StretchStatement: “SAN DIEGO COUNTY ROAD REPAIR, TRANSIT, TRAFFIC RELIEF, SAFETY AND WATER QUALITY MEASURE: Shall an ordinance be adopted to: repair roads, deteriorating bridges; relieve congestion; provide every community funds for pothole/street repairs; expand public transit, including improved services for seniors, disabled, students, veterans; reduce polluted runoff; preserve open space to protect water quality/reduce wildfires by enacting, with independent oversight/audits, a 40-year, half-cent local sales tax ($308 million annually) that Sacramento cannot take away?” reads the title and ballot language for Measure A, a countywide measure appearing on the November ballot (emphasis ours).

Determination: A Stretch

Analysis: The San Diego Association of Governments hasn’t been shy about touting the benefits county residents will feel if they pass its proposed ballot measure in November. One of the proposal’s major selling points is that the projects the measure would fund will relieve traffic congestion.

It’s that claim – that the measure would ultimately reduce congestion – that we’re fact-checking here, not the various other claims made in the ballot language.

The measure would levy a half-cent sales tax for transportation and infrastructure projects, raising $18.2 billion over the next 40 years. Roughly 42 percent of that would go to public transit projects, 14 percent to highways, 30 percent to individual cities to spend on local infrastructure, 11 percent on open space preservation and 3 percent on walking and biking projects.

“Pretty much all of those, with the exception of open space, will help our region address traffic congestion,” said Charles “Muggs” Stoll, SANDAG’s director of land use and transportation planning in an interview. “They all address congestion in various ways by increasing efficiency, adding capacity and giving people options that they don’t have.”


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The ballot measure title is: “SAN DIEGO COUNTY ROAD REPAIR, TRANSIT, TRAFFIC RELIEF, SAFETY AND WATER QUALITY MEASURE.” The description that will appear on the ballot starts off: “Shall an ordinance be adopted to: repair roads, deteriorating bridges; relieve congestion … ” (Emphasis ours.)

The ballot language was carefully crafted. SANDAG polled residents on their biggest regional concerns, and the words used to describe the measure, from repairing roads to traffic relief to water quality, were the ones that performed best.

SANDAG also made the case that the measure would relieve traffic congestion during a recent “Ask SANDAG” session on Twitter.

But critics have hammered that claim and questioned how the agency can support the argument that the investments it plans will relieve congestion. We wanted to examine the promise that the tax hike would lead to traffic and congestion relief.

In an interview, Stoll and SANDAG planner and ballot project manager Rob Rundle said new carpool lanes would add space onto existing roads, public transit would remove some people from roads and other projects in the measure will clear out specific bottlenecks.

For example, the measure would make money available to local cities to improve intersections where roads and trolley tracks cross, decreasing the time spent waiting for a trolley to pass. It would help synchronize traffic lights and increase frequency of existing transit services. That will attract more users.

“Those programs provide direct congestion relief to specific choke points in the system,” said SANDAG spokesman David Hicks in an e-mail.

Local governments often claim infrastructure projects will decrease traffic congestion. It’s something that’s been studied a lot. Most of those studies haven’t found empirical evidence to back that claim.

Thus the question isn’t just about what projects will be built, but about what effect they’ll have on our commutes. We found SANDAG thinks of traffic relief differently than a typical commuter might.

It may just mean things don’t get as bad as they could. SANDAG officials admit they can only help some commutes and maybe only for a limited time. Regardless what they do, they said, the region will grow and that means more people trying to get from one place to another.

Gilles Duranton is a professor of urban economics at the University of Pennsylvania, and an author of one of the most cited studies on the topic, “The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities.” When I read him SANDAG’s ballot title, he laughed.

“That’s an argument they make over and over again without any evidence whatsoever,” Duranton said.

Duranton and Matthew Turner, his co-author, studied metropolitan areas across the country. They found that on average, the amount of people that roads can accommodate and the amount of traffic they generate increase proportionately. When you make roads bigger, more people use them, and traffic stays the same. They also found that after building new public transit projects, within 10 years the people who left the roads to ride transit would likewise be replaced on the road by others.

“The notion that you can build your way out of congestion is just false,” Turner said. “There’s this big, latent appetite for driving and as we make it easier, people drive more.”

There are several reasons why building more roads and increasing public transit won’t change congestion on major roadways, said Duranton and Turner.

The first is people make decisions based on traffic. They may choose to take local roads instead of major highways or choose to go out to dinner in different parts of town to avoid traffic. If it seems like traffic improves, they’ll change their behavior.

The second is commercial traffic. As soon as there is extra space on the road, commercial delivery trucks and vans will use it. Hundreds or thousands of extra trips for them from that space could amount to a lot of money each year.

And finally, more people will move to a region.

