San Diego used to be the most reactionary of the State’s large transportation agencies. No longer! It’s amazing what losing a few environmental lawsuits can do. Now, the San Diego Association of Governments, SANDAG, is leading the State in responding to the climate change crisis. SANDAG’s new Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, made headlines when he announced that San Diego Can’t Hit State Climate Goals Without Major Transportation Changes. While TRANSDEF has been saying that for decades, it’s different when it comes from an agency head. State reports indicate that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles are increasing, despite efforts to reduce them.
This resulted in a profound shift in planning: SANDAG proposes historic transit expansion, cutting long-promised highway projects. Nothing like this is happening in California. (Seattle has been doing this now for years, however.) That shift, however, is by no means a done deal. It is the result of outstanding leadership by San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer, but there is significant opposition to a change in the status quo. This article describes beautifully the issues facing California as it grows beyond the capacity of its highway infrastructure: How Kevin Faulconer Touched Off a Historic Debate About San Diego’s Transportation Future.
People living in suburban cul-de-sacs resist this change, and don’t see that transit benefits them. Yet, we can’t keep building more sprawl even though that is what is familiar. That land use pattern no longer results in workable regional commuting. This is a clash between past and future cultures. Keep an eye on San Diego to see how they manage deep change.