New Report Shows San Diego Urgently Needs Major Investment in Public Transit

For Immediate Release
April 16, 2015

Contact

Nina Erlich-Williams, 415-577-1153
nina@publicgoodpr.com

New Report Shows San Diego Urgently Needs Major Investment in Public Transit

SAN DIEGO— As San Diego’s population grows, a new report finds that the region’s shifting demographics are driving an urgent need for major public transit investments and a halt to highway expansions. A move toward investments in transit would protect air quality, prevent suburban sprawl and support demographic and land use trends toward pedestrian-friendly communities.

The report, prepared by transportation expert Norman Marshall on behalf of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, says outdated assumptions are driving the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, to prioritize highway projects that increase car use and air pollution. These assumptions buck established trends among younger Californians, who tend to drive less and are more inclined to live in compact urban areas than older generations.

“As San Diego planners update their regional transportation plan, they should seriously consider aggressively shifting investments away from highway expansions to public transit,” said the Cleveland National Forest Foundation’s Jana Clark. “This report reinforces what we already know: a freeway-focused approach to transportation planning will invite more traffic onto the roads, increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To keep San Diego moving, we need to stop building new highways and start creating a world-class transit system.”

Titled “The 50-10 Transit Plan: Quantifying the Benefits,” the report explores a number of social, traffic and land use models and finds they all point to the same conclusion: transit is critical to San Diego’s future. By prioritizing transit spending over the next decade, the report says, the San Diego area could accommodate an anticipated 31 percent population increase by 2050 while decreasing automobile use and air pollution.

Given recent legal challenges, SANDAG should consider reassessing its $200 billion long-range transportation plan for the region. SANDAG’s existing plan front-loaded the expansion of freeways, which will lead to sprawl and reinforce the region’s dependence on cars. That plan’s heavy reliance on automobile transportation will also lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions, even though state climate policy and science demand significant reductions in these pollutants.

The best way to address those traffic and pollution problems, the new report says, is with a plan that would implement 50 years of transit improvements in the urban core over the next decade. That would allow the San Diego region to create a comprehensive, integrated transit system that would support a shift to more compact, walkable communities.

For more information about the new report and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation’s climate-friendly transit plan, go to http://www.transitsandiego.org/50_10_transit_plan. The new report was made possible through a grant from the Ford Foundation supporting the Transportation Justice Partnership with the San Diego Environmental Health Coalition.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (www.cnff.org) is made up of private citizens who believe that action must be taken to protect the remaining undeveloped lands in the forest and that sound regional planning to build sustainable, quality urban communities is fundamental to saving the integrity of our wilderness areas.

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California Supreme Court Accepts SANDAG Regional Plan Case on Narrow Climate Change Issue: Majority of Lower Court Ruling Stands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2015

CONTACT
Severn Williams
sev@publicgoodpr.com
510-336-9566

California Supreme Courts Accepts SANDAG Regional Plan Case on Narrow Climate Change Issue: Majority of Lower Court Ruling Stands

San Francisco – The California Supreme Court has granted partial review of a closely-watched environmental case that could have broad implications for transportation planning throughout the state. Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments aims to determine whether the San Diego Association of Governments complied with the California Environmental Quality Act when analyzing the impacts of its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy on climate change.

Both the superior and appellate courts agreed that the San Diego-area planning agency failed to fully assess and mitigate against the climate risks associated with its plan, which invests heavily in freeways and subsidizes sprawl at the expense of public transit. The Supreme Court agreed to review only one narrow issue within the case. It will consider whether the environmental review of regional transportation plans must include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with statewide goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions embodied in a gubernatorial executive order. Executive Order No. S-3-05 set specific reductions targets to be reached by the year 2050.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court let stand the vast majority of the Court of Appeal’s decision,” said Rachel Hooper, managing partner of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, who represents Cleveland National Forest Foundation and Sierra Club in the case.

There were several important issues in the case that were resolved by the Court of Appeal and were not taken up by the California Supreme Court. Under the Court of Appeal’s holding, SANDAG will be required to: develop more robust mitigation for the climate impacts associated with its plan; complete a more rigorous analysis of the air quality/ public health, and agricultural impacts of its plan; and develop a full range of alternatives to its proposed plan, including options that would reduce driving in the region.

This is the first case in which the California Supreme Court will consider the implications of SB 375, a state law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions through improved regional transportation planning. SANDAG was the first regional government in the state to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy/Regional Transportation Plan under SB 375. Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and two community groups all sued SANDAG over its approach, noting that, under the agency’s plan, regional greenhouse gas emissions would increase dramatically by the year 2050. The agency had argued that the plan would reduce emissions in the short-term, but it did not acknowledge that the plan’s long-term increase in emissions was inconsistent with state climate policy. State Attorney General Kamala Harris intervened in the case in support of the petitioners.

