    Public transportation for the masses will always be the less preferred method to commute since doing so puts one at risk as compared to the safe door to door service that personal transportation guarantees.

    Given the choice, those traveling with children, those traveling at night and especially those with physical limitations all would opt for using personal transportation instead of having to use public transportation which leaves them to deal with getting  to and from their homes to wherever they would access public transportation, especially at night and/or in foul weather.

    In short, Public transportation is less safe than for to for personal transportation, and our elected Leaders know it, which is why they chose door to door personal transportation for themselves and their loved ones!

    Founder subscriber

    The key issue raised at the San Diego Forward 2014 Workshop by the public that was able to attend was that the elected Leaders that form the SANDAG Board are only thinking of their specific piece of the Regional Transportation Plan instead of working together to do what is best for Southern California.

    Big building projects equate to hugely expensive work projects for major construction Companies that donate to the very Leaders that vote to approve these projects, so it is no wonder that after all the smiling and photo ops, elected Leaders choose to build more over and over again, despite the proven fact that by the time highway expansions are completed the traffic is just as bad if not worse than it was before the project was implemented!

    If SANDAG was forced to spend big bucks on removing drivers from single occupancy gas and/or diesel vehicles, what we would see is that ever more would opt to commute by personal electric vehicles that would not only help improve our air quality but also reduce the near-gridlock conditions that makes commuting such a waste of energy resources, money and personal time.

    The new mandate of SANDAG should be to remove as many single occupancy gas and diesel commuter vehicles from our roads by spending SANDAG money to enable commuters to own personal electric vehicles at little or no cost, especially for all those living in urban areas.

    By building a few less miles of freeway, SANDAG would be able to:

    1.  Reduce the number of vehicles using our roadways

    2. Reduce the pollution generated as required by State mandate

      3. Begin the shift to clean personal electric vehicles, like 

             eBikes, eMotorcycles, eScooters, eMobility Scooters, etc.

      4.  Model the way toward a 2050 that would not rely on ever more Freeways

              being constructed, at ever increasing expense.

      5. Reduce parking congestion, since personal eVehicle take up much less space

            than traditional Vehicles both on the roadway and when they are parked.

      6. Inspire commuters to live a healthier lifestyle, by getting some exercise as they commute.

    Founder subscriber

    Jack Shu, President of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, did all the residents of San Diego County a big favor by calling out the SANDAG presenters at the San Diego Forward 2014 Workshop for only presenting 2 plans, both of were lacking putting all non-highway construction on the front burner so as to not only enable more people to use NON gas/diesel vehicles but also if done sooner rather than later, reduce or even eliminate the need for building future roads and transit infrastructure.

    At $25 million a mile, saving one mile of construction could provide thousands of commuters with "free" eBikes and jump start both reducing traffic while also adding more bike friendly lanes to what is "planned" for the future! 

    Another issue left out of the discussion is the "cost" to tax payers of doing construction piecemeal which cost enormous amounts of money in wasted fuel to all drivers, since highways are turned into construction zones for years!  SANDAG should push for 24/7 construction and get all construction done ASAP which would save everyone BIG bucks in both construction and wasted fuel costs. 

    Posted 08-13-14

    Kevin Swanson
    Kevin Swanson subscriber

    The challenge with SANDAG and the businesses supporting spending money on expanding the freeway lanes is that they may have a lack of understanding on behavior modification. They "want to move freight" yet do not seem to realize that encouraging single occupancy vehicle driving because excellent public transportation alternatives do not exist adds additional cars to the mix, further slowing freight and wasting time for the commuters. As I've raised at SANDAG meetings, the "swarm automated vehicle" concept around which Google is building 200 "smart golf cart like vehicles" with no accelerator, steering, or brake for the passengers - which are electric and respond to either voice command or touch screen interface - is one that will benefit efficient mass transit models. If these vehicles are deployed to effect transportation on a point-to-point basis with geographic areas, they become a localized shuttle system that can be configured for roll-on-roll-off wheelchair access, bike carriers, etc. and modify human behavior.

    Fixed rail systems are expensive, while electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric bus technology continues to improve - as does automated vehicle technology. 20 years ago automated vehicles were tested at freeway speeds along the I15 corridor, and those tests showed that the technology worked. 

