That is not what the study actually found.
The study was far more damning.
The study’s most critical conclusions weren’t directed at the Metropolitan Transit System or its stations. They keyed on decades of development decisions by the city of San Diego and other cities along the trolley lines.
It quantified a phenomenon that’s long been apparent anecdotally: Local leaders support smart growth – urban development that’s crucial for transit ridership – in theory, but not in practice.
They are not planning for or facilitating enough construction of walkable, affordable housing near transit access points.
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"The transit advocacy group that asked SANDAG to draw up that policy is disappointed with the final product, because it doesn’t do anything to encourage – let alone mandate – that cities actually obey it."
SANDAG should get this done.
Expand the trolley routes, rezone as much as possible along the trolley lines to encourage development Eliminate minimum parking and space requirements. Build Build Build.
Housing may just become a little more affordable. The government can subsidize affordable housing, or create an environment that adds to supply, and creates jobs.
Enough of the NIMBY nonsense. It is not 1975 anymore.
For Jim Abbott,
Regionally mass transit support has been very active. . For over 25 years mass transit has spent over 1/3rd the transportation budget, but absorbed less than 2% of travel.
Meanwhile vehicle miles travel have nearly doubled. Thus the pollution from inadequate roads.
Why the canonical status to the trolley in San Diego'sRegional Plans?
Those bright red cars appear, even dominate, glossy pictures about the hedonic smart growth villages that are supposed for us to believe that's why future air quality levels are met. Hardly. Improved cars, remember the ones we are supposed to stop using, save 3 million gallons of fuel daily according to SANDAG Staff. Absorbing only 0.5% of travel, trolleys consume ~25,000 gallons equivalent. Hardly a basis for meaningful Regional energy reduction.
So why waste effort on station design, or how to carry out the Transit Oriented communities the resident don't want.
Unique demographics support the original Blue Lin between downtown and the Mexican border.
But as Mr. Briggs Commentary suggests, technology is moving us beyond smart growth with at least on-call service doorstep direct to real destination in one vehicle. Non-drivers can now have car owner quality of service.
You need only get within eyesight of I-805, I-5, Highways 52, 54, 56, and 163 on most any weekday to see the tragic outcome of our lack of execution on Transit Oriented Development. Paradise lost.
This article is educational, but a reader might reach different conclusions from the author.1. The San Diego metro area has many poorly utilized trolley stations. Is that surprising? The trolley runs through many areas with low population density.
2. Citizens sometimes fight City efforts to change zoning to higher density and heights.
Well, jeepers, didn't the city planners know that Bay Park residents value their views of Mission Bay?3. The City needs to encourage more development near transit corridors, to increase ridership. But wait. Mission Valley and downtown stations rated poorly in this study. How can that be? Mission Valley consists of large, busy shopping centers and a sea of higher-density attached housing. Downtown has added tens of thousands of residents. If nearby trolley stations are not getting much use, perhaps we need to question the TOD model, or how it's being applied.
San Diego has a history of upzoning areas without putting any parks or infrastructure in place to support the higher density levels. It;s let the developers and land holders make money and the people in the exisiting neighborhood deal with the congestion, pollution and lack of park space. Just look at what they did to parts of the center city with parking lots in front of square boxes that replace single family homes with yards. No one wants to live there unless they can't afford to live any where else.
If the city was willing to put the parks, schools and other infrastructure in place to really make the higher density attractive they just might be albe to sell the idea to existing residence.
It's going to take a long time to get people to trust the city with development near their home. The city's history laid out for everone to see in parts of the center city is all to ugly and plain to see, especially when only a few block away from these blighted areas you can see attractive valuable houses on nice streets that did't get leveled and turned into parking lots with big boxes behind them.
In short the planning department has a history of short sighted development that leaves existing residence holding the bag. They need a large project that the city is willing to kick in extra money up front to make it really attractive. Then the convenience and pleasant surroundings will sell itself. And it will make the next project an easier sell. Of course the developers and land holders might make a little less money in the short term but more in the long run.
The projects that NIMBYs oppose tend to have a positive benefit to the city as a whole but a negative impact to the local neighborhood. So it's tragic but completely rational for residents of impacted neighborhoods to oppose such projects.
And as a result, the neighborhoods where NIMBYs live tend to require subsidies from neighborhoods where such projects go in.