SANDAG can improve bottlenecks at certain intersections or where trolleys and cars cross, but new choke points are bound to emerge elsewhere, Turner said. The traffic in the entire system won’t change.

“Our research says if you have a policy of fixing those things over and over again, you’ll end up back where you started,” he said.

But SANDAG isn’t necessarily arguing the tax will make congestion better than it is today. Instead, Rundle and Stoll said it will keep congestion from getting worse as the regional population grows.

SANDAG measures its success, Rundle said, by how it manages to cut down on the number of miles the average person drives. He said reducing the amount of total driving in the region would be unrealistic since the population is growing.

Decreasing the amount the average person drives could mean encouraging some people to take transit or ride a bike. Under SANDAG’s plan, each person would drive slightly less on average in 2035 – 23.5 miles per day – than they did in 2012 – 25.2 miles per day.

Hicks said that decrease is evidence SANDAG’s tax reduces congestion.

“Preventing the system from degrading over that time (and in many areas making it better than it is now) should be considered ‘congestion relief,’” he wrote.

But as a general matter, the number of miles the average person drives isn’t the same thing as “congestion.” Congestion is the delay drivers experience when more people are using a road or freeway at a particular time than the road or freeway can handle.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute measures congestion in urban areas across the country each year in its Urban Mobility Scorecard. The scorecard found that a travel trip during rush hour in San Diego takes 24 percent longer than a free-flow trip. That means that a trip that would normally take 30 minutes takes roughly 37 minutes in rush hour.

Hicks also said new projects could keep rush hours of the future the same length as today, even with population growth, saving San Diego from the fate of Los Angeles, where peak traffic periods have increased to more than just a few hours per day.

According to SANDAG’s own projections, that could be true for some people. Some commutes will get worse. Some will stay the same.

The commute by car during rush hour from Oceanside to downtown San Diego, for instance, will go from 65 minutes in 2012 to 59 minutes in 2035 if the projects are built. In 2050, that commute would increase to 62 minutes. If the projects weren’t built, the commute would be 67 minutes in 2035 and 74 minutes in 2050.

But from Escondido to downtown San Diego, the rush hour commute in 2012 was 56 minutes. In 2035, if the projects were built, it would increase to 58 minutes and then to 60 minutes in 2050. In 2035, without the projects, the commute would be 59 minutes and 63 minutes in 2050.

From San Ysidro to downtown San Diego, the commute would decrease by one minute between 2012 and 2050 if the projects were built. From western Chula Vista to Mission Valley, the commute would stay the same at 29 minutes between 2012 and 2050 even with the new projects. Without them, it would increase to 37 minutes.

Turner said it’s common for agencies to argue their improvements will keep things from getting worse.

“That might be true, but I haven’t seen empirical evidence to back that claim,” he said. “And if you’re asking people for $18 billion, you’d want more than ‘might be true.’”

A SANDAG document says all the projects the agency plans to build could save roughly 1 billion hours of driving, because people will have more public transit alternatives. The document also says, however, that those people who continue to drive to work without carpooling, overall, won’t see any change in their commute times.

“Travel times to work remain flat for driving alone and improve for transit users,” reads the document.

The only thing that has ever been proven to actually reduce congestion, Turner said, is congestion pricing – making people pay to use roads. London and Singapore have done so.

Turner compared U.S. highways to Soviet Union bread lines. When it’s free, people line up and it’s first come, first serve. But then there’s a continual shortage.

SANDAG studied congestion pricing, but dismissed it because it would require new state legislation.

One other piece of SANDAG’s ballot title jumped out at Jarrett Walker, a transit planning consultant and author of the book “Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives.” It seemed intentional to him that SANDAG promised to “relieve” congestion, and not “reduce” it.

“’Traffic relief’ can mean relieving people from traffic by giving them an option other than sitting in traffic,” Walker wrote. “’Reduced congestion,’ on the other hand, would mean a benefit to motorists who are still on the congested highway. See the difference?”

Stoll said he doesn’t know if that much thought went into the word choice, but said SANDAG isn’t claiming it could eliminate congestion.

“We’re not trying to say if we do this measure, there will be no congestion anywhere in the system at any time,” Stoll said. “’Relief’ kind of suggests that we’re doing what we can to make some key investments in key corridors that can help by either freeing up space, keeping congestion contained in that peak period or giving them other options.”

We consider a statement to be “A Stretch” if it takes an element of truth, but omits critical context that will significantly alter the impression it leaves.

That’s the case here.

For typical voters, traffic congestion means cars on the road, one behind another, inching along and slowing the amount of time it takes to get somewhere.

The measure would provide options for some people to get off the roads who don’t want to deal with traffic. It might make improvements at certain intersections or on certain roads that will benefit certain people at certain times. If you’re a carpooler, it might add a carpool lane to your commute that wasn’t already there.

