August 13, 2015

Transit, Walking, & Biking

We’re working to achieve a world-class transportation system that provides better transit, walking and biking options, to reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health, quality of life, and ability to compete in a 21st century economy.

Our vision is for 50% of urban residents to commute on transit, walking and biking by 2035.
That means we need a serious boost to our investment in the infrastructure, convenience, safety, and affordability of transit, bike paths, and walking paths. We also need more compact, mixed-use development near transit lines that are affordable to all.

How San Diego’s urban residents commute today:

  • 5% transit
  • 4.2% walk
  • 1.9% bike

How San Diego’s urban residents will commute in 2035 (if the City achieves its Climate Action Plan goals):

  • 25% transit
  • 7% walk
  • 18% bike

How we rank against other regions (Hint: It’s not good):

San Diego County is excluded from nearly every list for biking, walking, and transit rider friendliness.

Zero cities in San Diego County are among the top 25 in the country for walking and bicycling levels, according to the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, nor are we in Bicycling Magazine’s top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities.

As a result, our air and lungs are suffering. The American Lung Association gave San Diego County an ‘F’ for air pollution from mobile sources in 2016.

Why are our rates of transit use, biking, and walking so low, in a region with perfect weather? 

Benefits of Transit, Walking, and Biking

The U.S. Surgeon General launched a Call To Action to promote walking and walkable communities, because it’s essential to our health and building a strong community. Watch a video about it here.

  • Quality of Life: People who walk and take transit to work are happier, healthier, and more socially engaged with their community.   
  • Jobs: Improving our transit system means more jobs building infrastructure and maintaining the system and better access for folks to get to where they need to go, like work and school. Check out this report from the Transportation Equity Network: More Transit = More Jobs.
  • Safety: More and safer bike paths, sidewalks, and pedestrian crossings means fewer collisions with cars, which is better for everyone.
  • Health: Biking and walking (“active transportation”) improves our health. In NYC, for example, every $1,300 invested in building bike lanes provided benefites equal to one additional year of life at full health for residents citywide, according to one economic assessment.

How Transportation Decisions and Funding Happen in San Diego

Transportation dollars in San Diego County flow through our regional transportation agency, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), making it a powerful player affecting our ability to cut pollution from cars and trucks, create a world-class transit system, and improve our quality of life and economic competitiveness.

Our local cities and SANDAG must work together to allocate enough resources to offer real transportation options. Some cities are doing what’s necessary by proposing visionary and enforceable transit, walking, and biking goals in their Climate Action Plans, General Plans, and budgets.

SANDAG vs CAP goalsSANDAG hasn’t been pulling its weight.

SANDAG has repeatedly underfunded and deprioritized public transit, bicycling, and walking—making it incredibly difficult for cities around the region to meet their climate goals and create the kind of transit systems they want and need.

SANDAG’s current 35-year regional transportation plan increases transit ridership by a mere 4% countywide, while keeping transit times double those of driving trips.

SANDAG’s plan will be a major hurdle for the City of San Diego in reaching its Climate Action Plan goals.  The City’s CAP aims to empower half of residents in urban areas to commute by transit, walking, and bicycling by 2035. SANDAG’s plan—as revealed in our report using SANDAG’s own data—puts the City on a path to achieve only 15% of commutes using sustainable transportation options in the same area.  Put another way, the City’s goals are over three-times more ambitious than SANDAG’s.

Delay is not an option. State law mandates cities must meet its first climate benchmark in 2020 and San Diego’s Climate Action Plan commits to doing that by getting 1 in every 5 people (21%) to commute using non-car transportation. That’s five percentage points more than SANDAG would get us to 15 years later!

"Always Take the High Road" by John Bosley

“Always Take the High Road” by John Bosley

We can get there. It’s the only option.

In partnership with our Quality of Life Coalition, we’re changing the conversation in the media and in the government hearing rooms, from how many cars can we put on the road to how can we move people more efficiently with more and better alternative options.

It will take heroic efforts and the tireless struggle of all of us to reach our climate and transportation goals, but it is what is needed to protect the health and quality of life of kids today. We will get there, because we never, ever give up.

Check for updates transportation issues around the region, local cities, and the state on updates page on where we’re working.