San Diego’s ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by fundamentally changing the way residents get to work could be irrelevant before it’s even adopted.

And the two politicians who’ve pushed it hardest – Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilman Todd Gloria – could cast votes that render it moot.

The city is expected to adopt its Climate Action Plan before the end of the year. That plan seeks to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035, in part by getting 50 percent of people who live near high-quality transit stations to walk, bike or take transit to work.

But the San Diego Association of Governments says those numbers are far-fetched, based on an analysis of how people are likely to commute in 2035 that it conducted as part of the long-term transportation plan its board is expected to adopt next month. The regional planning agency’s board includes elected officials from across the county, and its transportation plan outlines bus, light rail, bike, road and highway projects throughout the region in the coming decades.


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Gloria first championed the city’s climate plan when he was interim mayor. When Faulconer took office he continued the push and maintained all its major elements. The Republican mayor later ventured to Sacramento to tout the plan for bringing business groups and environmentalists together on the issue.

That plan commits the city to making future development and infrastructure decisions that would facilitate 50 percent of all residents living within a half-mile of a transit station with reliable service to commute without driving by 2035. Seven percent would walk, 18 percent would bike and 25 percent would take transit.

But a new report by the Climate Action Campaign, whose executive director, Nicole Capretz, spearheaded the policy while working for Gloria, and transit advocacy group Circulate San Diego, found SANDAG’s plans envision a much different future for city commuters.

They requested SANDAG’s projections on how people who live in the so-called “transit priority areas” would get to work by 2035, and found they aren’t anywhere near the city’s optimistic goals.

Instead, just under 15 percent of people living in those areas would commute without driving by 2035. Four percent would walk, 2 percent would bike and 8 percent would take transit.

SANDAGandCAP

Source: New Climate for Transportation, by Circulate San Diego and Climate Action Campaign

 

Those expectations are based on the transportation options envisioned for commuters in SANDAG’s nearly 40-year plan for light rail, bus, bike and highway projects that its board is set to vote on next month.

“SANDAG’s own projections show that it is mathematically impossible for the city of San Diego to achieve its transit and active transportation goals with the transportation network SANDAG is currently planning,” the joint report from the two transit advocacy groups concludes.

But Capretz  went a step further.

Faulconer and Gloria are the city’s representatives on SANDAG’s board and will vote on the regional transportation plan next month. Neither politician can claim to support the Climate Action Plan or the goals it outlines if they vote for SANDAG’s plan, she said.

“They’d be standing up and saying, ‘Please support this climate plan, even though we already know it will fail,’” she said. “They’d be setting us up for failure. It’s unimaginable. How do you stand up to the Council, and the public, and ask to support this plan, if you know it’s mathematically impossible to succeed?”

Faulconer declined to comment until his staff could examine the report.

Capretz didn’t hold back on her former boss, Gloria, either.

“It’s painful,” she said. “We’ve had many meetings on this. I don’t know what else to say. You can’t vote for SANDAG’s transportation plan and call yourself a champion of our transit goals.”

Gloria disagreed.

SANDAG’s transportation plan doesn’t prevent the city from reaching the Climate Action Plan’s goals, he said, and it dedicates 75 percent of its spending to transit and pedestrian- and bike-friendly projects in its first five years, which will get the city closer to its goals than would otherwise be possible.

“I remain fully committed to meeting our aggressive (climate action plan) goals, and the regional plan investments should be leveraged by the city to that end,” he wrote in a statement.

SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos took a different approach.

Rather than follow Gloria’s lead and outright reject the report, which relied on SANDAG’s own numbers, Gallegos said the city’s plan was simply unrealistic.

His agency’s numbers are federally required to describe what happens in the region with all of the transportation projects the agency can realistically expect to pay for.

“We can’t dream up stuff we want without showing how we’ll pay for it,” Gallegos said. “I think these are apples to oranges, because one is based on modeling based on financial constraints, and the city one is more based on goals they’ve set.”

At transit advocates’ urging, the agency measured how the region’s breakdown of commuting would change if it fast-tracked all the plan’s transit spending into the next decade.

Even if the agency could pay for it all, Gallegos said, that would still only increase the amount of people who relied on transit to get to work from 8 percent to 10 percent by 2035.

“It moved the dial about 2 percent, after we put all that money in,” he said. “So when I see a 25 percent goal (like in the Climate Action Plan), there’s a disconnect.”