    SANDAG has yet to implement technology that will truly provide options to commuters. Just think how a fleet of automated buses traveling the bus rapid transit route on I15, combined with swarms of automated shuttles around each BRT location, might affect population usage.

    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    Nr. Shu,

    It would be useful to see numbers that support your opinions about mass transit, to understand why you conclude differently from the National Transit Summary, the California Transportation Center, and SANDAG’s2050RTP.

    Heavily biased by efficient heavy rail, even NYC costs ~$.45/p-nile. Nationalaverage bottoms out at~$.80, similar to2050 RTP; operating expenses only. Cars, adding ownership cost, road expenses, parking etc, cost ~less than $.40 over a 10 year lifespan.

    But a truly new approach we agree in principle will also be costly. Why 19th Century conceived mass transit? What numbers refute 2050RTP. It shows $43 Billion capital, only 2.5% travelshare after assumed 11% peak rideshare, with all the TOD community designs dictated by SB375.30 years, 1/3rd budget, travelshae is still below 2 % Considering increased sop and go congestion, has environment been helped? Trolleys and bus attract only 25% and 12% occupancy.

    Will yours or Ms Chases’ designs achieve ~30% travelshare to prevent congestion increase if density increases 50%? How would energy/emissions reduction compare; at what cost?


    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    Until the public shifted to more flexible cars, mass transit was a brief interlude from historical public demand for on-demand personal service. Cars and their derivatives through new technologies and leverage of numbers, now are showing superiority for a clean healthy environment while preserving the preferred personal service. Desirability increases with increase in community density. Automation and vehicle sharing bring equality to non-drivers.

    I hope you will consider that approach to public personal transportation to produce a Plan that does meet statues.


    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    Do any of the SANDAG board members regularly use public transportation?  If not, might that have contributed to why they voted the way they did?

    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    Mr. Shu:

    Surprised omission: significant positive environmental impacts causing road user fees uncharacteristically less than costs. Credit fuel use and GHG reduction as increasingly more efficient cars enter the mix. California Transportation center estimates a 60% gas tax alone reduction by 2035. Whatever revenue source is found, that’s the environmental improvement.

    Public benefits from cars so other than drivers contribute some. Unlike mass transit, Transnet for example, the majority pay, but only a tiny fraction use it.

    Freeway costs high? ~350,000 optimistic daily passenger-miles on $1.7 Billion Mid-Coast trolley could be provided at well established freeway rates for ~$550 million.
    It is unlikely added trolleys would come close to the current fare box recovery dominated by unique Mexican Border demographics. 33% is more typical. National rate range 20% to 45%; NYC. Very density dependent.
    Good luck increasing mass transit riders to even match the gains already accomplished by rapidly improving cars.

    Jack Shu
    Jack Shu subscriber

    @Walt Brewer There are many ways to compare light rail transportation to cars in different kinds of geographic areas. But when all issues and costs are considered, transit, especially light rail is superior. Car travel is the most dangerous per miles traveled, it has the highest cost to families, causes the most pollution, hurts our regional economy the most, creates the infrastructure that promotes less human interaction, uses space we do not have enough of. the list can go on and on.  We will not entirely stop using cars any time soon and nobody is suggesting that.  However, we should be building a transit system that works, that is competitive with autos starting within our urban core. Let's build cities that are more livable, invest in methods of travel that other cities have figured out works well rather than the endless drain of our tax money on widening freeways that are congested soon after they are completed and promoting sprawl.

    Yes, the funding and fee systems need to be adjusted, from drivers paying the real cost of parking spaces to the damage trucks and cars cause to our health and environment.

    It seems to me, when council member Lowery voted not to appeal the recent ruling, he was saying, ENOUGH - let's get more information for our regional plan, let's consider real alternatives, let's do the health impact studies, explore some more ways we can reduce the negative impacts of having more roads, let's do what CEQA requires to protect our communities and our environment.

    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    See First part below.

    Councilman Lowery is right about road limits. But instead of revival of decades rejected 19th Century trolleys and buses, public transportation can “go personal”, with even more efficient automated vehicles on less land and safely on dedicated narrow efficient electrified guideways. Non-drives will not have to use mass transit. Its function will be surge capacity in a very few high activity routes. Thus more efficiency than the 2025, 54mpg regulations produce, while preserving the on-demand direst to destination personal service that has evolved current car preference.

