On October 23rd San Diego APA assembled a panel of local transportation experts from Caltrans, SANDAG and the City of Oceanside to give an insight on the new transportation trends going on in the county at their “What is new in Transportation in San Diego?” lunchtime talk.
Getting around San Diego has changed since I was growing up. More and more we are experiencing constant all day and weekend traffic versus just commute related traffic. We are also seeing a comeback of pre-automobile transportation modes like public transit, bikes and walking; and the debut of some new options around town like autonomous vehicles and scooters. The regional transportation efforts underway at Caltrans, SANDAG and the City of Oceanside in one way or another all aim to better connect people to places and move people from where they live to where they work more efficiently.
While the statewide regulatory climate action mandates to reduce CO2 emissions like SB 375 and SB 391 have moved more agencies to at look how they can reduce their impacts on the environment, the transportation related component of the bigger climate action equation is also being driven by the ever increasing concerns of how roadway congestion impacts quality of life and regional economies.
For decades the highway system has been the backbone of transportation travel for cities developed in the automobile era, but that’s changing and agencies across the spectrum are re-envisioning our transportation network as we know it. They are making concerted efforts and allocating funding to a variety of complementary transportation strategies. For instance, Ann Fox, Caltrans’s Deputy District Director for District 11, shared that their long-term vision for the future of transportation in the region is moving away from the highway being a standalone entity and giving more focus to how they can help support more livable neighborhoods with highway, bikeway and pedestrian enhancements. Allison Moss from SANDAG also highlighted they approved $200 million to add 77 linear miles of new bikeways throughout the county. Various projects are in design and five are on the brink of construction: Rose Creek Bikeway along the MidCoast Corridor; a coastal rail trail in Encinitas; an inland rail trail that runs between Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos; and the Bayshore Bikeway that stretches 24 miles from Barrio Logan to National City down to Chula Vista and connecting to Coronado along the San Diego Bay. With a more comprehensive bike network there will be more opportunities for people to use their bikes for all trips and not just for recreational purposes. On another front, Russ Cunningham from the City of Oceanside presented how they have been hard at work to transform the Coast Highway corridor to create more robust mobility hubs in Oceanside. The hubs knit together adjoining neighborhoods and enhance transportation oriented developments that incorporate housing into an inviting landscape where people feel safe and want to spend time and explore the surroundings.
Clearly, getting San Diego to move smarter is a multi-pronged approach especially as we try to address today’s needs and plan for future changes. At the moment, the buzz of autonomous vehicles has some (experts and non-experts) wondering if agencies should continue plans to invest so much in roadways or public transit to address the transportation needs of tomorrow. Our local transportation agencies are doubling down and investing in new transportation solutions that can support the next transformative disruptive technology, and in some old faithful modes (public transit, bikes and pedestrians). Their approach will help address current transportation challenges while still giving new technologies an opportunity to come on board.