San Diego High-Speed Rail Plan Counts on Future Density

Despite slowing population growth statewide, officials believe the region will "grow into" the new rail system if cities promote dense development around transit stations.

2 minute read

June 1, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


San Diego Trolley

Pazut Wutigornsombatkul / Shutterstock

[Updated June 1, 2021] The success of an ambitious $160-billion plan for public transit and high-speed rail in San Diego depends on the region's future development, writes Joshua Emerson Smith in the San Diego Union-Tribune. With San Diego's—and California's—population growth rate slowing to a near halt, cities must "usher in dense urban development around transit stations" to make the new rail system effective. "Population growth is a bit less important than where that growth occurs," says Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment.

Critics of the plan say that "San Diego doesn’t have much of a chance of building the type of urban communities that would justify tens of billions of dollars in transit projects." Local communities, which "have bitterly fought housing requirements in court," have for decades challenged new multi-family housing construction in and around San Diego. Unlike other urban rail systems, San Diego's "would service a region with dispersed employment hubs, often featuring office parks with plentiful parking." Community activists also have concerns about displacement, access, and making urgent improvements to existing transit systems. "Advocates for low-income communities say they will support SANDAG’s new transportation plan, but only if the final version prioritizes immediate upgrades to the region’s bus and trolley systems."

"The phasing of various projects is still being determined, as is the financing. A tax initiative that spells out both could be put to voters as early as 2022."

Thursday, May 27, 2021 in San Diego Union-Tribune

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29, 2024 - Streetsblog LA

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Blue and white Pittsburgh bike share bikes lined up at a station with a red city bus on street in background.

Micromobility Operators Call for Better Links to Transit

For shared mobility to succeed, systems must tap into the connectivity and funding potential offered by closer collaboration with public transit.

5 hours ago - GovTech

New York MTA Bus

Retaining Transit Workers Is About More Than Wages

An analysis of California transit employees found a high rate of burnout among operators who face unpredictable work schedules, high housing costs, and occasional violence.

6 hours ago - Streetsblog California

View of Hollywood Reservoir with palm trees in foreground and Los Angeles neighobrhoods in background.

California's Stormwater Potential

A new study reveals that if California could collect and treat more stormwater in cities, it could provide enough water to supply a quarter of the state’s urban population.

March 4 - Cal Matters

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.