If each neighborhood were required to be financially self-sufficient in tax revenue versus city spending, would NIMBYs continue to have power to oppose financially wise projects, or would neighborhoods start welcoming these projects with open arms so that they'll have money to fix their potholes?
@Derek Hofmann "The projects that NIMBYs oppose tend to have a positive benefit to the city as a whole but a negative impact to the local neighborhood."
NIMBY's mostly oppose all projects, real or imagined. It it isn't low density with lots of parking, they're usually opposed.
I defy anyone to show me how the incremental development that's occurred along Park from University to Robinson in the the past 15 years has been less than a plus for that area.
The government is an impedance to smart growth not a leader or even an accelerant. The government blocks the forces of free market which entices builders to build what people want where they want it in search of profit. They supercede the choices of citizens about where to live and how to travel with their own choices. And it should be noted they tell others to take buses and bikes and RARELY do they do it themselves!
If we had less government, society would operate more smoothly. This report illustrates that "smart" and "government" are in fact oxymorons.
@Chris Brewster We already pay for mass-transit, it's called cars and they're great because they delivery you point to point at anytime night or day. You can buy one or rent one by the month, day or even hour. Or you can simply pay for a 1-time ride. It's awesome and efficient. But politicians have decided that other people (not them of course) should take trains or trolleys and live near where they work. They don't want those people to have freedom. It's highly inefficient and runs contrary to what people want.
If people wanted to live near a trolley station then they would right now without government forcing them to do so.
Mr. Roberson: I think the point here is that if we are going to pay for mass-transit, it makes sense to encourage people to live near enough to use it and thus reduce the cost of building roads and breathing polluted air.
@Michael Robertson "If people wanted to live near a trolley station then they would right now without government forcing them to do so."
That's a nice thought, but it has little basis in today's reality (since about the 1950s). First, as this article explains, developers are prohibited from building near trolley stations. Also, developers are forced to build more parking than the market would provide of its own accord, and the artificially cheap parking induces people to drive and live far from transit.
And drivers have managed to shift the costs of roads from gas taxes and user fees to sales taxes like TransNet, and the artificially cheap roads also induce people to drive.
So it seems people don't really want to drive. They only do so because their freedom not to drive has been taken away.
I agree with your earlier statement: "If we had less government, society would operate more smoothly."
Mr. Robertson: I think you're ignoring some fiscal realities. If there is no mass transit then it costs much more for low-income people to get to where they need to go, including their jobs. If they must have a car to get to work, then employers must pay them more. As well, pollution and congestion rise, along with the need to build more roads. From my perspective, mass transit has myriad benefits to us all, even if we don't use it. Mass transit generally requires subsidies, which we all pay for (just like we all pay for roads). If more people live near mass transit hubs, more people will use public transportation, thus lowering the subsidies. Of course it's also possible to take the Marie Antoinette position that the little people who can't afford cars should eat cake. I'm mostly suggesting that if we are going to subsidize mass transit, as we do, then there are ways to reduce its costs and increase its benefits.
@Chris Brewster Always admire your manners and thoughtful replies Mr. Brewster. Let me respond.
Mass transit doesn't make transit more affordable, it's quite the opposite. Because the government is a poor operator mass transit is expensive, inefficient and slow to respond to people's needs. The average bus ride is very expensive - probably $20 in actual costs when all costs are factored in. Also mass transit creates more pollution per mile because it is so inefficient. So the benefits you believe come with mass transit do not actually exist.
The customers are not directly paying that much but someone is paying. It makes a lot more sense to take the money earmarked for transit and let the free market strive to earn it by providing the best service. Travel vouchers make much more sense than govt run trains. This way good operators who serve people well will be rewarded and poor operators will go away. Maybe it's a fleet of Ubers, maybe deluxe buses, maybe a fleet of minivans, maybe bike rentals, whatever the free market will solve it far more efficiently than politicians.
The free market can move people much more efficiently and cost effectively than government run transit thanks to the profit incentive.
If you feel like people should live near government designated locations (which I do not), then the way to force them to do so is to have them pay the full cost of transportation and not give them subsidized travel. If they paid full fare, they'd be far more sensitive to location because they'd have to factor that into their life decision.
