Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata is causing massive controversy with a comment he made at a Metropolitan Transit Service board meeting in December.
“There is one planning agency in the region; that’s SANDAG,” Ikhrata said. ”There are two transit operators, and I hope they become one soon, NCTD and MTS. And we both plan, they operate, they work back and forth.”
Ikhrata later told reporters that combining the two is merely his vision—but that is precisely the problem. This is a major project that would require a major mobilization of resources and this is all to appease a man whose entire career with SANDAG thus far has been a complete and utter failure.
From electric buses to the Purple Line rail project that has yet to be built, SANDAG has a long line of projects that are either completely arbitrary or nowhere near finished, but Ikhrata wants to add yet another expensive, likely unneeded initiative to the heap.
Despite his zeal for the project, the rest of San Diego does not seem to be on board with his “vision.” When he tried to propose the idea to North County mayors, they expressed disapproval. They were particularly bothered about the fact that TransNet tax revenues are down dramatically and Ikhrata still wants to start an entirely new project. In addition, they were also annoyed at the fact that he went to them without even speaking to NCTD first. Needless to say, they were not fans.
Naturally, he did what any other unelected bureaucrat in his position would do: completely ignore them and keep going until he finds someone that will buy his snake oil. When speaking on the rejection, he said “it made me think I was on to something.”
The rest of the reactions varied greatly in their severity. NCTD Board Chairman Tony Kranz expressed skepticism by saying “it would not be easy to merge two agencies together. It would not be impossible, but it would require a significant amount of planning to make it work effectively,” later saying that “any time you start tinkering with transit agencies, the reality is you have a significant amount of people who depend on transit currently in place.”
MTS spokesman Rob Schupp gave his idea a much less charitable interpretation. “Oh, I think Hasan was just kidding. We don’t have a comment on that.” When someone in your own organization thinks that you are joking, it really shows the stupidity of the idea. Some vision.