Environmentalists and transit advocates sued SANDAG in 2011 over its transportation plan’s environmental report. They’ve won two court rulings, and the case is now before the state Supreme Court. The groups behind the lawsuit have said their best chance to see a plan with a new direction relies on winning in court.

    This article relates to: Climate Action Plan, Land Use

    Written by Andrew Keatts

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

    43 comments
    Tanner Songer
    Tanner Songer

    Hmmm...I agree with Todd on a lot of things but I think some explaining is in order. I attended an event in Rancho Santa Fe to support his assembly candidacy. When asked about his support for public transit and state wide initiatives such as high speed rail to alleviate traffic, his answer was widening the freeways and relying on the development of autonomous cars. I'm not sure if he really believes that or if his answer was based on the crowd (mostly RSF residents who live in one of the cradles of NIMBYism). In any event somebody's numbers are wrong and we're no closer to dealing county wide development issues. 

    Frank Landis
    Frank Landis subscriber

    @Tanner Songer  It's worth watching what happens with the SANDAG transportation plan lawsuit.  The specific reason for the suit (I've seen one of the amicus briefs) was that their analysis of future greenhouse gas from transportation were not just wrong, they  were actively misleading and not in line with cuts mandated by the state.  SANDAG has already lost the suit and the appeal, and now they are appealing to the state supreme court.


    In any case, if I had to guess which side had the incorrect numbers, right now it looks like SANDAG is.  While I'm nothing like a politician, I'd very gently suggest that politicians running for office might not want to tie themselves to SANDAG's transportation plan.  If they lose their last appeal, they're going to be forced to go back and start again, but without the parts of their plan that depend on widening freeways and adding more cars.


    Greg Martin
    Greg Martin subscriber

    How disingenuous for SANDAG to criticize the city's targets as being unrealistic when it's the past actions and current priorities of SANDAG that will make those targets more difficult to achieve.

    The city of San Diego is also complicit in making it more difficult to meet it's own targets through the actions of its many NIMBY local planning boards and through politicians such as Falconer and Gloria who would rather smile and wave at press conferences that do the heavy lifting needed to try to meet those targets.

    richard cardullo
    richard cardullo

    The city's action plan to succeed will require increasing the density along the existing trolley lines.  since each district elects their own councilman, and since to be re-elected is more important to them than doing what is right: then trolley ridership will not increase.

    The city's climate plan is useful to the politicians to help them in further elections by setting the goals 15 years in advance, when they have moved on up the ladder, to claim the green vote without having to do anythink or take political risks now.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    Your photo shows a bicyclist stopping for a red light at an intersection, but observant commuters know that, at stop signs rather than lights, this seldom happens.  The biker charges right through the stop sign, often not even slowing.  Can you imagine the chaos if 18 percent were to use bikes?

    Robet Lawson
    Robet Lawson

    @Bill Bradshaw How original! Yes, some cyclists break rules. They absolutely shouldn't. But even when they do, they're a hell of a lot less likely to kill people than drunks, texters, or just plain incompetent drivers.

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @Bill Bradshaw Observant commuters know that drivers often charge right through stop signs, not even slowing.  I had this happen to me the other day as I was walking in Kearny Mesa - the driver never even looked to his right for pedestrians as he blew through the stop sign.

    Thousands of people are killed in the US every year by distracted, drunk and reckless driving.  We don't need to imagine this chaos, because we see it on the news every day.  Yet you are somehow more concerned about the minority of bicyclists who charge through stop signs?  

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    @Robet Lawson @Bill Bradshaw Have to disagree with that comment Mr. Lawson.  Bicyclists can cause serious accidents as drivers try to avoid them when they do maneuvers like this.  Bicyclists are supposed to follow the same rules of hte road that cars are and the plain truth is that very many do not.  And what about a driver who kills one of these cyclists blowing through a stop sign?  Why should that person have to live with that memory for hte rest of their lives?

    Nate Fuller
    Nate Fuller subscribermember

    This article highlights the point that with only 2 votes out of dozens of SANDAG votes going to the city of San Diego, SANDAG will always be far better suited to represent the interests of outlying suburbs than it is the city of San Diego itself. The city of San Diego would be better served by an organization that is in alignment with its own goals and interests, (i.e. how can San Diegans easily and efficiently get around the city by modes other than cars), vs those outside the city's goals (how can I get onto the freeway and drive with the least amount of traffic to the closest possible free parking spot to my destination). Goals that would make the city more livable such as the climate action plan, a streetcar system in close in neighborhoods, and bike lanes to useful places will be remain unrealistic. 

