Way to go, SANDAG.  You managed to waste a huge opportunity to turn around San Diego’s climate future.

fix san diego opinionEvery four years, SANDAG – San Diego’s regional transportation agency – has to update its long-term transportation plan.

Because of a variety of state laws and an executive order aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these plans must now also aim to reduce climate impact by offering better transportation choices and supporting more walkable communities.

In a momentous 2-1 court ruling on Nov. 24, environmental groups in San Diego won an important round over SANDAG. Groups led by the Cleveland National Forest Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity had made the case that SANDAG should have analyzed the plan’s projected greenhouse gas emissions for 2050. The appellate court backed them up in its decision.

Unfortunately, SANDAG voted on Dec. 5 to appeal that ruling, and it may be taken up by the California Supreme Court. Instead of spending money on lawyers, SANDAG should have used this opportunity to create a visionary plan, with more options for reducing driving and greenhouse gas emissions.

While appealing the court decision, SANDAG agreed to put together a scenario that does more to reduce greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, as currently proposed, it too is problematic.

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

SANDAG’s current plan lays too much focus on highway expansion. San Diego already has an extensive system of highways and arterial roads. The problem is that so many people want to use them at the exact same moment: weekdays at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Building more roads is incredibly expensive: Highway projects and connectors would consume over $22 billion of the disputed 2011 plan, and would require about $10 billion more for maintenance and rehabilitation. This continued focus on highway expansion will generate new trips that lead to yet more people stuck in traffic.

SANDAG is in a Catch-22.  Most of its proposed highway expansion is in the form of “managed lanes” that allow carpools and transit in for free, but charges solo drivers a toll. The agency argues, with some merit, that managed lanes are needed for effective Rapid Bus systems, vanpools and carpooling (and without them we’d get a whole lot of congestion).

My organization TransForm is proposing that SANDAG shift gears in its plan for 2015, known as San Diego Forward, and incorporate these characteristics into the new scenario they are producing.

Focus on reducing vehicle miles of travel: SANDAG’s plan focuses too much on relieving congestion. Instead, it should work to reduce vehicle travel in general. Done well, this would relieve congestion in the end. But we need a smart, iterative process to identify the best solutions.

Change land use projections: For the most part, the San Diego region is now predicted to grow in a more walkable, compact way than just a few years ago. Yet there is still a significant amount of job and housing sprawl projected; much of it supported with SANDAG investments. SANDAG can do more to accelerate smart growth, such as set aside a portion of its sales tax funding that repairs local streets and roads to reward local jurisdictions that accommodate a significant portion of the region’s affordable homes.

Don’t spend more than the current plan does: Building more public transit early means additional funds will be needed to operate them.   While this transit should be moved up, it means we’ve got to find some areas to reduce costs so that plan remains financially realistic.  Identifying some road expansions to delay, scale back or eliminate will be critical. The next recommendation shows how that can be done.

Expand highway capacity, without widening roads. SANDAG has done an excellent job expanding vanpooling in the region, which works well to bring commuters from spread-out suburbs to central work locations. The agency proposes expanding vanpools and its network of commuter buses. But the success of these services depends on free-flowing lanes. That is why a letter by Circulate San Diego and others calls on SANDAG to “consider converting select general purpose lanes to Express (aka HOT) Lanes, and using the revenue for transit and vanpooling, before costly (road) expansions are included.”

recent TransForm report shows how converting a regular lane in each direction to express lanes can work. This would save money, reduce environmental impact and free up funds to put toward better transportation choices. Spurred by our report, San Mateo County transportation officials voted overwhelmingly to analyze TransForm’s proposal to take the far left lane and convert it to HOT. There is also growing state-level support for pilot projects. SANDAG was a pioneer with these “managed lanes” on I-15 – this is a chance for it to continue breaking new ground.

Dramatically expand demand management strategies. From car-sharing to free transit pass programs to subsidizing the vanpool program, reducing demand works and is one of the least expensive ways to achieve greenhouse gas reductions and true congestion relief. Smarter parking management is another area of great opportunity. These programs will be key for reducing the demand for road expansion. The Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission anticipates a reduction of roughly 2 percent from a massive expansion of car-sharing alone, and recently put out a call for projects to jump-start that. (Importantly, the grants are prioritized for the 16 cities taking on the most housing growth.)

