Road Charge and Free Transit Considered in San Diego

The San Diego Association of Governments has proposed a mileage fee as part of its plan to modernize transportation and encourage public transit use as California aims to reduce carbon emissions and eliminate fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

November 2, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

San Diego metropolitan Transit System

Aaron Fulkerson / Shutterstock

Joshua Emerson Smith describes San Diego's plan to institute a mileage-based driving fee while eliminating fares on the region's trolleys and buses. The plan, suggested by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), is part of the "$160 billion blueprint for modernizing transportation throughout the region, from dedicating highway lanes for buses and car pools to building an ambitious new high-speed transit system with a dozen new stations," reports Emerson Smith.

The article comes a week after the agency’s board approved free youth passes starting this spring through summer 2023. The pilot program, which would apply to those 18 years old and younger, still requires approval from the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District.

The fare-free transit movement gained steam during the pandemic, as ridership fell drastically and transit agencies look to new ways to incentivize users and bring commuters back to the nation's trains and buses. Mileage fees, also known as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fees, are getting a close look from states concerned about loss of fuel tax revenue due to the rising popularity of electric vehicles.

The San Diego fee would coincide with the launch of California's statewide road charge program, scheduled to begin in 2030. The state has also banned the sale of gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035, which will have a significant effect on the revenue generated from the state's gas tax—the primary source of funding for transportation projects in the state.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021 in The San Diego Union-Tribune

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