@Rick Smith @Michael Robertson @Chris Brewster There are loads of options for those who can't drive. Maybe you haven't heard of Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and dozens of other companies providing low cost travel options that are truly amazing. These travel options have given people their life back because they're available at the touch of a button and are very affordable.
"drivers have managed to shift the costs of roads from gas taxes and user fees to sales taxes like TransNet, and the artificially cheap roads also induce people to drive."
This is simply not true. Californians pay billions in fees associated with cars including gas taxes, registration fees, fines, sales tax, parking, tickets, battery taxes, tire taxes, license fees, etc. Go look at your car registration fees! These many billions more than cover road construction and maintenance fees.
Unfortunately CA is such an inefficient operator that it costs CA 10X more to build roads than TX because unions have taken over the business.
Even having said that CA drivers pay far more in fees than services they receive. Here's a mental exercis for you to consider.
If CA sold it's roads business to commercial operators and said "you will receive car registration fees and gas tax to maintain them" do you think any company would bid for them? Absolutely they would and they'd be hugely profitable.
Mr. Robertson: I do understand your position, but neither you nor I will end mass transit. It will exist. In that context, incentivizing greater use (in part through zoning) reduces its costs.
@Michael Robertson "These many billions more than cover road construction and maintenance fees."
Wow, who told you that?
No, the truth is that less than half of the cost of roads comes from gas taxes and other user fees, and here's proof from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group: http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/who-pays-roads
Back in the 1960s, drivers paid over 70% of the cost, but with gas taxes declining relative to inflation, roads now require more and more welfare to stay solvent.
@Chris Brewster I'm not suggesting ending mass transit. I'm suggesting we:
1) think more broadly about mass transit.
If they're not already, Uber will move more people than mass transit in many major cities.
2) we be smarter about government spending.
We should give travel vouchers to people instead of spending the money into every increasing government bureaucracies with huge overhead and pensions that will cost us for decades. Travel vouchers could go to carpools, smart buses, Uber, Sidecar, Lyft, etc.
3) We focus on efficiencies in our current system.
We actually have plenty of roads in most every location now. We just need to use them more wisely. The free market can make that happen: improved flow (e.g. smarter stoplights), greater density (raise person per car avg), move trips to off-hours, etc.
I understand your point of view, but I think this article aims at how to make the existing system more efficient by increasing population density at trolley stops. There's no real cost in allowing greater population density at transit stops. I think your concepts are aimed at what to do instead of creating a new trolley line, for example.
@Chris Brewster There's always a cost. My point is the transportation should go to the people and not the people to the transportation. This makes WAY more sense because transportation moves anyway! Secondly, govt run mass transit is now and will always be in San Diego inefficient. The sooner we realize this and stop pushing inefficient transportation over more efficient transportation, the better the city residents will be.
@Michael Robertson "The average bus ride is very expensive - probably $20 in actual costs when all costs are factored in."
Try $2.77: http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/pubs/profiles/2013/agency_profiles/9026.pdf
Unless you factor in the cost of the roads, of which road users pay less than 50% as I pointed out and cited my source above.
But I agree that mass transit could be made more convenient and efficient. For example, by removing bus stops so buses use less fuel and get passengers from A to B more quickly.
@Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson Thanks for the link to data Derek. That adds so much to the conversation. But oh dear, Government accounting is atrocious. If this came from a for-profit corporation they would face shareholder lawsuit and the CEO would be imprisoned on accounting fraud. Why? Because the numbers are incomplete and therefore misleading. Look for any mention of pensions. Nothing. Retirement healthcare? Nothing. Keeping these costs off the books would get CEOs of a public company imprisoned.
I do invite you to look at even these incomplete numbers because they tell a vastly different story than the "$2.77" number they quote. First off the separate the money into operating expenses and capital expenditures. To calculate the $2.77 number they ONLY include operating expenses - no capital expenses! That's appallingly misleading. Again, it'd be criminal for a for-profit to exclude capital costs. Combining operating expenses and capital expenditures = $490 million spent on 82MM trips. That's $5.97/trip. Now remember, that includes nothing for pensions or healthcare expenditures which are notoriously expensive.
In addition, as a government operation they pay nothing for roads which CA drivers pay $20B/year for and you contend it is not enough.
My new estimate is that fully loaded (operating expense, capital expense, pensions, healthcare, same taxation level that CA drivers currently pay) is $10/trip.