That’s not the same thing as reducing congestion.

“As you develop rail and busway transit, a higher and higher share of the population (and the economy) is no longer impacted by traffic congestion,” wrote Walker. “That doesn’t reduce congestion, but it does increase liberty, equity and prosperity.”

That’s not to say the measure is good or bad, but it probably won’t significantly reduce traffic congestion in the region.

    This article relates to: 2016 Elections, Fact Check, Land Use, Must Reads, Politifest 2016, SANDAG, Transit

    Written by Maya Srikrishnan

    Maya Srikrishnan is a reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at maya.srikrishnan@voiceofsandiego.org.

    69 comments
    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    San Diego Forward doesn't improve work trop

    More on congestion ib sales tax funded Plans.



    No improvement in work trip travel time is the congestion bottom line in the San Diego Forward Regional Plan.


    Don't see that in the Measure A description to provide part of $203 billion Regional funding. But that's progress! The previous Plan had a near 8% increase. Court findings and slower growth factors


    The price we pay after near 30 yeqrs on the sales tax funded TransNet Plan: (Mostly from Texas Transportation Institute.)


    Congestion at peak travel;+65%


    % or lanes congested; +70%


    Annual total delay; 3 tines/cap


    Annual (38 mil. gal) Fuel Waste;3.5 times/cap


    SANDAG Plan 1 billion hours not in car travel. Sounds enormous, but again near trivial 3% of in car travel.


    New area for fact check:


    30% of Measure A funds go to local communities for infrastructure repair/improvement including local roads.


    Question: 33% of current sales tax goes to same communities. What % now goes to roads and why the poor condition?






    Walt Brewer
    Walt Brewer subscribermember

    Delayed comments because of travel; including peak hour traffic in mass transit oriented Montreal. Have a picture of traffic when one lane is assigned to bakes and bus stops. (Also same congestion causing move in Paris about a dozen years ago)

    Apologies to Maya if in a quick scan of your excellent compilation, I have duplicated or goofed.

    My take on the central question :

    SANDAG, after spending over $200 Billion, including about $40 Billion capital for new and rehab mass transit implementing San Diego Forward, seems satisfied with minutes to work not changing from current 27 minutes.

    Daily delay in peak hour traffic reduces from 10 to 9 minutes.

    Somehow there is improvement though; 2050RTP showed about a 10% increase in time to work.

    The reason adding lanes don't reduce congestion, but adds capacity, is the examples given are for roads that are highly overloaded in the first place. There is a match-p point, but we have so neglected the public preferred road expansion , we seldom get there. Thus a misleading argument by anti-auto activists.

    Jack Shu and others should visit Buffalo NY to see a road system in peak period demand and capacity balance.

    With managed lanes we are starting with about a 10% loss of throughputs. Caltrans computerized freeway performance measurements has the evidence. The TOTAL flow at PEAK DEMAND in dozens of managed/HOT lanes equipped freeways. But bus operators love them.

    We are still suffering from the Governor's mid 1970s edict to build mass transit to absorb growth and reduce road expansion. Getting people back into the mass transit they rejected as early as the 1930s was suppose to be the only answer for needed clean up of that period's autos. Ignored was the simultaneous major clean car program that doubled MPG and vastly reduced emissions. Instead of mass transit, autos absorbed 95% of growth despite more congestion . We can't get mass transit use abovea near trivial 2%/4 % or so peak periods.

    San Diego Forward shows autos absorbing at least ten times mass transit of travel growth.

    And approach 20 times as cost-effective to reuce energy use aand associated emissions.

    How on earth are we going to reduce congestion with more and more mass transit requiring nearly $40 Bullion capital plus O & M to absorb daily the near trivial 2 million passenger-mils out o100 million now, and needing to grow to 120 million at least?Providing about 2 million daily passenger-miles when the Region needsto add about 20 million. Having failed after 30 years, and 1/3rd the current sales tax just for mass transit, to get people back intotrains and busses, the plan now is re-designed less auto friendly communities. The gamble is more nearby stations will attract more public use. And spend nearly 41% of the hoped for November ballot sales tax. Nearly 60% is for all transportation. 75% of that would go to mass transit.

    Why do we wonder why congestion increases?

    See Appendix N tiny changes for the total Plan of over $200 Billion.

    We can eliminate most funds for this obsolete approach, and the need for the November ballot sales tax, if leadership will support the new technology of on-call personal same road vehicle direct to destination system beginning to appear. All travelers, especially non-drivers now dependent on mass transit, can enjoy the on-call flexible autos. No more time consuming start stop transfer. The marketplace established on-call private vehicles as overwhelming urban travel preference. Usually called "Uber", with or without driver, its potential is the new form of Public Transportation for the Region.

    Why rush to add funds for a failing concept that in concept will be over 150 years old as planned?