“This case has important ramifications for whether or not California will ultimately achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals,” added Rachel Hooper. “We are hopeful that the court will agree that regional transportation agencies must assess their plans’ conformity to state climate policy. Without such requirements, it will be difficult for California to reduce its long-term contributions to climate change.”

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Happy Holidays from CNFF

Dear Cleveland National Forest Foundation Supporter,

Happy Holidays & Season’s Greetings!

We have great news since our last annual greeting. Our long struggle to protect our local forest, to promote functional transit‐based cities, and to fight for climate stabilization has resulted in a remarkable climate change victory. For our successes, we owe a debt of gratitude to our many donors, volunteers and friends – including our co-plaintiffs and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The Superior Court ruling on SANDAG’s failed transportation plan has been upheld and strengthened by the California Court of Appeal. The decision confirms that SANDAG violated state law by failing to fully account for, and take steps to reduce, greenhouse gases and harmful air pollution in its environmental review of the region’s $200 billion long-range transportation plan. This published court action sets new climate pollution reduction standards for the entire state of California – that climate scientists and CA policymakers agree are necessary by mid-century to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption.

This victory, along with the Sierra Club’s victory against the County over its weak Climate Action Plan has strengthened our hand in our many battles against environmental assaults in the region including: the I-5 widening, Lilac Hills Ranch, SDG&E’s Forest power project, and the County’s attempted rezone of Forest Conservation Initiative lands. It also validates our 50-10 Transit Plan, a transit-first alternative we developed in response to SANDAGs freeway centric planning. The Ford Foundation bolstered this effort by providing a grant to promote the 50-10 Plan.

As we move from a court victory to the political arena we are faced with new challenges of translating these dramatic court victories into local and state policy. More than ever we need your help to carry this groundbreaking work to make our cities functional and to preserve and protect our treasured natural lands.

With your help CNFF will continue to serve the forest, the people and the public trust in our tireless advocacy for a health planet.

Tax‐deductible donations can be submitted via our PayPal account at CNFF.org or transitsandiego.org. You can also mail donations to CNFF, P.O. Box 779, Descanso, CA 91916.

Thank you for your support!

Duncan McFetridge
Director, CNFF

TWITTER: @transitsd   
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/transitsd                        
WEB: transitsandiego.org and cnff.org

 

CNFF Response to SANDAG Vote to Appeal 2050 RTP Court Losses to California Supreme Court

We at CNFF are disappointed in SANDAG’s vote to appeal the multiple court losses related to their greenhouse gas emissions-increasing 2050 Regional Transportation Plan to the California Supreme Court. It is a waste of our community’s financial resources, and will cause additional delays to the work of SANDAG staff to develop comprehensive transit-first transportation scenarios to serve all of San Diego County.

We are, however, incredibly encouraged by the increasing numbers of engaged San Diegans who demand these elected representatives use our regional transportation budget to prioritize transit and bike infrastructure. Thank you all for engaging in the public process alongside us.

CNFF remains committed to working to improve quality of life in the San Diego region, including advocacy to improve transportation choices, quality of life, the economic benefits of transit-oriented development, and to the preservation of our truly special natural environment by limiting sprawl.

TRANSIT FOR SAN DIEGO – TAKE ACTION NOW!

[Note: if the ACTION links don’t work for your email client, see the bottom of post. Thank you!]

Dear Friends of the Environment and Transportation Advocates:

As you may have heard, last week the Court of Appeals rejected SANDAG’s long term transportation plan.

This Friday, December 5, SANDAG will meet again to decide whether to comply with CEQA and greenhouse gas reduction laws, or appeal again to the California Supreme Court.

PLEASE URGE THEM NOT TO APPEAL.

If SANDAG appeals, they will further “kick the can down the road,” and double down on their commitment to building highways instead of transit.

The San Diego community needs SANDAG, made up of elected officials throughout the region, to stop wasting time and money with litigation, to follow open and straightforward governance laws, and to lead by building safe and effective transit alternatives instead of more roads.

Take action by clicking HERE.

Thank you!

~ CNFF

Note: if the link does not open your email client, please send an email to current and incoming SANDAG board members at the below email addresses:

“I am a resident of San Diego County, and I urge you NOT to appeal the recent Appellate Court Ruling regarding the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan.
Please invest in transit infrastructure.
Thank you.”

jDale@ci.santee.ca.us; JMinto@ci.santee.ca.us; RMcNelis@ci.santee.ca.us; matt.hall@carlsbadca.gov; ccox@chulavistaca.gov; mwoiwode@coronado.ca.us; tsinnott@delmar.ca.us; bwells@cityofelcajon.us; lshaffer@encinitasca.gov; sabed@escondido.org; jim.janney@cox.net; kalessio@ci.la-mesa.ca.us; msessom@lemongrove.ca.gov; rmorrison@nationalcityca.gov; jfeller@ci.oceanside.ca.us; dhigginson@poway.org; kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov; toddgloria@sandiego.gov; corlando@san-marcos.net; lheebner@cosb.org; jritter@cityofvista.com; ron-roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov; Dave.Roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov; jwood@ci.oceanside.ca.us; stevevaus@cox.net; kgaspar@encinitasca.gov; marapostathis@ci.la-mesa.ca.us; MSalas@chulavistaca.gov

