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SANDAG Leaders Discuss Funding Strategy to Improve the Transportation System and Increase Social Equity

SANDAG Leaders Discuss Funding Strategy to Improve the Transportation System and Increase Social Equity

March 12, 2021-- New Figures Show Regional Plan Will Double Transit Investment, Creating Greener and Faster Network

Today the SANDAG Board of Directors met to discuss major investments and a funding strategy for the upcoming 2021 Regional Plan, the blueprint for land use and transportation planning in the San Diego region through 2050. The transformational plan will enhance quality of life in the region by creating a comprehensive transportation system that is faster, fairer, and cleaner than ever before.

The plan will expand access to jobs, healthcare, education, entertainment, and recreation destinations throughout the region. Initial forecasts show that access within a half-mile of fast and convenient transit will triple for people in historically underserved communities under the plan.

SANDAG published all the data being used to develop the Regional Plan ahead of Friday’s meeting. More than 250 terabytes of information are now available to the public, an amount more than 20 times the size of the Library of Congress.

”Today the Board of Directors got to review the incredible amount of data being analyzed to inform the 2021 Regional Plan,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “This data is crucial to helping us understand the challenges facing our region - including congestion, climate change, and equity issues - and to developing a plan to help tackle those challenges.”

Figures presented today show the 2021 Regional Plan will more than double investments in transit projects compared to the previous 2015 plan, from $25.9 billion to $55.9 billion. There are also significant increases in freeway operations and maintenance, increasing from $10 billion to $18.6 billion. New investments that did not exist in the last plan are assumed in the funding strategy, such as $4.8 billion for transit fare subsidies for low income and youth populations, and $5 billion for mobility hubs and flexible fleets.

The total cost of the plan has been refined and is now expected to be $163 billion over thirty years – $14 billion less than the previous projection shared last August.

Staff presented funding options based on national best practices that would provide more sustainable and long-term sources of revenue, giving the San Diego region greater local control over funds. These funding mechanisms can help offset the flat growth that is expected in state and federal revenue, as well as a projected decrease in TransNet revenue based on revised forecasts.

“My goal is to create a system that works for everyday people - a system that provides choices in how we get around the region and helps us accomplish our regional climate goals,” said SANDAG Vice Chair and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “This is a multi-decade plan and these are funding strategies, not particular proposals. This level of funding, for these types of projects, provides a wonderful opportunity for economic development in our region.”

The new funding strategies will support the Regional Plan and encourage transportation choices that help optimize traffic flow, improve social equity, and address climate change. Strategies include an expansion of priced managed lanes similar to what is currently in place on Interstate 15, a future half-cent increase to TransNet, and a future half-cent sales tax increase in the Metropolitan Transit System service area. Another mechanism being considered is road user charges, a funding approach currently being piloted by the State of California that is expected to be finalized in the next several years.

SANDAG is committed to ensuring any potential funding strategy has no disproportionate impacts on historically underserved, systemically marginalized communities. Any funding strategy will be thoroughly studied and developed with significant public input and engagement, in close coordination with potentially impacted communities and populations. Enabling legislation and voter approval would be necessary steps for some of the strategies.

“It is important to us that we are good stewards of public funds and public trust, because this plan is going to create the fast, fair, and clean transportation we need to move our region forward,” said Hasan Ikhrata, SANDAG Executive Director. “Never before has SANDAG shared so much data and created a forum to openly and transparently discuss revenue and financing.”

The Board also heard a presentation on the cutting-edge data modeling approach SANDAG developed to inform data-driven decision making. A critical component of this approach is SANDAG’s Activity Based Model, which assesses different transportation scenarios and allows SANDAG to evaluate the impacts of various policies and programs. This reliable, data-driven system has been thoroughly developed, with integrity checks performed through an independent peer-review process.

At today’s meeting, a panel of national experts also discussed the trends and best practices being used around the country to finance transportation plans. Moderated by Haney Hong, the Executive Director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the panel included Brianne Eby from the Eno Center for Transportation, Bob Poole from the Reason Foundation, and Michael Manville with the UCLA Luskin Center. 

'We have this really interesting experiment right now in our ability to explore new ideas, and we would be remiss not to take advantage of that,' said Brianne Eby, Senior Policy Analyst at the Eno Center for Transportation. “Not any one of these options is a silver bullet when it comes to financing, so it’s good to have a mix and have diverse sources of financing.”

Updated every four years, the Regional Plan aims to develop a transportation system that works for all San Diego County residents. In the coming months, the SANDAG Board of Directors will discuss the development of the plan further with future presentations focused on technology, social equity, and alignment with state, regional, and local planning. A draft of the plan will be presented in the spring, with a vote by the Board expected this fall.

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For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or pio@sandag.org.