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    Curious and curiouser


    “…“As you develop rail and busway transit, a higher and higher share of the population (and the economy) is no longer impacted by traffic congestion,” wrote Walker. “That doesn’t reduce congestion, but it does increase liberty, equity and prosperity.”


    I wonder if you could ask Mr. Walker (above) how often he currently enjoys the “increased liberty, equity and prosperity” brought about by his riding the bus or trolley.


    Vote no on the tax plan.

    Jack Shu
    Jack Shu subscriber

    Thank you Maya for doing some research as to the effectiveness of adding lanes to reduce congestion. For those who believe we can build ourselves out of delays on roads, yes more lanes may provide some relief for a while.  But we already have six, seven or more lanes going in the same direction in some parts of our freeway system and still it gets congested during rush hour. Do we really want our communities to be full of roads?  There are communities and leaders throughout the world that figured out there are better ways to get around than having to drag 3,000 to 4,000 pounds with you whenever you need to travel.  Auto travel is the most expensive way to travel for both the user and government (per American Tax Foundation).  It is also the most dangerous way to travel per mile (per Caltrans).  The economic cost of roads and cars holds our region down from being more prosperous.  The reason we only have 3% of our commuters using transit is because we do not have an effective transit network. Until we change the direction we have been going with regards to transportation planning and systems for our region, we will continue to be going backwards.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    Why can't the media just call this what it is, a tax increase ballot measure. Use of vague language like "the measure would levy a half cent tax" is more likely to confuse readers than just saying "the measure would increase local sales taxes by a half cent.". If VOSD wants to help its readers understand what is going on, please use planer language when talking about SANDAG's sales tax increase initiative.

    Gregory Hay
    Gregory Hay subscriber

    @Don Wood, that's hardly vague. I find it hard to imagine anyone would get confused by that. Plus, 'levy' is the legal term for how the money is collected.

    mike johnson
    mike johnson subscriber

    Your example of boarder and Oceanside is one of the reason traffic is so bad. Quit expanding freeways to far suburbs.  Start with the core ten miles around downtown. Expand the freeways in that area. Then move out farther away. So it is now 3% who use mass transit. In 20 year it might double to six percent.  Take that billions and put into core areas.  Such as adding a lane where I-5 and I-15 to National City. Five miles from the core. Instead of building exrta carpool lane 20 miles from downtown. Or add an extra lane on I-8 eastbound thru Hotel Cirlcle. Another core from downtown.

    Gregory Hay
    Gregory Hay subscriber

    @mike johnson, there is a lot of truth to what you say, but you are also ignoring how highways *connect* major cities. I-5 doesn't just serve the coastal suburbs, it connect ALL of San Diego to LA (and Orange County). Another example are the roads to Las Vegas.

    In addition to connecting far places, you have to also consider how goods get to/from San Diego. If you only improve local roads, it affects availability and *costs* of things that driven in from other places. (And we clearly do not produce anywhere near enough food locally to support San Diego, and that's just one of the many goods we consume regularly.)


    In short, it isn't just about the suburbs. EVERYTHING is interconnected.

    Founder
    Founder subscriber

    SANDAG has been and will continue to be the cause of our TRAFFIC PROBLEMS since they are beholden to those that profit from building ever more roads! Giving them more money will only result in getting more of the same "too little, too late" improvements just like we have gotten in the past decades, having spent many billions of dollars per year!

    What is needed is a fundamental reorganization of SANDAG's membership and the percentage of what money is spent on, especially Active Transportation vs Highway building.

    Example 1: SANDAG should fund a program that helps commuters purchase eBicycles to get single riders out of their cars because if they spent just a small percentage of what it cost to build just one mile of highway, they could enable THOUSANDS of commuters to stop using vehicles.

    Example 2: SANDAG is not supporting electric vehicles because their owners do not pay road taxes at the pump, so just like the automobile dealers that make major profits on servicing vehicles with (not electric motors) gasoline/diesel engines, they do not push the sale of eVehicles at their Dealerships.

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    Induced demand is often confused with underinvestment. If a route needs two lanes but you only build one, congestion will persist not because of induced demand but because one more lane is not enough.

    The thought process behind induced demand is distorted, it's considered it a bad thing if something is built and people use it.

    Activists would love it if induced demand applied to public transportation, but they choose to selectively apply the concept to automobile transportation and use the term as a pejorative. Building more bike lanes and expanding public transportation does not mean that people will use them. Los Angeles spent $9 billion building light rail and substance lines but public transportation ridership _decreased_ despite population growth. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ridership-slump-20160127-story.html

    Almost all the new lanes built are carpool lanes yet 90 percent of people don't use carpool lanes. I have not seen a study that suggests the existence of carpool lanes changes behavior, most people who ride in the carpool lane would have a passenger anyway, like parents for instance. Carpool lanes are used much less than regular lanes but only go a little bit faster, one reason is because someone wishing to exit the carpool lane has to slow to the speed of regular lanes to merge, making everyone behind them slow too.