    Mary Windsor
    Mary Windsor

    This is all nonsense... the public does not want to ride a bus or have bikes get in our way on the streets. We need more lanes and less traffic... quit wasting our money on the 1% of our population that does not drive a car.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Mary Windsor If the public really wanted to drive everywhere, then we wouldn't need to use sales taxes like the TransNet half cent sales tax to build freeways, because the freeways would pay for themselves. So you can be sure that one reason why so many people drive in San Diego is not because they want to but because they are bribed to.

    Robet Lawson
    Robet Lawson

    @Mary Windsor Which is why most of San Diego is a sprawling asphalt hellscape. Enjoy Escondido or wherever the hell you live, but please don't oppose better infrastructure for people closer to downtown.


    Also, your message is pretty much a giant "go to hell" to the MANY more than 1% of people who are poor, disabled, tourists who haven't rented a car, minors, or just trying to get around without spending tons of cash on gas and maintenance and depreciation. But hey, who cares about those people amiright? Probably just a bunch of damn illegals and hippies!

    hockeysuit
    hockeysuit subscriber

    @Mary Windsor "…the public does not want to ride a bus…".  The MTS bus system (not counting Trolley ridership) logged 55,316,353 trips in FY 2014. 

    "We need more lanes and less traffic…".  Less traffic?  Increasing population + lack of viable public transit options = more traffic, not less. 

    "…1% of our population that does not drive a car".  Would you like to share your source for this statistic?  (I think I know where you pulled it from).

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    Thank you for sharing those ridership numbers @hockeysuit. With a 2013 population of 3.21 million that means an average of 17 trips per person in 2014. If those numbers include transfers and return trips we are talking an average of 8 round trips per person per year on the bus, which is pretty poor in my view. This is understandable though, who would want to walk to and wait for the bus into the heat or rain? Who wold want to take an hour and a half bus ride to the beach instead of a 15 minute car ride?

    hockeysuit
    hockeysuit subscriber

    @Sean M @paul jamason Sean, I don't know if 95 million transit trips (bus plus trolley) in one fiscal year is poor or not, but there's lots of data out there comparing various cities' transit systems.  I don't doubt that San Diego has lots of room to improve compared to cities with more robust transportation networks.  Anyway, think of how ridership might increase if SANDAG devoted more resources to improving the system and addressing the shortcomings you referred to!  More bus and trolley passengers, fewer cars on the road, lower carbon emissions -- let's do it!

    When you ask "who would want to walk to and wait for the bus into (sic) the heat or rain?", well, we've established that transit riders endured our less-than-stellar public transportation network and waited for the bus or trolley millions of times in 2014.  Right?      

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    Shocked to learn that Falcouner and Gloria say one thing, then vote for something else. Local government

    is too full of hypocrites like those two.  Voters need to find out which of their local government representatives

    serve on the SANDAG board and committees then hold them accountable when they run for reelection or

    higher office.


    msginsd
    msginsd subscriber

    What is the point of setting wildly unrealistic goals just for the sake of posturing?  Because that's what Faulconer and Gloria are doing: posturing.  


    Should we be encouraging people to use public transit, bikes, and walking?  Of course.  


    Can we expect them to do so when their destination isn't close enough to bike or walk to and isn't on a transit route that doesn't require multiple transfers or long delays?  Of course not. 


    People use cars because they're still necessary.  SDSU has local housing, multiple bus routes, and a trolley line that runs right through campus, and yet the streets that feed the campus are packed every day and the parking lots are busy.  Why?  Because students don't just go to the campus.  They go lots of other places as well.


    I am no fan of SANDAG, but I also think groups like CAC would have more members and public participation if they dropped the rhetoric and stopped sounding like angry lawyers.

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @msginsd One way to address the "close enough" point you make is to add housing near public transit.  Yet SANDAG is doing little to encourage this (http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/land-use/new-sandag-policy-leaves-transit-advocates-wanting-more/).

    The city tried to plan new housing near the Mid-Coast Trolley in Bay Park, yet residents oppose any new housing there.  

    I agree that people use cars because they're still necessary - in San Diego.  A SANDAG transportation plan that emphasizes transit over freeways would make cars less necessary.  