They estimate the average trip is 4.5 miles. I plugged that into UberEstimate and got a fare of $10-13. http://uberestimate.com/fare/8sqhhf/
This would also generate $30 million more annually for San Diego roads because Uber drivers pay taxes and buses don't which means the net cost to the city would be less than $10-13.
So how about we give everyone Uber vouchers? Everyone wins!
@Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson One more thing Derek. I call foul on the numbers of trips the transit publishes they deliver. Simple logic shows you they're inflated passenger numbers. They say they collect $90 million in fares for 82 million trips or average $1.10 per trip. This seems highly dubious considering the average one way fare is $2.25. Sure some will buy monthly passes or get the disabled/senior discount, but even factoring that it, it seems impossible that the average trip fee is $1.10. A monthly pass is $72. If the passenger rides each week day to/from that's still $1.80/trip.
The much more likely scenario is they're inflating their passenger numbers to justify their existence. If you're a for-profit and you do that, you get fined or imprisoned. If you're a government operation there's no accountability.
You can see fares here:
@Michael Robertson Operating expenses include depreciation, so the cost of buses, which depreciate, are operating expenses, not capital expenses. So the $2.77 number already includes the cost of the bus. And maintenance, and salaries, and so on.
$1.10 per trip collected in fare revenue also sounds plausible, because a monthly pass for seniors and the disabled is $18 which is about 42 cents per one-way trip if there are no transfers. (One transfer each way drops that price to 21 cents per trip.)
They are examining ONLY federal monies not state money. So nowhere in their accounting do they account for:
- driving infractions (which now average $350 per incident)
- parking fees
- car registration (which in CA is HUGE)
- sales tax from cars
- battery taxes
- state gas taxes (which are highest in the nation at 45 cents/gallon if I remember correctly)
- license fees
- tire taxes
- CHP fees
I could go on, but you get the point. Apparently PIRG is only looking at Federal gas tax money. Well our roads (even the freeways) are managed by CalTrans.
@Michael Robertson While flexible, cars are the most space inefficient, costly, and least safe form of transportation. And carrying one or two people at a time is not mass transportation.
People don't have the option of living near a trolley station if housing is not built near those stations due to NIMBY opposition. Government doesn't have to force people to live near trolley stations. There are many people that want to do so but can't because of government planning decisions.
@Greg Martin @Michael Robertson I agree with you about the NIMBY opposition. I think the solution is to limit how non-owners can dictate to owners what they can/cannot do with their property. Government regulation is now crazy.
I'd challenge your definition of mass transportation as being illogical. It's not the capacity of the vehicle that defines what "mass" transportation is. Is a bus with 1 passenger mass transportation? It's how many people are moved. Uber is mass transportation and it works awesomely!
Here's a crazy fact. The average car moves less metal per person than the average train.
@Derek Hofmann @Michael Robertson No, transfers don't drop the price to 21 cents because they are counting "unlinked" trips. Seniors and disabled make up a tiny percentage of travelers so there's simply no mathematical way the average fare could be $1.10.
There's no line item for "depreciation" in the helpful accounting document you sent around. Furthermore, if taxpayers are paying it, you can account for it anyway you like it's still a cost.
Schools do the same fraudulent accounting. They count zero dollars of capital expenditures into their operating budget. It's fraud and meant to mislead citizens about the efficiency of the operation. They bury operating expenses in capital expenditures. See how the capital expenditures are MORE than the entire operating budget? Yet the average bus is 7 years old? Corrupt accounting.
The cost-per-rider question depends heavily on how the capital cost is allocated or amortized. In the case with which I'm most familiar, the in-the-works Mid-Coast Trolley Extension, the capital cost will be about $2 billion, and the rosy-scenario projected ridership is about 7 million per year. Amortized over 10 years (70 million riders), that's about $30 per rider. Amortized over 100 years....
A rule of thumb is that fares are about half the operating costs, so about $2-$3 per fare, and $2-$3 taxpayer subsidy of operating costs per rider is a reasonable guesstimate. For 7 million riders per year, that's roughly $15 million per year taxpayer subsidy of operating costs.
When it comes to light rail that does not stop where the people, jobs and stores are: well the North Country Transit District's east-west Sprinter line deserves the top prize.