SANDAG has certainly started many good programs, from Safe Routes to Schools to vanpooling. But that is not enough. The agency needs to use its resources to make a plan that can create a truly sustainable, affordable future for all San Diegans.

Stuart Cohen is executive director of the transportation advocacy group TransForm. Cohen’s commentary has been edited for style. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

    This article relates to: Fix San Diego, News, Opinion, SANDAG, Science/Environment

    Written by Catherine Green

    Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects. You can contact her directly at catherine.green@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. Follow her on Twitter: @c_s_green.

    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    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?

    Greg Chick
    Greg Chick subscriber

    First off all the comments on profitability of mass transit needs to include externalized costs of cars.  When one looks at the car crashes and life loss of guilty and innocent people along with police services and then all the parking expenses and parking tickets auto ins. gas, repairs time in traffic, I could go on for a page or two.  I think the "Global Warming" issue can be left for the folks who want to polarize and argue.  The efficacy of mass transit stands on its own, with all internal and external costs honestly on the table.  Let US, pun intended not forget the billions of dollars that go to the middle east to pay for oil!  The subsidies the US gov. gives fossil fuels.  

    I went to DC and used the "Metro", I was amazed, all the horrors I was told about DC and subways was a lie!   First off I was not mugged by a "minority thug" while there or in the subway, as a matter of fact, I saw none, (what ever they really are anyway).   No graffiti, no signs of graffiti even having been removed!   I traveled from Bethesda to DC, about 30 mi. for a couple bucks. I forget exact, but I remember thinking I would have to get better than 50 MPG. to beat it. Then parking, and the hassle!  Ok, so the rail is subsidized, the freeways are billions of dollars!.    

      I am a "left coaster" borne in West LA in the 50's, Have had a love with my cars, etc. but urban life is becoming a traffic issue and SANDAG sucks.  SANDAG is criminal in it's administration.  Courts have ruled such.   My point is again, SANDAG sucks.

    Founder subscriber

    I am tired of hearing presentations that call for ever more Build, Build, Build from our so called Expert Regional Planners,  since anyone that has lived in San Diego for over 20 years has seen that our transportation problems have been getting worse not better having been managed by SANDAG

    Until SANDAG drastically reduces the amount of money it spends on NEW Construction, our transportation system will never be improved, since time has shown that spending more on NEW Construction has resulted in even more gridlock!

    My solution is to modify the SANDAG budget in order to prioritize reconfiguring a percentage of urban streets (aka Reconfigured Streets or RS) specifically for the use of small  electric/human powered personal mobility vehicles (PMV) , not just bicycles for the physical fit.  These RS would allow access to traditional on-street and garage parking for the vehicles of residents living on these streets but they would no longer give cars and trucks priority for through traffic, since on RS PMV's would be given priority.

    By separating the majority of uses of roadways, planners would be able to maximize the usage of each road, instead of what we have now which is making all roads available to all commuters using all types of vehicles at all times, which results in what we have today, a poor transportation system where cars and trucks rule because of their brute size.

    If we started to reconfigure ever more of our neighborhood streets into RS, then ever more of those living there would change they way they commute, since small PMV's would cost so much less to own, insure and operate than traditional gasoline/diesel vehicles, not to mention the ability to park them just about anywhere for free.

    Yes, families need larger vehicles that carry more occupants and there will always be many that cannot manage the complexity of using a PMV but that said, there will be many that would be only too happy to be able do so if enough RS were provided to make them convenient for commuting around town.

    How can we start the RS conversion in San Diego County?

    I suggest that the SANDAG money now being spent on upgrading bikeways be immediately increased dramatically and several older areas (like North Park) of urbanized San Diego be identified as the first of San Diego's RS.  This would not only reduce the number of traditional vehicles on our urban streets but allow all those living in Mid-City to take advantage of PMV for their short commutes in and around town.  Remember every traditional vehicle replaced with a PMV will not only reduce traffic and parking congestion but also drastically lower our GHG's since many will be able to charge their own PMV using rooftop solar, which will make living in Mid-City even cooler.

