SANDAG’s new dreams of a public transit powered future are, at best, bold. Despite the lack of funds and resources, SANDAG officials remain intent on the feasibility of their plan and the necessity of public transport in combatting climate change.
The program focuses on “5 big moves” based on transportation and technology: new high-capacity transit routes, transfer points, “last mile” options, enabling networking technology, and driving alternatives. It’s the brainchild of Hasan Ikhrata, Los Angeles City Planner turned SANDAG Executive Director. He hopes to see San Diego fueled by public transportation as inspiration for the rest of the country. No estimates have been made regarding a cost for such a ludicrous project, but Ikhrata is well aware of that.
“This is going to cost money and resources we don’t have,” he boldly stated at a recent Vista City Council Meeting. “We don’t have data, well he [ the other SANDAG official] has data, and I trust him.” This uncertainty and diversion is concerning, to say the least.
Even despite having no concrete figure, the cost-benefit ratio is alarming. Only 10 percent of the public—under the most generous estimations from SANDAG—would benefit from such a program.
One suggestion that came up was potentially placing new local taxes on top of state taxes. This is an alarming suggestion, considering California already has the highest taxes in the United States. Vista Deputy Mayor John Franklin raised the question of how previous tax funds have been used, asking “what have they done with our tax dollars?”
SANDAG lacks funding for their current projects, putting into question whether funding for the 5 Big Moves plan is even possible. Vista Councilwoman Amanda Rigby mentioned that the City has dealt with many broken promises from SANDAG over the years, questioning why this time would be any different.
In fact, the previous CEO of SANDAG resigned after being exposed for concealing internal debates over whether a prior (now failed) tax measure made voters billion-dollar promises that it would not be able to deliver. Their TransNet initiative of a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation generated far less sales tax revenue than initially predicted, and their Measure A proposal would almost certainly not generate the estimated $18 billion over 40 years.
Ikhrata claims that San Diegans have been “overpromised” in the past, but he fails to recognize that he is doing precisely the same now. With so few people using public transportation systems, few are interested in paying more taxes for the expansion of a largely failing system. Vista Mayor Judy Ritter said of the 5 Big Moves, “No offense, it’s not an efficient way of doing it.”
Thousands of San Diegans have been deeply disappointed by the past failures of SANDAG, unwilling to trust the organization to fulfill such ambitious promises after repeated failures.