    Unless we shift to forward-looking concepts, more and more public rejected mass transit is not the way to meet State and National emissions goals; whoever writes them

    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    Courts must settle on who sets major planning goals.

    But, comments to Mr. Keatts’ articles show the public wants better transportation than TransNet has delivered after Over 25 years of trying to reduce car use.

    Current Plans have a fundamental planning mismatch extending that philosophy to year 2050 the Courts and most leaders have largely ignored..

    Bluntly: SADAG’s analyses show cars now entering use are 20 times more effective than mass transit for energy and emissions reduction.Despite consuming nearly half the capital budget, mass transit, assuming lifestyle changes in dense “sustainable” communities, absorbs a trivial 5% of travel growth, and overall 2.5%l.

    Isn’t time for all to admit the 40 years-old Era of Limitsdogma ; “transit helps the environment” has failed? Cars have absorbed 95% of travel growth mass transit was supposed to, despite increasingly inadequate roads and congestion.

    More coming.

    Carolyn Chase
    Carolyn Chase subscriber

    The unacknowledged issue in the room is the low-performance of planned transit along with its excessive costs (Multiple billions to go slowly a mere few miles from Linda Vista to UCSD). Try another way San Diego:

    Jack Shu
    Jack Shu subscriber

    While we are addressing freeway costs let's clear up the myth that drivers pay their way. Building and maintaining roads costs tax payers much more than what users pay into the system (freeways and roads have about 34% cost recovery in Calif. according to the American Tax Foundation) while our trolly system has a 54% cost recovery (according to MTS). Government would save a lot of money if more people used the trolly system.  The problem is that we don't have a good system, we keep on spending billions on more freeways rather than developing and supporting an effective transit network. That's just the direct costs.  Who pays for the increase cases of asthma and cancer from the pollution along our freeways? A USC study showed that a child who lives a half mile from a freeway has an 80% higher chance of getting asthma. One emergency visit costs thousands let alone loss of time for the parent away from work and the child away from school. The appellate court found that information such as conducting health impacts of additional roads should have been part of the plan.  This is something other regional plans in the State have.  Are our elected officials appealing so that they don't have to learn the health impacts of our plan? Has ignorance become a virtue in San Diego?

    John Anderson
    John Anderson subscriber

    Thank you Mr. Lowery for a candid and well-worded interview.  We can not build our way out of traffic congestion and every road we build reduces the amount of land available for other uses.  As you say - we could widen all the way to the ocean - I sincerely hope we don't end up there.

    hockeysuit subscriber

    I too have to commend O'side's deputy mayor for voting with the long-term needs of the region in mind -- exactly what SANDAG should be doing -- and not falling into the "go along to get along" mentality.  Favorite line from the interview: "If people in the region think, based on their lives today, that more cars and more infrastructure for cars is always going to work for us, then they need more education." 

    Good job, Mr. Lowery! 

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    Politicians, please help everyone get to  work as fast as possible. 

    Congested freeways are still faster than the bus or a bike and will be for decades because nobody is talking sabout building trolley stops in major employment centers like Sorrento valley, Mira mesa and rancho bernardo.  

    Drivers use less fuel on wider, less congested freeways. Curious if the Cleveland group calculated the environmental impact of having vehicles accelerating and braking in stop and go traffic rather than going then speed limit.  Meanwhile, the UT ia reporting today that applications for CA drivers licenses are increasing....

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Sean M You bring up a good point about how traffic congestion reduces fuel consumption. By far the quickest, cheapest (for taxpayers), and most permanent way to eliminate traffic congestion on a freeway, other than tearing it down, is not to widen it but to add express tolling, a market-based way to solve the problem of how to satisfy unlimited wants with limited resources. Our current practice of charging below the market equilibrium price (the price where supply=demand) is why we have a chronic shortage that we call "traffic congestion."

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Sean M

    We already have a "toll" on driving called the gas tax and the soon to be implemented ab32 climate change tax. Gas prices used to be much higher and people paid because they had to get to work and don't want to wait on a bus for an hour longer. It is not a good idea to raise tolls so high people decide to stay home instead of going to work.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Sean M Because they don't go up and down in response to traffic demand, gas taxes and AB32 are incapable of permanently eliminating traffic congestion as express tolls do. All those can do is encourage people to pollute less, which is good, but that's a different goal.

