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    Last December, I talked with Voice of San Diego about the Quickway Proposal, the alternative plan I developed for creating a truly effective transit system for San Diego.

    When VOSD asked what I thought the chances were for implementing that vision, I replied “zero.”

    Things have changed since then. I now rate the chances at 100 percent.

    On the surface, very little is different: Our regional agencies are barreling ahead with plans to build out the transit component of the Regional Transportation Plan, the San Diego Association of Governments’ $204 billion infrastructure plan for the region; we’re about to start construction on the $2.1 billion Mid-Coast Trolley line; and no one is talking about the Quickway Proposal.

    But millennials are beginning to speak out and take ownership of their future. They want to live in urban, mixed-use environments that are built around biking, walking, transit, shared rides and plenty of social encounters. They don’t mind density. And our regional plans just don’t do enough for this rising generation.

    The Quickway Proposal gives millennials what they want. Unlike the region’s current plans, which do not do enough to support our existing neighborhoods, the Quickway Proposal focuses infrastructure investments in urban communities that are expected to absorb much of the region’s long-term growth. It also proposes the development of over 40 miles of better-located and configured rail lines, creates a regional network of dedicated transitways to keep transit separated from road traffic, and includes other world-class transit components.


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    All of this is explored in Preserving Paradise, a new paper released by The Center for Advanced Urban Visioning, which I founded. It details what we can expect from SANDAG’s transit plans and contrasts that with what we could achieve with a smarter transit strategy (the Quickway Proposal).

    But first a key point: Why does transit even matter? For too many San Diegans, transit is something that other people use, precisely because it’s inconveniently located, too slow, involves too much waiting, too many transfers, leaves riders too exposed to the elements while waiting and just doesn’t match our urban form. So why should it be so important?

    The answer is simple: Cities grow around their movement systems. If transit is slow and inconvenient, cities grow around their automotive system. If transit is fast and convenient, people want to be located within convenient access to that system, and development follows. So there is absolutely nothing we can do as a region – even with the promise of autonomous vehicles and all they can do – to better deal with growth-related problems than build a great transit system. A truly effective transit system can help relieve pressure on roads and freeways, resolve parking issues, lead to decreased housing shortages, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve quality of life for both riders and non-riders alike, make it feasible to create parklands and public spaces in our more urbanized zones, and more.

    Transportation is destiny.

    According to SANDAG, the region can expect to spend over $100 billion on transit over the next 35 years. What do we get for our money? Several new light rail lines and many, many new Rapid Bus lines on our arterials and freeways. It all sounds good until you look at the details.

    Rapid Bus? What is the definition of “rapid?” I propose a simple one: a transit route that maintains a minimum average through-speed (including stops) of 18 mph at peak commuting hours. Yet when we look at our first arterial rapid bus line, it’s not so rapid. If you’re traveling from 54th and El Cajon to Park and University, the city bus takes 25 minutes; the Rapid Bus takes 21 minutes – at an average speed under 13 mph. It’s an improvement, sure, but it’s not rapid transit, despite the name.

    At least within the central urbanized core, SANDAG’s transit plans seem to reduce transit travel times by about 19 percent, so that an hour trip becomes a 48-minute trip. In contrast, the Quickway Proposal cuts transit travel time by an average of 65 percent – that’s two to three times greater than the SANDAG plan – so that today’s hour-long trip becomes a 21-minute trip, which is less than half the time of the SANDAG plan. In fact, the proposal brings most trips down to where transit is fully time-competitive with driving and often faster during peak periods.

    The Quickway Proposal isn’t just about transit, though; it is designed to better integrate with new road infrastructure, parks and people space, improved parking and real, world-class bicycle facilities that are designed to make it easy, safe, and fun to bicycle longer distances.

    So why do I now rate the chances of implementation of the Quickway Proposal 100 percent? Because the proposal can be ignored, belittled, even denounced — and it won’t matter. A new generation is rising, and the Quickway Proposal creates the kind of city they want to live in.