    We should think of RS as urban freeways where PMV rule the road, instead of gasoline/diesel vehicles.

    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.

    Posted before at 


    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


    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    A few years back, SANDAG initiated a program to encourage local employers to allow more workers to

    telecommute, working some days every week from home and working via the internet, thereby eliminating

    at least two vehicle trips that day. Lately, I haven't seen any news about how well that program is working. The cheapest and most fuel efficient vehicle trip is one you don't need to take.

    keenplanner subscriber

    To anyone with an eye towards geography and geology, San Diego is a depressing place.  Atop a stellar landscape of hills, canyons, and plateaus, various San Diego governments have, over the years, let ugly sprawl development run amok.  So now San Diego resembles Los Angeles, but lacks the cultural center. Maybe more like Orange County. 

    There is far too much land paved over and dedicated to car movement and parking.  San Diego claims to have a great bike network, but most of it is on city streets where it's obvious that moving cars at maximum speeds takes precedence.  I find most of San Diego remarkably hostile to cycling.  Even the city's jewel, Balboa Park, has a highway running through it.

    Efficient transit is no mystery.  Just get the buses and trams out of traffic, and they move along just fine. Create a system for moving workers from job centers to outer suburbs without multiple stops in the urban center.  Utilize existing rights-of-way.  Explore BRT.  

    San Diego's expansion of highways, even for HOV lanes, should be illegal under SB-375. The county should look into converting existing lanes to HOV/Rapid Bus lanes.  Yes, it will cause congestion, but it will also allow drivers who make the effort to carpool, and people who have the good sense to take the bus, to move through more quickly.  Every bus represents 40-70 cars not using the freeway.  

    SANDAG has been spewing green-tinted happy talk for years, but doing very little to encourage drivers to use other modes.  It's good to see that someone called them on the carpet, and is demanding that they conform to State environmental laws. 

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    @keenplanner increased congestion does not mean fewer automobile commutes, look at Los Angeles and orange county. the lane elimination proposal is horrible for the environment. cars use more fuel and emit emissioons accelerating and decelerating on congested freeways than they do coasting on open freeways. 

    I agree that the geographic expanse of San Diego makes public transportation inefficient, inconvenient and expensive to operate.

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    @keenplanner Comments:

    “…To anyone with an eye towards geography and geology, San Diego is a depressing place…”

    So why not move?

    “…Efficient transit is no mystery.  Just get the buses and trams out of traffic, and they move along just fine…”

    This might be harder for you to do than it first seems.

    “…Every bus represents 40-70 cars not using the freeway….”

    You mean the average number of passengers per bus is 55?  Have not seen.

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @Sean M @keenplanner If road demand were evenly balanced around the clock and there was still congestion, there would be a stronger case to made for capacity improvements.  But building enough capacity to get rid of congestion for the 20 percent of hours in a week with the highest levels of travel is ridiculously expensive, especially when the result is significant excess capacity much if the rest of the time.

    Airlines and airports don't design capacity so everyone that wants to travel at off peak fares can do so on the busiest travel days.  That would bankrupt them.  Instead, they manage peak demand through pricing.  The only reason we're not bankrupting ourselves with an overbuilt road network is we make up the difference between the taxes we are willing to pay to maintain the roads and the amount of money actually needed to adequately maintain those roads by deferring maintenance.

    We need to be managing the considerable capacity we already have a lot better versus adding more capacity.

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @Sean M @Greg Martin @keenplanner They don't manage where the employee lives or how the employee gets to work.  Perhaps employers could start charging for parking to discourage driving, or shift work hours outside of peak commuting periods if they can, or encourage telecommuting when feasible.  Building expensive highway lanes should be the last option.

    Jack Shu
    Jack Shu subscriber

    Thank you Stuart Cohen for your current support of Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the co-plaintiffs and the Attorney General's win on our appellate court ruling. Are we to presume that TransForm has withdrawn it's 2011 endorsement of the plan which was found to be flawed?  As I recall Move San Diego and Walk San Diego (now called Circulate San Diego) supported it along with a few other groups in return for some minor projects.

