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Here's How You'll Get to Work in 2035, San Diego

After years of civic leaders trumpeting the importance of building new homes near transit and jobs, San Diego is committing to changing the way residents get to work.

After years of civic leaders trumpeting the importance of building new homes near transit and jobs, San Diego is committing to changing the way residents get to work.

The changes are part of the city’s plan, released by Mayor Kevin Faulconer last month, to combat climate change.

The plan would force the city to dramatically increase the share of people who walk, bike or take transit to work, among those who live within a half a mile of a major transit station, defined as a trolley or Coaster station or a bus station with a bus line that runs every 15 minutes or less. The plan calls them “transit priority areas” – and it hopes people living within them will largely abandon their cars as their primary mode of getting to work.

I ran the numbers with geographic information systems pro Ari Isaak, based on a list of all the stations that met the climate plan’s definition of a major transit station, provided by county planning agency SANDAG.

The verdict, based on the current definitions: The new standards will apply to roughly 60 percent of city residents.

The total area that’s within a half mile of a major transit station covers most of the city’s urban core and excludes most of its less densely populated suburban areas.

Altogether, the transit-area footprint accounts for 30.51 percent of city land, even though it covers 59.3 percent of city residents.

One caveat: This map reflects the area that’s a half-mile as the crow flies from each transit station. As the city gets closer to formally adopting the plan, it could decide the standards apply instead to a half-mile area based on standard driving routes, which would make for a smaller footprint.

The plan has an ambitious goal for the 772,000 people living within a half-mile of a transit station.

It calls for 18 percent of residents to walk to work, 18 percent to bike and 25 percent to take transit.

Mike Hansen, Faulconer’s point person on the climate plan, said city staff is using a 2008 SANDAG estimate as its baseline for how people living in the newly defined transit areas get to work.

That estimate found that within a half-mile of major transit stations, 9.6 percent of people took transit, 2 percent walked and 1 percent rode a bike. Hansen expects those numbers have already increased.

Here’s a look at how that estimate compares with the plan’s goals.

One thing this analysis doesn’t account for: The city anticipates continued population growth between now and 2035, and official city policy has the city concentrating that growth in areas most likely to fall within a half-mile of transit stations.

So by the time 2035 comes, it’s likely that more than 60 percent of the city, and certainly more than 772,000 people, will live in the affected area. The physical area itself could grow, too, as new stations are added to the transportation network.

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