    At some point, we as a region will finally invest in the kind of transit system that is truly world-class and capable of sustaining us far into the future. We can build out the regional plan, flood the streets with “rapid” buses and build light-rail lines where they’re politically easier to build but don’t match either the city we are or market demand, and at some point, someone will say, “Really? Is that all we get for our investment? We’ve got to do better … a lot better.”

    That day could be now, or it could be 30 years from now. But that day will come — 100 percent.

    Alan Hoffman is a lecturer in city planning at San Diego State University and director of The Center for Advanced Urban Visioning. Hoffman’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

      This article relates to: Opinion, Transit

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      19 comments
      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      Also relevant to Dec 20 VOSD Keatts Morning Report.



      Significant funds issue, but onlya symptom of the San Diego Forward Core Plan mismatch with analyses results.


      $40 billion mass transit capital funds, inconsistent with over 90% of GHG reduction is by improved on road vehicles.


      Proof thatthe extensive mass installation, and community design disruption again fails to solve the mass transit access deficiency problem


      Assuggested earlier, instead, making expanded on call Uber, Lyft, etc 24/7 Public Transportation, relieves mass transit from off peak inefficient service, and allows concentration on a few corridors needing surge support.


      Unlike trying to get people out of their cars for 30 years, the Public will use this on demand same vehicle travel direct to real destinations.


      The $40 billionmass transit overlay will not be needed.



      Let's look ahead, not back.




      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      Clearly on-demand,personal, same vehicle travel direct to real destination is the overwhelming preference and need for San Diego urban transportation.


      Mass transit, based on new electric motor technologies starting in mid-1890s, served usefully until the 1930s when reliable affordable automobiles took over. Major air quality improvements starting in mid 1970s, igmpred by Gov. Brown's attempts to revive mass transit, and diminish road expansion to meet growth, are the primary basis for Regional Plan's meeting substantial greenhouse gas standards. Improvements. They continue to dominate air quality improvement with a near doubling of fleet autos and light trucks starting in 2025.


      For nearly30 years, still following the 1970s edict, revival attempts for mass transit have been rejected by the public ata near trivial less than 2%, including about 4% peak travel.


      Nevertheless current plans would spend nearly 50% of capital funds, about $40 billion, hoping to reduce access deficiency, and in the process distort community land use designs.


      Yes we need a better approach. Please, this time one that all the public will approve and use. The basis is to evolve growing use of on call personal transportation that eliminates mass transit access issues by driveway or curbside pick up with increasingly clean automobiles.


      The beginnings are underway, including same vehicle to destination, with Uber and competitors operating in many cities.


      With evolution, there will be major reduction in parking use of valuable land. Neglect of roads compatible with growth will be needed, and in very high demand areas narrow electrified guideways. Dedicated, very efficient autos will evolve, and become the Region's public transportation 24/7. Andfor all to use, especially non-drivers; Millennial riders, or owners. Considering new mass transit high capital cost, fare structure will match mass transit, with start up subsidy if needed.


      Most important, roles will change so mass transit will b be relieved from off-peak "empty bus" wasteful operations. Its sure capacity will be retained for some corridors with demand concentrations that support limited stop operation.


      Millennials have the rider or car owner choice. See Bloomberg News: "Ride-Sharing Millennials Crave Cars After All."

      Let's look ahead, not back

      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      See Bloomberg News: Ride-share Millennials Crave caes fterall. 

      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      @Kinsee Morlan @Walt Brewer 

      Just checked again----same result.

      When I click post on the pre=sigmein box for me, A red box appears right above the post box:  It seem you are attempting to post  malfotmed content.


      As always are compose in word, and copy/past into comments box.

      I have no idea what this means, or what I should do or not do.


      Attempting to add comments here.


      Walt



      Clearly on-demand,personal, same vehicle travel direct to real destination is the overwhelming preference and need for San Diego urban transportation.


      Mass transit, based on new electric motor technologies starting in mid-1890s, served usefully until the 1930s when reliable affordable automobiles took over. Major air quality improvements starting in mid 1970s, igmpred by Gov. Brown's attempts to revive mass transit, and diminish road expansion to meet growth, are the primary basis for Regional Plan's meeting substantial greenhouse gas standards. Improvements. They continue to dominate air quality improvement with a near doubling of fleet autos and light trucks starting in 2025.


