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

September 12, 2014


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


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, 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 ( 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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