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What does a 40-year, $200 billion regional transportation plan even look like?
If there’s one thing proponents and opponents of the San Diego Association of Governments’ 40-year transportation blueprint agree on, it’s the idea that transit needs to be understood from the broadest possible perspective.
But from that wide-view lens a 40-year, $200 billion plan feels more like a theoretical exercise, not a reinvention of the way we move about the region.
So we decided to visualize some specific, major projects included in SANDAG’s 2050 plan, which suffered a legal blow recently when a judge ruled it violates state law.
Regional planners cautioned that some of the projects in the plan’s later years — such as a new trolley line stretching from Pacific Beach to El Cajon — are so far from becoming a reality that they don’t even have specific routes yet. There’s a rough idea of which neighborhoods the trolley line will service, which lines it’ll cross and how it fits into the grand context of a comprehensive network, but the details end there.
“The [regional transportation plan] is kind of a 70,000-foot look at the world,” said Dave Schumacher, principal planner at SANDAG. “It goes out to the year 2048, when I’ll be 95 years old.”
Meanwhile, opponents of SANDAG’s plan have a slightly different mentality. They want to fast-track all of the major rail-based projects in the 40-year plan into the next 10 years, but demurred when asked for a master list of their 10-year vision.
“The danger of project lists is, you still don’t have a functioning system,” said Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, one of the organization’s suing SANDAG over its plan. “We’d much rather give a vision, and get them to work to that vision.”
The problem with both approaches is that for many citizens, understanding the overall network and how it relates to their daily lives is a struggle. Once you understand the element of the plan that’s going to let you get from your home in Chula Vista to your office in Sorrento Mesa via Trolley Car in 30 minutes, you’re likely to be more invested in the plan, and in learning what other travel possibilities the network might create.
We thought an interactive map would help readers grasp what we’re talking about as we continue to break down SANDAG’s plan, the legal challenge to it and how things might change with a negotiated settlement or a ruling from a state appellate court.
Click on the map to visit the interactive.
The first map we’ve put together includes projects that are in process and fully funded.
All of these projects are funded in part by TransNet, the half-cent countywide sales tax initially approved by voters in 1987, and extended in 2004 to continue on until 2048. There’s also some portion of state or federal funds for them as well.
SANDAG considers these its “early action projects,” giving them a 10-year completion timeframe.
It includes the new Mid Coast trolley line, expanded capacity for existing rail services, the Sprinter and the Coaster, highway widening in certain areas, as well as the creation of a new transit option called “bus rapid transit,” a bus line that functions like rail service and brings travelers longer distances without fear of congestion by building its own dedicated highway lanes.
The Cleveland National Forest Foundation initially told us it didn’t want to talk about specific projects, but it later provided a list of the sorts of projects it favors. We’ll turn it into its own interactive map in the near future.
If there’s a way we could make future maps more helpful, or other ways that would help you visualize this hulking mass of a planning document, please let us know.
I’m Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0529 and follow me on Twitter
Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.