Transportation Justice: Conservation and Environmental Justice Groups Call on SANDAG to Give Transit a Chance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2014

CONTACT

Jack Shu, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, 619-708-2050
Nina Erlich-Williams, Public Good PR, 415-577-1153, nina@publicgoodpr.com

CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUPS CALL ON SANDAG TO GIVE TRANSIT A CHANCE

Protesters rally after today’s SANDAG meeting to urge shift away from car-centric planning

San Diego, Calif. – Dozens of protesters gathered after the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board met today to determine which alternatives would be analyzed in “San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan.” SANDAG’s regional plan will serve as the basis for transportation and land use planning for the region through 2050; decisions made by SANDAG today will have a significant impact on growth patterns, and their impact on climate change, throughout the county for the next 35 years.

The SANDAG board voted to continue with a business-as-usual approach to transportation planning for the region, delaying investments in transit and continuing to prioritize freeway expansion. Groups that rallied after the meeting included San Diego 350.org, Bike San Diego, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Environmental Health Coalition, Preserve Wild Santee and Sierra Club.

Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, noted, “Instead of moving San Diego forward, SANDAG is intent on looking backward to the failed freeway-centric policies of the last century. Focusing short-term investment on a robust rail-based transit network is both possible and preferable to wider freeways and roads. Transit first is working in Los Angeles, and it would work in San Diego if our leaders would embrace it.”

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation developed a transit-based alternative to SANDAG’s car-centric transportation plan in 2011. The 50-10 Transit Plan outlines a realistic approach to making San Diego’s urban areas bike and pedestrian friendly through robust investments in transit over the next ten years. The 50-10 Transit Plan echoes the types of investments that have been made in Los Angeles, where a rapidly expanding light rail system is moving Angelenos out of their cars.

“The two network scenarios proposed by SANDAG staff don’t in any meaningful way address how transportation demand is changing: people are driving less and they expect choices besides the personal automobile,” said Samantha Ollinger, executive director of BikeSD. “Bicycling allows both transportation choice and access, while also making it easy for those without the luxury of choice to experience and involve themselves in their communities. The SANDAG board could have delayed finalizing the proposed two scenarios until a true alternative was prepared, one that analyzed full construction, operating and maintenance costs and actually provides transportation options to San Diegans besides driving.”

SANDAG’s vote today determined which transportation scenarios will be analyzed in the environmental review process that is required by state and federal law for its regional transportation plan. The board failed to consider a scenario that would frontload investment in light rail and develop a connected pedestrian, bike and transit network for urban corridors and centers. Today’s vote continues on the path SANDAG established when it passed its $200 billion state-required Sustainable Communities Strategy/Regional Transportation Plan (SCS/RTP) in October 2011.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and others sued SANDAG in the San Diego Superior Court over its 2011 plan, arguing that it did not adequately address the growing threat of climate change as required by state law. In December 2012 the court agreed with the plaintiffs and called on SANDAG to update its plan to better comply with state law. The case is currently on appeal.

California is now enduring its third year of drought; threats of wildfire and sea level rise are also growing. All signs point to a need for immediate action by regional leaders to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the threat of climate change. As a regional planning agency, the onus is on SANDAG to take steps toward climate stabilization. California, and indeed the nation, will not be able to avoid climate change-induced catastrophes without restructuring transportation planning in a manner that prioritizes alternatives to private car travel.

“The network scenario SANDAG has decided upon is inadequate in moving the region forward on a path towards transportation justice, which ensures that in overburdened communities there is an increase in transit access and affordability, improvement of public health and safety, and equity in transportation investments,” added Monique G. López, policy advocate for transportation justice with the Environmental Health Coalition. “We’ve heard enough talk – it’s time for action; San Diego can’t afford to wait another 35 years for car-free transportation alternatives.”

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (www.cnff.org) is made up of private citizens who believe that action must be taken to protect the remaining undeveloped lands in the forest and that sound regional planning to build sustainable, quality urban communities is fundamental to saving the integrity of our wilderness areas.