    Your current support for San Diego Forward is SANDAG's plan for the next regional transportation plan.  A plan which appears to have the same deficiencies as previous ones. In addition your promotion of plans from Circulate SD use approaches and strategies which are similar to past methods which have done little to make significant  improvements to transportation options in our region.

    I welcome transit and good city building advocacy, however, let's take this moment to correct what is wrong with our regional planning agency (SANDAG) rather than promote one's solution.

    Founder subscriber

    @Jack Shu If they do not allow you and/or several other "minority" group spokespersons to have direct access to the planning of what is presented to SANDAG for consideration, then we will all know that SANDAG is nothing more than a PR vehicle for BIG Development that is running amuck by squandering Billions of Dollars in San Diego County.

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

     The author states that commuters "want" to drive between 8 am and 5, which is true to the extent that people want to get to work on time.

    The author then complains about the cost of freeway expansion but neglects mention that manages car pool lanes cost 150% more to build and benefit a fraction of commuters. If standard lanes were being constructed the funds would go much farther. The ironic thing about these managed lanes is that commuters need to slow to the prevailing speed to merge, backing up the car pool lane. I would argue that car pool lanes contribute to the congestion problem through inefficient use of space.

    I am curious how the author would propose to reduce the miles I drive to work every day. I would take the bus if it didn't take twice as long.

    Vanpooling is a great idea. It is an option for commuters today. I would van pool if it was covenient but unless the van comes to my door I am going to need to park somewhere near the cannot take a bus. 

    This piece offers nothing new. Every suggestion in the piece is already being implemented. The article closes with the trite cliche about a "sustainable" future, suggesting the ideas are more idealistic than practical. Sustainable is a euphemism intended to overcome objections to cost, efficiency and durability; I do grant that including the word sustainable grants an argument more consideration to some audiences.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Sean M 

    "Sustainable is a euphemism intended to overcome objections to cost, efficiency and durability; I do grant that including the word sustainable grants an argument more consideration to some audiences."


    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @Sean M " I would argue that car pool lanes contribute to the congestion problem through inefficient use of space."

    There's nothing more space inefficient than general purpose lanes filled with single-occupant vehicles.  Car pool lanes can move more people per hour than the general purpose lanes because of the greater number of people carried per vehicle (slightly more for car pools, still more for van pools, and a lot more for transit).

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Greg Martin @Sean M Absolute bologna.  The car pool lanes are jammed at the same time that other lanes are.  Every time I have driven through LA, the carpool lanes serve only one purpose.  If there is no congestion, then people use them to drive 90.  If there is congestion, then they are just as congested and useless as any other lane.  They have not done anything to help the environment or reduce congestion.  The funny thing is that it is primarily used by folks that just happen to have 2 or more people in the car.  It's not like most users are actually carpooling.  They just happen to be a family or a couple of people driving somewhere together. 

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    @shawn fox @Greg Martin @Sean M an efficient transportation network would have all lanes used by equal number of vehicles. The tragedy of carpool lanes is that they are used by far fewer vehicles and only move slightly faster than conventional lanes.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @shawn fox  "The car pool lanes are jammed at the same time that other lanes are."

    And yet they still move more people than the regular lanes, maybe twice as many, if you count the number of occupants.

    But you have a point. Those carpool lanes should instead be express lanes, because express lanes almost never get congested. Traffic congestion is a solved problem.

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @shawn fox @Greg Martin @Sean M Two measures that would do much to return the HOV lanes in Los Angeles to being more free flowing much of the time would be to eliminate the exemptions that allow certain types of single occupancy vehicles to use the lanes and to raise the minimum number of occupants to use the lanes generally from two to three (to HOV-3 versus HOV-2).  The more heavily used HOV lanes in the DC area have long been HOV-3 versus HOV-2, e.g.

    It really comes done to how many people are being transported in each lane and how quickly.  The worst way to do this is with single occupancy vehicles spanning all lanes.  And the more van pools and transit that uses the HOV lanes, the more demand is lowered in the remaining lanes meaning less congestion in those lanes.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    It's just a silly argument that more roads create more traffic jams. If this were true than destroying roads would reduce traffic jams. It's a preposterous claim that only the anti-car push.