      For nearly30 years, still following the 1970s edict, revival attempts for mass transit have been rejected by the public ata near trivial less than 2%, including about 4% peak travel.


      Nevertheless current plans would spend nearly 50% of capital funds, about $40 billion, hoping to reduce access deficiency, and in the process distort community land use designs.


      Yes we need a better approach. Please, this time one that all the public will approve and use. The basis is to evolve growing use of on call personal transportation that eliminates mass transit access issues by driveway or curbside pick up with increasingly clean automobiles.


      The beginnings are underway, including same vehicle to destination, with Uber and competitors operating in many cities.


      With evolution, there will be major reduction in parking use of valuable land. Neglect of roads compatible with growth will be needed, and in very high demand areas narrow electrified guideways. Dedicated, very efficient autos will evolve, and become the Region's public transportation 24/7. Andfor all to use, especially non-drivers; Millennial riders, or owners. Considering new mass transit high capital cost, fare structure will match mass transit, with start up subsidy if needed.


      Most important, roles will change so mass transit will b be relieved from off-peak "empty bus" wasteful operations. Its sure capacity will be retained for some corridors with demand concentrations that support limited stop operation.


      Millennials have the rider or car owner choice. See Bloomberg News: "Ride-Sharing Millennials Crave Cars After All."

      Let's look ahead, not back



      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      @Kinsee Morlan @Walt Brewer 


      They seem to post in your message.


      I then tried in the regular post station with same problem, did not post, red box appesred.


      it is not sove.


      James LaMattery
      James LaMattery subscriber

      I applaud Mr. Hoffman for his common-sense approach to Public Transportation in San Diego.


      I remember traveling in Europe in the early 70's- living in hostels and taking the Eurail and trolleys across the European landscape. Transportation and living was cheap and easy!  Backpack with guitar in hand,  I wasn't shunned by the patrons eating in the outdoor cafe's, languishing along the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town Stockholm) that were blocked to vehicle access.  To the contrary, conversations were in engaged by the curious.  Trading American ideals for Scandinavian was our barter.  I learned a lot about human connectivity and what a enormous role  transportation played in it.


      When I returned to the States, I was struck by the differences.  Europe had "built-in" public transportation from their beginnings.  It seemed to me to be a social awareness, or commitment,  as ingrained as their social welfare system, a social democracy that many mistakenly call socialism.  "We are so late to the game!" I told myself.  How does America catch up? How can San Diego catch up?


      Pay a late penalty fee!


      We're all used to it!  I have to pay a late fee if I miss the deadline on my mortgage, wireless, or parking ticket!


      America missed the deadline, and the grace period expired years ago!  


      What's the penalty?


      Free rides.  Yes, you heard me correctly. Free rides.  If I'm a student, and can prove that I'm using the transit system to go back and forth from school, I shouldn't be charged any fare.  If I live in Escondido, and I need to commute to my employment in downtown San Diego (and can prove my job location), then I shouldn't be charged any fare.  If I live on income lower than the poverty line, I should not be charged any fare. If I'm an newcomer to public transportation, I shouldn't be charged a fare-at least for the first year of use. 


      This is the incentivizing "late penalty" fee that America needs to pay to make PT a success.


      We don't need to catch up with Europe, and probably couldn't if we tried.  We need good ole American ingenuity to solve our problems. Put in a little more incentive than just leaving our cars in the driveway to use Public Transportation.  Let's put the 'public' back into it.


      Imagine, for a moment, (yes I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one!) that you could hop on the trolley, or any of the incredibly well thought-out sub-systems of Quickway, for free.  Now, imagine lots of people, who've never used PT, hop on for a free ride and discover they like it! 


      If you seriously study SANDAGs transportation plan, you''ll find the inconvenient inadequacies, that Mr. Hoffman's Quickway Proposal resolves, will ensure that PT gets us where we want to go.