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Release: NEW ANALYSIS: Regional Transportation Needs Could be met without Expanding I-5 Freeway

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 12, 2014

CONTACT

Nina Erlich-Williams
W: 510-336-9566
C: 415-577-1153

nina@publicgoodpr.com

NEW ANALYSIS: Regional Transportation Needs Could be met without Expanding I-5 Freeway

Coastal Commission to vote on whether plan will proceed on August 13

San Diego – In advance of the August 13 California Coastal Commission meeting, an independent transportation expert is calling into question the analysis used by Caltrans to justify a massive expansion of the I-5 freeway in coastal San Diego County. The expansion would add four “managed lanes” to a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 5 north of San Diego up through Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. The commission is scheduled to hold a critical vote on the matter at its upcoming meeting.

Norm Marshall, president of transportation and land use consulting firm Smart Mobility, Inc., reviewed the 2010 Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for this project in 2010 and found that the analyses used an outdated version (circa 2003) of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) transportation model. The SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan adopted in 2007 indicated that I-5 traffic growth would only be about half that assumed by Caltrans in its project plans.

SANDAG’s 2011 analyses show that traffic will increase by 17 percent between 2010 and 2040, but the 2003 analyses used by Caltrans had predicted a much sharper increase in traffic: nearly 30 percent by 2030. The annual growth rate in I-5 traffic assumed by Caltrans is over 100 percent greater than the growth rate currently forecast by SANDAG. At this lower growth rate, the projections being used to justify I-5 expansion would not be reached until 2057, instead of 2030.

“SANDAG downgraded its predictions based on a number of factors: slowed growth due to the extended recession was one factor, as was lifestyle trends we’re seeing across the country,” explained Mr. Marshall. “Americans are making changes to shorten their commutes and/or cut down on single-car commuting.”

Much has changed for transportation planning in San Diego since Caltrans developed its modeling based on the 2003 data. AB 32 and SB 375 – state laws focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions –have been passed, there was a major financial crisis that included the foreclosure of over 75,000 houses in San Diego County, and SANDAG is now planning for much more compact future land use than anticipated in 2003. Given that the data were badly outdated even in 2010, Caltrans was negligent in not updating its analysis when it finalized its freeway expansion plan in October 2013. Caltrans itself acknowledged that the traffic numbers are wrong for 2030 in the appendix of its final analysis, but has not updated its analysis in the main body of the EIR. If it did update its analysis accordingly, it would be clear that there is no pressing need to expand I-5 in the way the agency is proposing. Every “2030” number relied on by Coastal Commission staff for future traffic volumes, future congestion levels, and future air emissions in its justification for freeway expansion is wrong.

The Coastal Commission report indicates that one of the primary goals of the proposed project is to increase the transit mode share to 10-15% for peak-period commute trips. Since the newer I-5 traffic forecasts show growth of only 17 percent between 2010 and 2040, then a 10-15 percent transit share could meet most of that need. “Clearly, a transit first approach is needed,” said Mr. Marshall.

The SANDAG program EIR governing the I-5 project EIR has also been successfully challenged in the California Superior Court by the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. While the case awaits appeal, public agencies are technically allowed to continue to rely on the EIR’s findings.

Along with increased traffic, the freeway expansion would increase air pollution in the region, which already gets a failing grade from the American Lung Association. The massive expansion would also over time increase traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, in direct conflict with state laws calling for aggressive emissions reductions.

Greenhouse gas emissions are directly tied to climate change, and a major threat associated with climate change is sea level rise. Therefore, getting the analysis right should be of particular concern to the California Coastal Commission, which is charged with protecting California’s coastline. Because the proposed freeway expansion falls within the “coastal zone,” the commission must approve the project before it can move forward.

“The courts have already found the regional analysis that underpins the EIR to be faulty, and SANDAG itself has acknowledged traffic growth is unlikely to spike as severely as once predicted over the coming decades,” said Duncan McFetridge, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, which commissioned Mr. Marshall’s report.

Community opposition to the freeway widening has been strong since the project was first proposed in 2004. The project has prompted concerns over loss of scenic vistas (Caltrans plans to erect sound walls along the expanded corridor that would block ocean views). Opponents also cite concerns over economic impacts due to increased traffic and lost regional tourism-related revenue, as well as dismay at continued investment in car-oriented transportation at the expense of public transit.

“The commissioners should follow not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit,” added Mr. McFetridge. “They should require Caltrans to prepare a more robust EIR that fully explores the benefits of transit before rubber stamping the freeway expansion plan.”

The California Coastal Commission will consider the I-5 expansion plan at its August 13 meeting which will commence at 9:00 a.m. at the Catamaran Resort, 3999 Mission Blvd., San Diego.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the plants, animals and other natural resources of Southern California mountains by protecting the land and water they need to survive. For more information, see: www.cnff.org and www.transitsandiego.org.

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NOTE: CNFF has submitted the following public comment letters to the Coastal Commission regarding the North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan:

January 6, 2014
July 21, 2014 comments (including expert analysis from Norm Marshall, of Smart Mobility, Inc.)
August 11 supplemental comments

 

Caltrans Overestimates I-5 Growth