    2015 will be the second consecutive warmest year on record for our planet.  Unfortunately many San Diegans (including SANDAG senior staff) are just fine with passing on urgent climate change issues to future generations.


    msginsd
    msginsd subscriber

    @paul jamason @msginsd Adding housing next to transit does nothing to resolve the destination problem.  There are lots of students in the BLVD63 megadorm, and many students take advantage of the shuttle or ride their bikes.  Yet the neighborhood is cluttered with student's cars because students need to go lots of places, just like the rest of us.   Ditto for all those new apartments next to campus that have limited amounts of parking.  Yes, I can walk to nearby El Cajon Blvd to catch a bus, but to where?  Nowhere near where I "work".   And the trolley is never going to be built close to where I live.  Are you saying the government should force me to move?  And if I'm trying to make best use of my time by running multiple errands at once, a bus or bike is right out of the question.  You can put all the housing you want next to a trolley, but unless all those people work within walking distance to a trolley, it's not a useful mode of transportation for commuting.  As for Bay Park, it sure sounded like residents were (rightfully) worried about the size of development, not that "any new housing" would be built.


    Regarding climate change, maybe you should be talking with China, India, and the majority of 3rd world countries who don't do a bloody thing to help.  Blaming "SANDAG senor staff" is absurd when it isn't their mandate to win over the hearts and minds of those who prefer or need to drive or to somehow break the laws of nature and make San Diego's geography into something that doesn't need freeways.  That's exactly the kind of rhetoric I'm talking about.  



    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @msginsd "Yet the neighborhood is cluttered with student's cars because students need to go lots of places"

    If McDonald's hamburgers were free just like parking near campus, and if they sold out of hamburgers every day, would it be because people "need" McDonald's hamburgers, or because they are free?

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @msginsd Never said the government should force you to move, what an odd thing to say.  Just because public transit doesn't work for your situation doesn't mean it won't work for others.  Putting housing near transit may not remove the need for every car, or be used by every resident, but the net effect is a significant reduction in the total number of auto trips, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.  

    While you criticize these common-sense approaches to reducing emissions, you offer no solutions of your own, and even resort to blaming China for problems we helped create.  This is laughable considering the emergency we face.


    If China won't do a "bloody thing to help", why did many of their cities just sign on to major carbon cuts (http://news.sciencemag.org/climate/2015/09/u-s-china-announce-deep-carbon-cuts)?  It's time to move beyond the "blame somebody else" attitude so common in San Diego and start actually working on the problem.




    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @msginsd I don't see any parking meters around the dorm you mentioned. Therefore, parking is free.

    msginsd
    msginsd subscriber

    @paul jamason @msginsd The reason why SANDAG puts forth plans that don't involve the kinds of transit you want is because what you want doesn't work for the population that SANDAG is charged with considering. You put idealism before reality.  Tell that Somali mom with all those kids that she has to give up her minivan and use the bus instead.


    I'm not criticizing common-sense approaches to reducing emissions, I'm criticizing inefficient approaches that make you feel good because they fit your agenda.  I've already said we should encourage public transit.  I just don't believe that we should pack our city with people simply because there is a bus close by.  A bus that doesn't take people where they need to go.


    Here's a solution.  Stop promoting low-wage hamburger-flipping jobs.  Support efforts to increase wages for jobs that support our tourism industry.  Raise the taxes that visitors pay to visit San Diego.  Make our government efficient.  And most of all, admit that San Diego is a cul-de-sac.  We aren't a hub.  We are the end of the line for any number of things, including water, energy, and housing.


    Stop talking about affordability and start talking about sustainability.  And put aside your ethnocentricity.  That is my solution.  



    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @msginsd  "What is the point of setting wildly unrealistic goals just for the sake of posturing?  Because that's what Faulconer and Gloria are doing: posturing.  "


    Simple.  It helps one get elected and then reelected.  It's good PR to say wonderful things about how you want to stop climate change.  Not many seem to care that their goals are wildly unrealistic.  Measuring emissions is hard enough.  Stating that you are going to reduce them to 50% of 1990 levels by 20XX is preposterous.  Yet the public buys it hook line and sinker every single time.

    paul jamason
    paul jamason subscribermember

    @msginsd I agree with your "solutions", but how do they reduce emissions?