    I personally am not supporting this half cent sales tax increase because caltrans just builds carpool lanes on major arteries or worst, changes regular lanes into caepool lanes, which cost about 50 percent more to build than regular and benefit the fewest people. I don't see myself benefitting from any proposed public transportation investments because they don't go where the office jobs are.

    You will never regret voting NO on tax increase bills.If you vote yes, be prepared for disappointment because they are written with misleading wording and are a bait and switch. Vote no and don't bother reading them.

    I am curious if the anti automobile folks are anti electric cars because anti road policies discourage their adoption.

    Gregory Hay
    Gregory Hay subscriber

    @Sean M, First, I wish people would stop using 'activists' as a pejorative, like it is always some 'fringe group of wackos.' By advocating what you want here, Sean, you are also now an activist.

    Second, I agree with much of what you say… with the exception of comparing LA to anything else. Los Angeles is such a weird beast that I don't think very many lessons there can be successfully applied elsewhere. BUT the facts about carpool lanes are sadly true. The premise behind them is nice — to get more people to share car rides — but they have been corrupted by SANDAG by allowing single-passenger commuters to pay to use them ("because they are so underused!"). This effectively turns them into roads for rich people only.

    *sigh*

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    If you think people should be riding their bikes or taking the bus to pick up their kids from school or to go shopping at costco, one lane is too much because it means that people can still enjoying the convenience and freedom of driving when they want, where they want.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Sean M "If a route needs two lanes..."

    What is an objective, quantifiable measure of whether a route needs two lanes?

    Stated another way, if you owned a restaurant, when would you know that you "need" to expand the dining area?

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    Anti auto activists who think that increasing road congestion is a means to coerce people into using public transportation or riding bikes.

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    I guess I could have been more specific and used the term anti auto activists. I thought I provided a reasonable rebuttal of the induced demand argument: induced demand is not an axiom and it does not apply to public transportation projects. Just because cities build public transportation, it doesnt mean people will use it.

    It is a fair point to suggest that SD is not like LA, but we do have much in common: similar weather and spread out suburban geography. Both LA and SD underestimate the construction costs and timelines, both try not to report public transportation utilization because it is embarrassingly low and both have a plethora of excuses why people continue to choose to drive instead of take the buses and trains that billions of taxpayer dollars were spent on.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Chris Wood There's a line out the door at every IHOP every Sunday morning. Why don't they expand all their restaurants?

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    Anorher example of the fallacy of induced demand is the absence of lines to get on the bus and the train. The people wait stare at the empty train tracks waiting for the train to show up, not for their turn. (Well technically everyone on the bus and at the next stop has to wait a couple of minutes for a bicyclist to attach his bike to the front).

    Jose Cervantes
    Jose Cervantes

    @Sean M Road congestion is an unfortunate fact of life in just about any metropolitan area, not a means of coercion by "anti-auto activists."

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    @Sean M What a simplistic, 2-dimensional attitude. Why would you believe that all who disagree with the SANDAG measure are "anti-auto activists"? I would guess that none of us are anti-auto. We simply want more non-auto choices. I'm opposed to Prop. A but I drive an auto much of the time and so will almost everyone - especially since we don't have reasonable public transportation alternatives in most of the City of SD or the County.


    In the meantime, bicycling is an excellent alternative for short urban trips IF there are safe bikeways available and it's probable that we will see continuing increases in this mode of transportation.

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    @Sean M The reason you seldom see a line waiting to board a bus or a trolley is because the schedules aren't adequate for most people to use this mode. 

    Then there's the example of the Coaster train which had to be expanded to meet the demand for commuters to and from North County and San Diego. I think the same is true of the Metrolink (Osd to LA) and ridership has increased on the Sprinter (Osd to Escondido) as well.

    <http://timesofsandiego.com/politics/2014/07/17/nctd-reports-record-ridership-sprinter-coaster/>

    Sean M
    Sean M subscriber

    @Judith Swink @Sean M  I think it's good that the 7/7/2014 Times of San Diego article you cited states a few more people were using public transportation. I would like to read more press releases extolling increased ridership. 


    In March 2013 the NCTD announced in March, 2013 they would be shutting down the Coaster for three months because state regulators discovered problems with the trains' breaks. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2013/mar/08/sprinter-brake-north-county-train/


    It is cute that the timing of the brake replacement was schedule to be completed right at the beginning of the NCTD's June fiscal year.Total NCTD trips had only increased 0.12% between 2000 and 2014. (14.6k/12.6M) . Hopefully nobody got a bonus for any uptick in "trips,"  so I  am curious if or  how many of those "total trips" were bus transfers while the train was shut down. Hopefully nobody got a bonus on that. I missed this fiscal year's press release about an increase in public transportation ridership and was hoping to read that the record breaking growth in transit trips was sustainable, but apparently not. Http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/mar/02/nctd-fare-hike/ 



    There are many reasons why but the prevailing theme behind the reason people don't take Pt is "takes too long." 