    Bill Davidson
    Bill Davidson subscriber

    @Sean M : When I was working in Sorrento Valley and living in Golden Hill, the rush hour commute home by car was about 1 hour.  The ride home by bike was about 1 hour.  Of course, when I drove at off hours, driving was much faster.

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @Sean M "Congested freeways are still faster than the bus or a bike and will be for decades because nobody is talking sabout building trolley stops in major employment centers like Sorrento valley, Mira mesa and rancho bernardo."

    All of those areas have Rapid bus service - faster than the trolley, far less expensive, and implemented much faster.

    The increase in drivers license applications has nothing to do with prospects of more people driving more miles:

    Vehicle miles travelled in CA peaked in 2007 and has yet to return to that peak, assuming it ever does, much less exceed it.

    Nate Fuller
    Nate Fuller subscribermember

    The 405 freeway expansion is the most recent example of the futility of building your way out of congestion. A billion+ dollars worth of construction later, commute times have actually increased. It is disappointing that SANDAG is so determined to throw billions of dollars at expanding our freeway capacity without questioning what a poor investment the evidence shows that is. I appreciate Chuck for suggesting there are much more productive ways of spending on transportion. 

    Craig S. Maxwell
    Craig S. Maxwell subscriber

    It's nice to read common sense coming from a politician. Thank you Ms. Alissio. California's arbitrary and utterly ineffectual carbon emission mandates and the policy craziness that's followed in their wake--things like, trolley lines, and bike/walking paths amidst vast urban sprawl, and the industrialization of our last remaining open spaces as millions of acres are bulldozed, buried and wired under massive solar and wind "farms"--are so plainly, foolishly and hideously wrong that it's hard to believe they're really happening.

    The Cleveland National Forest Foundation's lawsuit is a farce. It's refreshing to see elected officials who're willing to fight (back) for what's right subscriber

    San Diego politics demands that what is good for re-election is good to vote for and let the public needs be dammed.  The fact that this attitude pays off is reflected by these same people staying in office and moving upward thru the ranks.  This way of working is successful because, regardless of the educational level here in San Diego, most voters know more about the Chargers and Padres scores than what is happening on the political fronts.  This in turn is supported by the empty headed happy talk of our local newscasters. Change will only happen when an emergency forces the change.   

    Walter Chambers
    Walter Chambers subscribermember

    Thank you deputy mayor Lowry for being the lone voice of reason.  As they say, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of crazy.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    The vote was 20-1. Perhaps, just perhaps, the board members had the good sense, including Mr. Climate action plan Todd Gloria, to balance the practical needs of the region ahead of the vision thing.

    The better story Andrew would be to ask Mr. Gloria why he voted yes. subscriber

    @Mark Giffin  No need to ask Todd Gloria the reason for his yes vote, I already know. He does what will get him the most votes when he runs for office, not what is best for the region.  It's not called leadership, its called self interest first.  On each issue, weigh the vote advantage and collectively you will win an election.  It does not matter where the majority stand or what is right, it matters more on where the majority "voters" stand at that particular moment.  With "leaders" like this San Diego is headed to become LA, south. subscriber

    @Mark Giffin  It will be difficult to make public transport work in San Diego county considering how spread out we already are.  However, if we start now to build on a grand scale public transportation by spending the 1/2 sales tax money wisely, more high rise building will result.  Have you ever seen a futuristic city depicted other than high rise?  To build up is not an option, it is necessary and the only solution to the fix we are in. 

    Andrew Keatts
    Andrew Keatts author

    @Mark Giffin While I find it peculiar that you don't think it's interesting to hear from the one person who didn't vote like everyone else, here's a prepared statement from Councilman Gloria's office on the rationale behind his vote. I'm waiting on a chance to talk to him directly.

    "Council President Todd Gloria is a strong champion for transit and active transportation projects and knows they are critical to the San Diego’s region’s successful growth over the next several decades.

    He supported the appeal as a means of obtaining clarification of state law regarding greenhouse gas reduction requirements.   In its 2050 RTP, SANDAG complied with specific targets set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for greenhouse gas reductions.  However, the Fourth District Court ruled that SANDAG did not comply with a more general executive order that set another standard – a standard that has not been clarified by the legislature or CARB.  This clarification will ensure regional plans here and elsewhere in the state meet or exceed the state’s requirements."