    I'm not telling anyone to give up their minivan, again a very odd thing to presume.  But if public transit doesn't work for anyone, then why did we have record ridership here last year?  Just because San Diego is sprawled out doesn't mean we can't put future housing and jobs near transit, to decrease the total number of auto trips required.  This is what other cities have done, and are doing.

    If we shouldn't put new growth near transit, then where should they go... Murrietta, with a 50-mile commute and a huge carbon footprint from it?  Because that's exactly where you're displacing them to.  And please don't say our large millennial population that was born here should just move away because you refuse to build any more housing.

    Keep giving solutions that don't address the problem, and keep blaming China instead - who announced massive carbon reductions today (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/25/world/asia/xi-jinping-china-president-obama-summit.html?_r=0).  But please stop trying to block proven emissions reduction methods because you've somehow decided they don't work for anyone.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    It would be rather easy to achieve the climate action goals if we stopped expanding our already massively overbuilt roads and freeways (I say "overbuilt" because is there even one road or freeway anywhere in the county that moves more than 1/3rd of its maximum daily capacity each day?), and if we stopped forcing business and developers to overbuild their parking lots. Then when the equilibrium price of freeway travel and of parking rises above zero, people would naturally seek out alternatives such as bikes and transit to save money and/or time.

    Wonderful things happen when you allow markets to function, not like the big-government meddling that we have here.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann Hmm; considering the gridlock that exists in many places your comment is very curious.  Are you honestly suggesting that jam packed roads aren't carrying even 1/3 capacity?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @shawn fox If they're jam packed 24/7 then they could be carrying over 1/3 capacity, if traffic is actually moving.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @shawn fox People are sleeping at 12am Derek.  Nobody in their right mind could ever expect freeways to be busy when the vast majority of people are sleeping.  In fact, the transit system isn't running at 2am.  You say some intelligent things occasionally, but this is one of the silliest comments that you have posted.  The fact that they are empty at 2am does not mean that they are overbuilt.  What matters is how well they work during peak traffic hours.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann What you suggest is akin to reducing the production of gasoline so that the exorbitant prices cause people to seek other means of transportation.  That is not a free market concept at all to purposefully inflate a cost in order to cause people to change what they buy.  If roads were paid for in some other way, then the lack of roads might result in some people being willing to pay more tolls for better maintenance and expansion of the roads.  Your suggestion would in no way guarantee a particular outcome.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @shawn fox Why would the freeway need to be busy at 12am for it to move over 1/3 of its maximum daily capacity each day?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @shawn fox What would an overbuilt freeway look like to you? Is it even possible to overbuild a freeway? The answer to this question is important in determining whether any of our existing freeways are overbuilt.

    Robet Lawson
    Robet Lawson

    SANDAG are a bunch of bike hating freaks. They killed bike lanes on University Ave, which is in neighborhoods with lots of cyclists, no less. 


    San Diego will be full of old people hiding in their cars scared of bicyclists and "bus people" after every other Californian city has left it far behind.

    Walter Chambers
    Walter Chambers subscribermember

    @Robet Lawson If Todd Gloria had wanted the University Ave project to proceed, SANDAG would have followed his lead. If he can't stand up for one project in Hillcrest, how is he going to stand up for a whole city? 

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    Being pro climate action plans is nothing but a winning position for poiticians regardless of the reality.  It's like being for world peace, the end of all hunger, and religious freedom for all, good ideas to work toward but unrealistic.  I'm sure Gloria and Faulconer know there is no down side to pushing this plan and their plan is better than Sandag's because it sets higher - albeit pie-in-the-sky - goals. If you are for bicycles and for native plants in today's world, you are untouchable, a saint.  Who could criticize you for that?  Being pro-green is the new badge of honor and it only requires that you be for it and not much else.  

    Walter Chambers
    Walter Chambers subscribermember

    @Geoff Page Yes, but the CAP numbers aren't goals, they are legal mandates, which if not met could have legal repercussions. 

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Walter Chambers @Geoff Page Nice rebuttal.  I was thinking the same thing.  Creating a dumb plan, will result in lawsuits that block other things from getting done once we realize that these numbers are all bogus.

    msginsd
    msginsd subscriber

    @Walter Chambers @Geoff Page All the more reason why the numbers should be realistic.  How stupid can government be to mandate something that cannot be obtained?  "Zero" waste, anybody?

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    They are for eliminating homelessness when so many people aren't from here and a ballot measure is necessary to build a new apartment complex without lawsuits.