    I grant that infrequency is an issue and infer there is a chicken and egg aspect to it. Transit agencies would appreciate having full buses and trains, but I think we will have to wait to learn when that happens from a future press release. Hopefully the transit agencies can schedule more trips when there are chargers games, concerts and hopefully next year the padres. Sure would be nice if the trolley went to the san Diego airport but it is great that lyft and Uber are so affordable. Hopefully we agree that ridesharing, especially if it's electric, should be convenient and affordable.



    Gerald Sodomka
    Gerald Sodomka

    SANDAG has been looking to put this half cent sales tax on the ballot for years. I was at a SANDAG meeting 4 or 5 years ago when this was on the agenda and was rejected because of poor polling.  I received the phone call from the polling firm.  The language in the questions was exactly the same as what is being used by the SANDAG in this article.  Muggs Stoll is being disingenuous.  The words were carefully  chosen to convince the public to vote YES.  It worked with the push poll.  But will it work with the vote?  SANDAG thinks so.

    Matthew Turner is correct.  Congestion grows with population growth.  I've seen it my whole life in San Diego.  Public transit and walking/bicycling may "relieve" it, but they don't "reduce" it.  In fact, SANDAG has encouraged growth in outlying areas by building better roads to access these areas, thus contributing to greater and greater congestion.  North City West is the perfect example with the I-5/I-805 merge.

    Nothing was said about air quality.  SANDAG  prefers not to talk about it.  San Diego used to have clear air quality.  Sadly that was decades ago.  Air quality has been deteriorating, but newcomers don't notice it.  By the time they do, it too late for them.  The next group of newcomers will be blissfully ignorant, and SANDAG will be mum.  We are always a decade or two behind Los Angeles.  It just takes San Diego longer to get to where Los Angeles already is.



    Richard Rider
    Richard Rider subscribermember

    If we don't think that more lanes and bigger highways will reduce congestion, then we we can close half the CURRENT highway lanes with no INCREASE in congestion, right?  That's the obvious (and incredibly flawed) inference.

    Don't get me wrong.  I oppose the sales tax increase. In CA we pay too too much already, and get too little.  In CA we have arguably the highest gas tax in the nation (including "cap and trade"), yet the 6th worst road system.  And our population is growing FAR more slowly than SANDAG has been prediction for many years.

    But what's amazing is that 97% of the people use roads to get around, and yet under this measure only 14% of the tax revenue would go for what people want and use.  Even worse, a large part of this new SANDAG honey pot will be spent on light rail -- which per passenger mile is BY FAR the most expensive and inefficient form of transportation.  And 3/4 of rail riders are former bus riders -- not people who were driving on the roads.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Richard Rider "If we don't think that more lanes and bigger highways will reduce congestion, then we we can close half the CURRENT highway lanes with no INCREASE in congestion, right?"

    Six lanes of congestion is less congestion than twelve lanes of congestion, isn't it?

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Richard Rider  --Next time I drive through LA on I-5 just north of Anaheim (where the 5 is reduced to 6 lanes from 8, 10, or 12 travel lanes), I will remember your statement above and be content, knowing that bottleneck can't possibly be fixed--and travel times actually reduced--by adding lanes to that original portion of I-5.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @David Crossley Wasn't that bottleneck created by widening the I-5?

    Surely widening the I-5 again will fix it!

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @David Crossley  --Nope.  The bottleneck was caused by areas to the north and south being widened.  The original area--the 6 lane original section of the 5--is the last part to be widened, to match the other sections of the freeway.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Richard Rider Richard - you cut through the absurd argument that building more roads won't help move more cars more efficiently. It's crazy watching the enviros tie themselves it knots to say that more roads for cars are BAD and trains which few will use are great. 

    Ben Adams
    Ben Adams

    @Derek Hofmann You clearly don't understand the concept of cause and effect.  Traffic congestion is the effect of our continuously increasing population.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Ben Adams And our increasing population is one effect of widening our roads.

    Ben Adams
    Ben Adams

    @Derek Hofmann  No it's not, do you really believe that nonsense?  Our widening of roads is a necessary response to our increased population.  People keep moving here despite our traffic problems and lack of affordable housing.  They move here despite our woefully inadequate infrastructure.

    You sound like an anti-growth loon who wants to shut the door now that you got in.  My family has been here since the 1880s, yes the 1880s which I guarantee is longer than yours and I have to tell you divorcing yourself from reality is not going to bring back to your idyllic fantasy of what San Diego was in the past.  