This line was built only because some North County mayors saw the San Diego Trolley and said, 'Well we want one too!" We got one - for almost half-a-billion dollars, about double initial estimates. This line so poorly serves the community that when it was closed because of faulty brakes on the trains, the replacement busses were faster and cheaper for many displaced Sprinter riders (well, actually they never have "many" Sprinter riders). A news story a few years back quoted experts predicting that it would take maybe half-a-century for the Sprinter corridor to have enough high-density development to justify the Sprinter.
But the Sprinter is not alone in having been built under false pretense. The San Diego Trolley was originally nicknamed the Tijuana Trolley because the first line ran from the border to downtown San Diego. Why? Because Horton Place developer Ernest Hahn wanted the TJ trolley to bring Mexican shoppers to Horton Plaza. I seem to recall that massive changes in Mexico's economy kept the TJ shoppers from Horton Plaza, but the line was still well-suited for moving the poor people of the South Bay to low-paying jobs in the downtown tourism industry.
Building Transit to higher density housing areas like Liberty Station, and higher density job areas like UCSD, make total sense to me.
But the results of the study are clear, we have to zone for higher density if we want to make transit work for DAILY COMMUTING. Just adding another subsidised service like transit to exhisting low density neighborhoods for daily commuting makes no sense. Transit needs higher job and/or housing density to make financial sense.
There is a second use for Transit that is not considered in this study, VISITORS, TOURISM and SPECIAL EVENTS. To reduce the need to cars, and lesson congestion, adding transit options to or from the airport, the beaches, convention centers or stadiums are also useful. Just like the Border to Downtown trolley route they can be used by visitors and for special events to lesson traffic congestion.
This too is a good use of transit, but not one that recoginized in this study.
The City of Villages plan is a farce when you have a city of NIMBY's.
Though the study focused on development near rail stations, some of the bus routes might fair better than many of the trolley stations. One such location might be at the intersection of University and Park which has service from five bus routes including two of which are limited stop with a decent cluster of higher density housing nearby.
But the criticisms of development, or lack thereof, near trolley stations is both fair and damning.
San Diego has lots of nice place to go. We just cant figure out how to put trolley stops in these nice places.
City has to demonstrate they can do high density right. Lots of people still have doubts, but maybe that is changing.
Would love to see an extension of the green line from east village to QUALCOMM (stopping at zoo) to complete an inner circle. This would connect everything up nicely.
Prediction: No one will take responsibility for this, including the voters who elected the political leaders who did nothing and the media which let all this happen with nary a story until very recently. "An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic." Thomas Jefferson
Mr. Mather crushes SANDAG's decades of dubious decisions. Let's hear from these planning gods how they forgot we have an international Airport, world-famous zoo and enormous Balboa Park. SANDAG's trolley fiasco on Morena Blvd isn't about transit; it's a developer's land use scheme to dump density on a one-sided street, a trolley through Rose Canyon (population zero) to enhance UTC shopping. San Diego doesn't need more shopping, a trolley in a canyon or new density. Let the existing density be served with an airport trolley. SANDAG and the City of San Diego are so sold-out to developers they will never develop a legitimate Regional Transportation Plan.
Yes, lets live like it is 1950 all over again. We don't need higher density, we already have a house. By the way Mr. Courser, who built your house, a developer?
That "modest development" proposed for the 24th and Commercial trolley station is only along a narrow corridor of about 200 feet wide. Most of the land within a half mile radius has been down graded in density from an FAR 1 (floor area ratio) to 0.7.
Without higher density zoning, the junk yards will never be offered a fair price which would induce them to sell their land. Since by law, these profitable recycling and scrap yard businesses can" grandfather in" and stay right where they are; anyone out there willing to build a modest sized apt. building next to a scrap yard? Anyone willing to live in that apt. if built?
The supposed 'Proposed Plan" Update done by our illustrious "Planning Dept." cost $3.2 million dollars. On top of that, we will being paying the salaries and retirement costs for years to come for these mental midgets planners while we all suffer in smog, traffic congestion and intolerable heat and drought. Where is a Stalin when we need one?
A modest proposal. How about a rubber tire trolley, special bus or whatever with traffic signal priority from Old Town, through Liberty Station to Lindbergh Field and back?
Bring the transportation to the TOD (Liberty Station and adjacent Navy housing) rather than build the TOD near the transit.
Airport Authority might have some cost off-setting funds.