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @Mark Giffin The "vision thing" being state greenhouse gas laws that SANDAG refuses to acknowledge?  The current SANDAG plan increases GHG emissions to levels that are 7 times higher than state targets for 2050:

    Oddly, in all of your comments, I've never heard how we actually reach those targets.  It's as if they don't actually exist... similar to what SANDAG has tried to argue in court twice, and lost.  That they're going to waste taxpayer resources on a third attempt is far from "practical".

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @Andrew Keatts @Mark Giffin Thanks for the update Andrew.  I disagree with Mr. Gloria on this.  Here's a useful summary of the issue at stake from the streetsblog link in my other comment:

    According to projections in the plan, emissions from land use and transportation would decrease until 2020, exceeding the targets set by S.B. 375. But after 2020, emissions would rise again, intersecting with the S.B. 375 targets somewhere around 2030.

    “They acknowledged that in their environmental review,” said Bundy, “but what they didn’t acknowledge was that under state climate policy, and according to the best climate science, emissions have to go way down by 2050 — and stay down.”

    Under the transportation plan as it’s currently written, emissions in 2050 would be almost seven times higher than state climate change targets. “That was not explicitly stated in the review. SANDAG did not let the public know how far off emissions would be by 2050,” said Bundy, who says the calculations are buried in a staff report but not included in the EIR.

    “CEQA is all about full disclosure, about being honest about impacts,” he said. “I think they really stumbled on this.”

    The court also ruled that SANDAG failed to consider alternatives that could help reduce driving.

    “SANDAG’s excuse is that the 2050 goal is just an executive order, and that it is not binding,” said Bundy. “But it is consistent with the best climate science, and with SANDAG’s own Climate Action Strategy,” which is available in this PDF.

    Jack Shu
    Jack Shu subscriber

    @Andrew Keatts @Mark Giffin  The reasoning that SANDAG is tying to get clarification on meeting the 2005 Executive Order or the laws enacted after that which try to support that order is not logical.  AB 32 and SB 375 which set standards and review processes with CARB were enacted so that the State would meet the Exe. Order by 2050.  There is no conflict between these laws. SANDAG and Council President Gloria is putting up a smoke screen.  One which wastes more public funds and delays us from having a better transportation plan.  A plan which can help our health, economy, environment and quality of life (that includes commute time)

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @paul jamason @Mark Giffin 

    Paul. Practical in that we already have an infrastructure layout and the surrounding development(communities). We are not a grid. we are spread out. 

    Like it or not that means we are going to be car centric to a varying degree and those citizens (the majority) that will not be in the public transit corridors need to be accommodated also.  Their infrastructure needs to be maintained and improved.

    As far as the "vision" thing can be adjusted. More than likely they will be met with alternative fuels that will be coming on line over the next decade.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Andrew Keatts @Mark Giffin 

    thanks Andrew. Didn't mean to imply the story wasn't interesting. 

    If you do get to speak with him ask him about whether cars are here to stay or not.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Giffin: Here's my take on it. There may be many politicians who voted against this for the simple reason that they are confident the appeal will fail. Thus, they will get to have it both ways. They can say they voted for roads, but were rebuffed, and later on will no doubt herald the increased public transportation that is built. Sorry to sound so cynical. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    "The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money" --Margaret Thatcher

    If those who want freeways were no longer allowed to shift the cost, using the TransNet sales tax, from those who use them the most to those who use them the least, would they still want more freeways?

    And would they still want more freeways if property owners in San Diego were no longer forced by the city government to provide abundant amounts of "free" parking?

    By the way, San Francisco has some of the cheapest pay parking in the nation at only 25 cents an hour on certain blocks at certain times. The reason is because the purpose is not to make money but only to keep a space or two on every block available at all times (this is good for business), and sometimes it takes charging only 25 cents an hour to do that. San Diego should adopt a similar pricing strategy.

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann Margaret Thatcher?  Wow.  Ok, so following your logic, we take the burden of freeways off of those "who use them the least."  And when one of those folks has a fire at their home, or needs an ambulance, or needs the military to defend them, they can wait while these all travel the surface roads and stay off the freeways they don't pay for?  It isn't socialism just because we all pay for things that we benefit from.  What Thatcher's philosophy gets us is what Reagan left us, a homeless population of mentally ill folks that we no longer care for because the private sector can do it better without government.  Right. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Geoff Page "And when one of those folks...needs an ambulance...they can wait while these all travel the surface roads and stay off the freeways they don't pay for?"