    Ben Adams
    Ben Adams

    @Michael Robertson  It's not the "enviros" who are the problem, it's the delusional "no-growth" loons who want to lock the door to San Diego now that they live here.  Concepts like supply and demand and cause and effect don't register with these people.

    Ben Adams
    Ben Adams

    @Derek Hofmann Spare us your non-sequitur.

    Pheonix Arizona purposely avoided building highways during the 70s and 80s in an effort to limit growth and sprawl and their efforts failed miserably because just like you they didn't understand cause and effect or supply and demand.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Ben Adams If your story about Phoenix is true, it proves that people don't mind a little traffic congestion. So why should we spend massive amounts of tax money trying to alleviate it? I thought only liberals like to pay taxes.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Ben Adams  --Not only did they mind the congestion, but Maricopa County and the state of Arizona have been trying to catch up ever since, with varying degrees of success.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @David Crossley Why is it that those who complain the most about traffic congestion are the ones who cause it?

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    Perhaps those people have no alternative.  They have to drive to get where they need to go, as the vast majority of the population does on a regular basis.  And, I would guess many of them don't complain about whatever congestion they may be a part of, as they understand the reasons why they are in that congestion.

    Jose Cervantes
    Jose Cervantes

    @Michael Robertson @Richard Rider There's a limit to how wide we can make our freeways. Space is limited and a 12 lane freeway full of single occupant vehicles is a very inefficient use of space. Then there's the environmental concerns... but I guess that's just the crazy enviro in me hoping for reduced smog.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    I think many of those of us who have lived in San Diego for any significant period of time would observe these findings to be true. Congestion hasn't improved substantially as more roads have been built. One exception is the HOV lanes. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Robertson: Regarding your statement, "The notion that more roads will just get filled up is an absurd argument." I think the point of the article is that studies have demonstrated this to be true. I don't think it's an argument.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster You have to look at the growth of people and the number of miles driven to make a fair comparison. Transportation is a measure of FREEDOM. It's freedom of people to live, work, and play where they want when they want and with who they want. To us freedom lovers this is great. But to those who want to tell others how and where to live it is a bad thing. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Robertson: Interesting to see an avowed libertarian supporting a tax measure that is essentially a subsidy for developers and commercial interests. I think the point of this fact check is pretty evident. There is a pain point traffic-wise people are willing to stomach. If you increase the size of the freeway, it will eventually fill to the level it was previously. Existing residents don't benefit by the taxation. They only pay for status quo congestion. This does open the opportunity for more development and more commerce, but the cost is mostly shouldered by people who will not benefit (current residents) assuming that traffic returns to the same levels of congestion. Perhaps those who will benefit should pay for the expansion?

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster No, I don't support the tax measure. The government already gathers tens of billions from drivers to pay for roads. More than enough to provide high quality roads (see below). 


    The notion that more roads will just get filled up is an absurd argument. It's like saying "lets make cars with wee little gas tanks because if we make them with bigger one people will just drive more". Uh yeah, that's the point! Roads are to be used for transportation which is FREEDOM. If more lanes are being filled up then that means even more people getting where they need or want to go when they want to go. It's great right? 

    I'm all for people who will benefit paying for it. It turns out that just about every person in San Diego benefits from roads! Even people who are homebound get deliveries on roads so if there's one tax that benefits the masses it's taxes for transportation. Having said that, I'm all for mileage based taxes but in lieu of not in addition to the tens of billions that CA government already takes today. 


    REMINDER: Drivers pay massively for the privilege of driving in CA:


    Taxes paid in 2014 by California drivers: $20.3B**

    Registration $6.5B
    State gas taxes $4.9B
    New car sales tax: $4.4B
    Parking fees: $1B
    Fines, tickets: $1.5B
    Fed gas tax: $2B


    **There are lots more sources of tax money collected so this number is grossly under counting. Additional sources not included are:
    - taxes on used car sales

    - taxes on lease payments- smog fees- tire, battery, oil, coolant, AC fees- sales on other car purchases- taxes on repair parts- toll roads- local taxes

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Look at my ACTUAL data on what drivers pay in CA and what Caltrans spends. CalTrans spends about $16B including 1.5B on the slow train to nowhere. That means the state is making $4BILLION in profit from drivers. Even more actually because I didn't include a whole bunch of revenue sources. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Adams: Population increases in communities are, in part, a function of the capacity of infrastructure to absorb the increase. People choose were to live, in part, based on that. Moreover, there are ways to grow that minimize the burden on roads, such as encouraging growth near employment and public transit centers. If we want to grow in size as a community and want that growth to involve far flung communities dependent on roads, then we certainly must increase road capacity to accommodate it. A question is whether that is what we want, but we digress here from the point of the fact check which is that SANDAG seems to be promising less congestion, whereas it will not materialize.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster The argument is that is bogus is not that people won't use new roads that are built but that there's no benefit to society to new roads. More cars and trucks will get moved if there's more and better roads which is a net positive for society. Of COURSE people will use the new roads. Traffic today constrains the economy costing us growth and productivity and leisure time. 