      Quickway is a common sense application to help make PT 'just a step away' for every citizen. 


      Should we lay the success of Quickway on the back of the new generation rising?  I'd rather we own-up and pay our late fee!




      Vi Lu
      Vi Lu

      I have LOTS to say <and rant> about on this topic being an early "Millennial" who lived in the Bay Area for six years without a car and now have a family with two young children living here in SD. 

      First, it doesn't matter WHAT you build, if its monthly passes are too cost prohibitive and its schedules not convenient, its not going to work.I use to commute from my home in Oakland to SF, Marin County, and San Jose using ferries, BART, CalTrans, and bus lines without a problem. Some of those trips were 50 miles round. I currently live in Mission Hills and work at USD (a distance of less than 3 miles). I WANT to use the bus service. I TRIED to take it, but it was so expensive I said never again. I literally live ON a bus line and am choosing to drive into work. Why? 

      First: There are no transfer tickets. No. There are not. You sell "transfer tickets", but its not really a thing. If you want one it costs $7. That is ridiculous. In larger cities when you purchase your bus ticket it's usually good for one transfer within a four hour period. I live within three miles of my work and my daughters daycare is a mile or so away from my work. I spent almost $10 that day. I had to take a bus from my work to the daycare (which was one ticket), then I had to ride from the daycare back to Old Town station (which was anther ticket), then I had to transfer to get into Mission Hills (which was a THIRD ticket). 

      Now, I know what your going to say next, "buy a bus pass". At $70 per month!?! WHY? Granted that was the going rate in SF, but it was cheaper because driving there involved parking garage fees and toll plaza payments to cross the bridges. SD does not have any of those added expenses. It costs me a tank of gas per month (about $30) to drive to and from work daily. Why would I choose to purchase something that costs $40 more and adds an extra hour to my commute? 

      Also, as Millennials have babies, buses are going to have to adapt. If you really are aiming at growing this market you need to create systems for parents to manage their stroller, children, and bags easily. Asking that strollers be folded and tucked away is just another hurdle that I wouldn't want to deal with. Again, we are not SFMuni where there is a line to get on each bus. The bus I was on was half empty. The city could easily invest in purchasing buses with a design that allows one or two strollers to be secured while open with children sitting in them without effecting the capacity of ridership. 

      SD had a LOOONG way to go before snagging this target group.  

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Vi Lu As you can see, the current system penalizes people who responsibly live close to work and rewards those with long commutes.

      And then we wonder why there's so much traffic.

      bgetzel
      bgetzel subscriber

      Supply does not necessarily serve demand when it comes to the provision of services by the public sector. A host of political factors come in to play to stop a logical solution to a problem. For example, neighborhoods will yell about higher density developments, even if they are near tansit stations, and politicians will listen. Secondly, major funding for mass transit will be scarce, particularly due to the eversion of the local population to increased taxes. 


      The world is full of cities that are living with the bad urban planning decisions of prior generations! Visionary proposals should be respected as goals, but let's be realistic about the chances of achieving them.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      "Meanwhile, the American Planning Association polled a mixed group of more than 1,000 respondents — half-millennials, half-baby boomers. Fifty-six percent of millennials said they wanted to live someday in a walkable community — urban, suburban or small-town. Fifty-nine percent said there weren’t enough transportation alternatives where they live." 


      Wanting something and demanding something are not the same thing


      San Diego is not built on a grid so the trick is balancing between public transit and cars with the bulk of transportation being by car.

      Sorry, but that is the practical reality.