    Why can't the ambulance take the freeway and then bill the person's insurance company for the toll?

    "It isn't socialism just because we all pay for things that we benefit from."

    You are correct. It's socialism because costs don't correlate very well with usage.

    "What Thatcher's philosophy gets us is what Reagan left us, a homeless population of mentally ill folks that we no longer care for because the private sector can do it better without government."

    That's a good point. I can't think of a better way to care for them than with government support. But there are ways to finance freeways that don't involve taking from the poor and giving to the rich as we do with the TransNet sales tax.

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Geoff Page Why can't the ambulance take the freeway and then bill the person's insurance company for the toll?

    That sounds like a logistical nightmare. 

    “You are correct. It's socialism because costs don't correlate very well with usage.

    Of course not.  Cost for something that is for the general good, like the Interstate freeway system, cannot correlate to usage.  We all pay to support the police and fire departments.  I’ve never had to call the fire department.  But, if my neighbor’s house was on fire, I would benefit by them being there because that would protect my home.  Who benefits more, my neighbor who has his house saved or me who is relieved of the threat?

    “But there are ways to finance freeways that don't involve taking from the poor and giving to the rich as we do with the TransNet sales tax.”

    You seem to be leaving the poor out of freeway usage.  Everyone uses the freeways, there are lots of poor folks who use them to get to work.

    The simple fact is that some degree of socialism is necessary for a society to provide for the general good.  The alternative is to leave everyone on their own and history has shown that doesn’t work because the price tag is still there, only bigger.  What is costing us more now, the way we used to care for the mentally ill homeless or what we pay now for an endless cycle of hospitalization and more expensive medical care for problems that are much worse because of no medical maintenance, law enforcement, and incarceration?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Geoff Page "But, if my neighbor’s house was on fire, I would benefit by them being there because that would protect my home.  Who benefits more, my neighbor who has his house saved or me who is relieved of the threat?"

    Your neighbor who not only had his house saved but also isn't faced with liability for yours.

    "Everyone uses the freeways, there are lots of poor folks who use them to get to work."

    That still doesn't justify making the poor pay more than their fair share through the TransNet sales tax.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    Nice piece.  It's a good insight that I don't think we usually get into votes like this.  His answers are interesting in light of a conversation I had with a Chevron finance executive Sunday morning on a flight from the Bay Area.  The guy was no tree-hugger, not that there's anything wrong with hugging trees, so I don't want "the bay" to immediately suggest a bias.  But what he said struck me.  He, this executive whose company makes its money on fossil fuel, told me that America quietly snuck into being the number one oil producing country in the world recently.  And, more importantly from my perspective, he said that there was a horizon of about 40 years after which market forces will push fossil fuel use way down.  That there are massive investments right now in battery technology to drive this change mostly because it is a better financial choice for investors.  This conversation made me think that if the San Diego region got out in front of building alternative transportation infrastructure now, people's strong love of their personal automobiles notwithstanding, that we'd actually allow all of our regional municipalities to get on a course that is financially sustainable.  It was an interesting market-based rationale for shifting our consumption patterns and perhaps it's worth re-evaluating our long-term strategy a bit.

    Alison Moss
    Alison Moss subscribermember

    Thanks, VOSD, for a thoughtful piece on an important topic: more transportation options for our region!

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    "The research shows very clearly that they all fill up again in two years after expansion. (Expansions) don’t buy us anything. They’re huge, multiple billion-dollar projects that don’t get us anything." Not just the research, but indeed any San Diegan who commutes can tell you that. Why? Because there is some pain point that people are willing to accept in terms of traffic and delays. Building new roads or expanding existing roads is almost always sold with the promise of easing commute times and traffic, but as Mr. Lowery notes, the people who've reviewed the research know that's not the case. 

    What road expansion allows for is more urban sprawl. If that's what you want, it's good. If you would prefer greater density in target areas with more convenient public transit, it's bad. Putting it another way, if you prefer less polluting forms of transportation, road expansion is bad. If you place individual convenience ahead of reductions in overall pollution, it's good.