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Ben Adams @Chris Brewster Yes he's going to ignore population growth or think it's BAD thing because that's how progressives think. They want growth only where they think it should be and in the manner they think it should happen. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson "more and better roads which is a net positive for society."

    There's a problem with your argument. If roads are always a net benefit to society, then we should raze all buildings and replace them with roads, right?

    Or is there an optimal amount of road coverage somewhere between 0% and 100%? How would we know when we're above that amount?

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson I never said "roads are always a net benefit to society". This is called a strawman argument where you make up an argument and then attack that. Please stick to the arguments I actually make. 


    Having new roads where congestion exists which is an enormous indicator of pent up demand is likely a positive investment. 

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson This website is publicly available isn't it? I"ve posted the data to you before. You can go research it yourself if you like. It will take an afternoon like it took me. CA drivers pay minimum $20 BILLION in money for the privilege of driving in CA. Caltrans spends $16 B including 1.5B on the train to nowhere. 


    Leftist like to say that everyone in society is a freeloader so they can justify ever higher taxes. They often say this about drivers. You have even said it about drivers. But they only look at one single tax like gas tax and not ALL the taxes that drivers pay. I don't even have to look at whatever link you sent to know that they look at only one tax source and conclude that it doesn't cover the cost of roads. It's grossly flawed analysis because they're working to a conclusion and not going where the facts are.


    Go research my data. You'll learn that I'm accurate. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson So if congestion exists for a single person for a single minute out of the year, it's a positive investment to spend $billions of taxpayer money to alleviate that 1 person-minute spent in traffic per year?

    Or is there an optimal amount of congestion somewhere between 0% and 100%? 
    How would we know when we're above that amount?

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson Do you believe that the Earth has a finite population carrying capacity? If so, is population overshoot likely? If so, would it be a bad thing? If so, what, if anything, should be done to avoid it?

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Everything is finite. That's just a silly question to ask. Is the earth close to capacity? The experts said we were when we had 1 billion humans on earth. "we won't have enough food to feed everyone" they howled in a panic. That was 6 billion people ago. They don't talk about not having enough food now. They talked about not having enough oil - remember "peak oil"? Oops wrong again. Now they talk about not having enough water. Shhhh. Nobody tell them 70% of the planet is covered in water and the earth recycles it for us. Now they fabricate tales of rising oceans or global warming - neither of which is an issue. 


    You think central planners should decide how many people should be on the planet? That's the height of arrogance. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson "You think central planners should decide how many people should be on the planet? That's the height of arrogance."

    I never said "central planners should decide how many people should be on the planet". This is called a strawman argument where you make up an argument and then attack that. Please stick to the arguments I actually make.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Obviously you think government should manage how many people should live and where they should live and how they should travel and how many people we should have. That's the entire point of this thread. It epitomize progressives. They desire to tell everyone else how to live. It used to be the righties that wanted to tell people how to live. Now it's progressives. They want to tell others how to travel, what to eat, what size house to live in, how much energy to use, etc.

    I believe in freedom. If people want to live in suburbs - let 'em. If downtown - go for it. If rural - have fun. 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson Actually, I think government should STOP micromanaging how and where people live. For example, when the government forces a developer to build more parking than the market wants, it incentivizes car ownership and driving, which in turn socially engineers people into living in the suburbs, taking out mortgages which benefit the big banks, buying gasoline which benefits Big Oil, etc.

    And then there are zoning laws which further manage how and where we live. For example, I'm not allowed to build a house next door to a factory even if I want to.

    And then there's the market failure of negative externalities, and on and on. But I think you get my point. The government should stop managing how and where we live, how we travel, and so on.

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Great Derek! We agree. I think zoning laws really do enormous damage. I work up in Sorrento Valley. It has relatively high vacancy rate of office space while housing is at record low vacancy rates which means high rents and little selection for renter/buyers. At night Sorrento Valley is a ghost town. It would be great to have some mixed use or convert some office buildings to housing but as you point out this is not allowed by the government. It's crazy! 

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Michael Robertson Yes, exactly. When you look at a satellite map of the area around Qualcomm in Sorrento Valley, you will see a see of grey from all the parking lots. The city forces those businesses to set aside vast amounts of land for parking--which are unproductive and pay almost nothing in taxes--and then besides wondering why Sorrento Valley is a ghost town, we also wonder (1) why can't we afford to fix all the potholes, and (2) why does Mira Mesa Boulevard get so congested?

    You can't make this up!