      Roy McMakin
      Roy McMakin

      San Diego could of course build an world class 21st transportation infrastructure.  But it could only do it if we first create a city and county government that exists to serve the current and future residents of the city instead of the wealthy who use this city and its development potential as a personal treasure chest,  with the complicit help of the elected officials.  The Climate Action plan and associated spin words like "Smart Growth" are just being used as cover for giveaways to developers.   What Todd Gloria and most of the City Council did with the Uptown Community Plan as he exited the Council is a sadly perfect example.  A giveaway to his wealthy supporters and lobbyist pals cloaked in Climate Action lies.  He could have insisted that the unlimited building heights he gave to developers in Hillcrest could only happen with meaning infrastructure,  such as a trolley from Downtown and other ways to connect to the regions light rail.  Or parks for many new people living in Hillcrest and other parts of Uptown.  But he didn't because his only goal was to reward his pals.  "Leaders" like Gloria and Faulconer who feel that if they give us a smiling picture in front of a single pothole getting filled we will support them.  We need to demand real leadership that is working to make a better city,  not a political career for themselves.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      There are myriad examples of effective public transit being relied upon by large portions of populations in cities around the world. The reason we don't is that there is so much pressure to build roads instead of public transit, but public transit mostly becomes preferable when it is more efficient (and cost effective) than driving. An example of failure: Significant numbers of people have been begging for trolley service to the airport for years, but it doesn't happen and no one seems to give any plausible reason why. Obviously, public transit must be quick and take you where you want to go. It also needs to be preferable to driving, which happens when funds are spent on public transit, rather than roads.  

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      "A truly effective transit system can help relieve pressure on roads and freeways"

      Not really.


      Alan Hoffman
      Alan Hoffman subscriber

      @Derek Hofmann , it can. Ridership modeling on the Quickway Proposal showed it attracting nearly a half million more transit trips using 2006 population numbers; by 2050, I estimate we're looking at over one million daily trips shifted to transit. These trips don't appear out of thin air; they're diverted from roadways. A completely independent study of a similar plan I had developed for Metro Atlanta showed reductions in traffic congestion at the 12 most congested zones of about 11%. These are network effects and are due to the fact that a Quickway network operates fundamentally differently than other US transit systems, which are not designed to attract significant numbers of people who would otherwise drive. Global cities that have implemented Quickway-like solutions have seen measurable impacts on traffic, though in some cases (such as with Bogota), a good part of that impact is due to pulling huge numbers of buses off the streets.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Alan Hoffman "These trips don't appear out of thin air; they're diverted from roadways."

      The problem is that taking cars off the road makes room for more cars to take their place according to [1], and just a decade or so later traffic congestion is the same as before. So I think you're overselling the Quickway a bit.

      "A completely independent study of a similar plan I had developed for Metro Atlanta showed reductions in traffic congestion at the 12 most congested zones of about 11%."

      Do you have traffic counts from before and then 10 or more years after implementation?

      [1] http://usa.streetsblog.org/2011/05/31/study-building-roads-to-cure-congestion-is-an-exercise-in-futility/

      Alan Hoffman
      Alan Hoffman subscriber

      @Derek Hofmann, it doesn't work that way. Induced demand is generated by several factors, the most important of which is locational decisions: new freeways spur new development which creates new traffic. You'll notice that the blog you cite is specifically about building roads to cure congestion. In the case of a regionally-effective transit system (something that no American city has built in my lifetime), much new development takes place around stations, typically reducing significantly the share of trips made by driving and increasing the number of trips made by transit, walking, and bicycling. As the region grows, it will likely generate new traffic, but as the transit system is further enhanced, more trips are diverted to transit. Nothing is being oversold here. If half a million trips are diverted off the roads, then yes, some new auto trips are generated, but not half a million. And as new development occurs, transit absorbs many hundreds of thousands of new trips, the share of trips pushed onto roads is lower. 

      Here's a real-world example. Curitiba, Brazil, has an automobile ownership rate just behind that of Brasilia, that nation's capital, yet produces significantly less VKT (vehicle kilometers traveled). Two reasons for this: a land development pattern that concentrated development along rapid transit corridors, and the functioning of the transit system itself (with its express "Ligerinho" buses that cut transit travel time by an average of about 30 minutes).

      As to the Atlanta example, the results came from ridership and traffic modeling conducted by URS. 

      I appreciate that you have made a major attempt to become informed by reading sites such as streetsblog. But effective transportation systems analysis is a lot more complicated. There's still a lot we're trying to understand about induced demand, but we do know that when transit is time-competitive with driving and is pervasive in its coverage, it diverts a significant number of trips off the roads.