    Anyone who claims that roads are me expensive than government run mass transit hasn't looked at the numbers. There are no govt run train systems anywhere in the world that don't require substantial ongoing subsidies.

    Finally, the notion that CO2 is pollution is mass hysteria. Plants require it and animal life including humans require plants. Those responsible for practically moving humans in the vast area of San Diego realize cars well serve this region.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson You can't have a traffic jam without a road, so of course removing roads would reduce traffic jams.

    And every high-speed rail train in the world that's at least a few years old makes an operating profit.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Greg Martin @Michael Robertson Those are pretty charts but there's a big factor you seem to ignore. The size of the metro largely determines the cost of moving the people within it. Highly compressed areas like SF and NYC have different transportation needs than vast areas like Riverside and San Diego. There are no solutions only trade-offs and jamming people into smaller space dramatically raises the cost of housing so you're simply trading housing costs for transportation. 

    Mass transit is really government run transportation and the government does everything very costly. If affordability is your primary focus than engaging the free market to provide transportation will provide the best service at the lowest price. Additionally, trains and subways have fixed departure and arrival locations so there's lots and lots of waiting for connections and you're rarely at your final destination. These factors are rarely calculated into the analysis of the efficiency of automobiles versus government trains. 

    If cost is your focus than private run buses are the best option. They are much lower cost to build, maintain and operate and have flexibility to be molded to precise needs of the community.  

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson What makes that line in Japan unique, the line you say is the only profitable one, is that it and Paris-Lyon are the only ones that has paid off their construction costs in full. That isn't required to be profitable. This article explains it more fully: http://www.railpac.org/2011/05/09/where-are-all-those-bankrupt-high-speed-rail-countries/

    In fact, even Amtrak's Acela Express makes an operating profit: http://www.businessinsider.com/report-amtrak-loss-comes-to-32-per-passenger-2009-10

    And airplanes aren't very fast. Even bicycles are faster sometimes: http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2011/07/cyclists-faster-than-jetblue-plane/177402/1

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Bikes are faster than airplanes? You crack me up Derek! That does illustrates that if you twist your measurement and use case enough you can arrive at any conclusion you desire. 

    Amtrak is horribly unprofitable and requires billions of subsidies every year as are all passenger trains. Trains are well suited for moving material, but not people. 

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster Do you believe that study? What about this part, "public transportation doesn't really help alleviate congestion"? 

    That study confuses demand with traffic and traffic jams and incorrectly uses them interchangeably. They're separate things. Yes, building more roads entices people to use them - I hope it does since that's the point. Why would you build more lanes and not want people to use them? 

    The LA study is questionable since comparing recession driving patterns with post recession will lead to faulty conclusions. 

    Us libertarians would point to this as the tragedy of the commons. When something is free (or perceived free) then people will exploit it to the maximum allowed. That's the nature of humans. When there's a direct cost to humans they will economize and modify their behavior. Roads are very indirectly paid for and thus perceived to be free.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Come on Derek now you're just being goofy. Of course airplanes aren't faster for ALL trips. If you need to go across the street walking is faster than a car. I mean really... that's your point? 

    There was a fun episode of Mythbusters that looked at the break crossover where airplane travel was more efficient than a car. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson The point is that bullet trains are faster than airplanes for trips up to about 400 miles, and that's why "the Amtrak Acela train between Washington DC and New York City...owns 64 percent of the market for air and train trips connecting the two cities." http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2011/jan/25/la-sd-high-speed-rail-link-scores-high-new-study/

    When given the choice between flying or taking a high-speed train, people usually choose the train, even in the USA.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann One leg of a train doesn't prove that Derek. There are many factors. 

    The difference that is material is that planes are largely provided and paid for by the free market. Trains (at least passenger trains) by the government. If people want to invest in airplanes or any form of transportation, then that should be their choice. However the government forcibly takes money from people to decide for them and that's what I object to.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson 

    Not to mention the "climate change" argument assumes that the type of fuels will remain  remain static.

    There is a reason electric cars are gaing market share, buses run on natural gas and several major car companies are introducing Hydrogen cars.

    The carbon footprint argument does not consider the advancements in fuel (energy) advancements going forward.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    The only thing more unprofitable than trains is high speed trains.

    There is one line in Japan that claims profitability but all other lines lose money. Train usage is dropping not growing because we now have ultra high speed trains that travel much faster and don't require maintaining any tracks.They're called airplanes. People are choosing airplanes instead of trains.

    I'm still baffled why so many are infatuated with the government building 1800s technology trains. I suppose these saw that popular mechanics article when they were a kid and can't get it out if their head.

    Here's Link for you:


    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Robertson: Your lead sentence on your opening comment was, "It's just a silly argument that more roads create more traffic jams." This study suggests it's not silly. My personal observations, having lived in San Diego since 1979, are that road widening and expansion does not seem to have reduced traffic congestion. I surmise that is for two reasons: 1) more people driving; and 2) people are willing to accept a certain amount of delay. Public transportation (which I use from time to time) is a critical mass issue. People won't use it en masse until its convenience and expense are a reasonable trade-off to driving a car. However, as long as money is primarily directed to roads, versus public transportation infrastructure, the convenience and expense of public transportation will not be perceived as a reasonable trade-off.

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @Michael Robertson @Greg Martin San Diego has the worst of both worlds.  It has sprawl which increases travel costs and the low density housing does nothing to keep housing costs down.  Higher density could both drive down housing costs and lower travel costs by decreasing car dependency.  As it is now, San Diego is the least affordable city in the country for combined housing and travel costs.  

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    @Michael Robertson  Like trains, freeways also require massive ongoing government subsidies, don't they?  Caltrans is fully funded with California taxpayer money, and SANDAG is funded with local Transnet tax money. They use those billions to subsidize freeways and more sprawl. The argument isn't about whether or not there are subsidies. It's about what we spend those subsidies on. If freeways paid their own way, they wouldn't need Caltrans or SANDAG subsidies.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Don Wood @Michael Robertson Most people think of a "subsidy" as government money taken from other in an unrelated way and given to someone else. Think Solyndra. Taking money from citizens in the form of car taxes, gas taxes, tickets, fines, etc and spending that for roads that cars need I don't think qualifies as a subsidy by most people's definition. 

    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    @Michael Robertson @Don Wood Unless the users are paying the full cost, then there is a subsidy.  And road users are not paying the full costs of the roads they use, so those roads are indeed subsidized.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Greg Martin @Michael Robertson @Don Wood Sum up: gas tax, registration fees, smog checks, battery fees, moving violation fines, parking, parking tickets, sales tax on car purchases, license fees, resale fees, DUI penalties, late registration fees, impound fees, tire fees, oil fees, sales tax on other car related purchases, specialty plate fees, over weight fees, off highway fees, alternative fuel fees, clear air fees, record fees, salvage fees, zero emission fees, certificate fees, auto insurance taxes (this is massive!), CHP fees, call box fees, transfer fees, engine replacement fees, late fees, toll road fees, auto theft deterrent fees, abandoned vehicle fees, fingerprint fees, county transportation fees and I'm SURE I'm forgetting dozens more. 

    There's a massive tax burden on car owners. and more than covers the cost to build, maintain and police roads. 

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson "And every high-speed rail train in the world that's at least a few years old makes an operating profit." 

    That seems like a dubious claim.  You have studied the data for every single train that meets that requirement? 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @shawn fox In early 2011, Taiwan's THSRC, which was built in 2007, was the only HSR line that wasn't making an overall profit, only an operating profit: http://www.railpac.org/2011/05/09/where-are-all-those-bankrupt-high-speed-rail-countries/

    It made its first operating profit in 2009: http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aeco/201006230037.aspx

    And later in 2011, it started making an overall profit, meaning it started to pay down its debts: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2012/06/23/2003536010

    If you know of a high-speed train line that's at least a few years old and still doesn't make a profit, I'd like to know about it.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson You're saying airplanes are faster because they have a higher top speed, but it takes such a long time to get to that speed once you enter the airport that the average velocity is very low for short trips. For this reason and because your origin and destination usually aren't airports, even driving can be faster, door to door, than flying.