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Why San Diego's Proposed Transportation Sales Tax Is Opposed by a Diverse Coalition

Many cities and counties across the state are proposing transportation sales tax increases, but only San Diego's is opposed by a diverse coalition of environmental and labor groups. Murtaza Baxamusa explains why.
October 25, 2016, 11am PDT | wadams92101
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San Diego's Regional Transportation Planning Agency (RTPA) may be the state's most powerful. SANDAG (San Diego Association of Goverments) is also the state's most under-performing RTPA, according to Murtaza Baxamusa, Ph.D., AICP, a planning lecturer at USC. It is so under-performing and intransigent with respect to state greenhouse gas and transit goals, that it was sued by the state, lost at trial, appealed and again lost, with the Court of Appeals ruling: 

  • We, therefore, conclude SANDAG prejudicially abused its discretion by omitting from the EIR an analysis of the transportation plan’s consistency with the state climate policy, reflected in the Executive Order, of continual greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”
  • “In this case, the EIR’s discussion of project alternatives is deficient because it does not discuss an alternative which could significantly reduce total vehicle miles traveled. Although Alternatives 3a and 3b are labeled “transit emphasis” alternatives, the labeling is a misnomer. These alternatives mainly advance certain rapid bus projects, but leave the planned rail and trolley projects largely unchanged. In addition, these alternatives do not provide any new transit projects or significant service increases. In fact, the “transit emphasis” alternatives include fewer transit projects than some of the other non-“transit-emphasis” alternatives.” (emphasis added)
Baxamusa continues: 

Instead of reversing course, and reconciling its denial of long-term climate goals, SANDAG executives and board-members decided to double down. They continued wasting taxpayer dollars by appealing the court decision to the Supreme Court. Despite the state’s Attorney General opining that “SANDAG failed to meet its obligation,” they approved a new RTP once again last year, mislabeling it a “transit” alternative that kept the same projects but with a statistical stretch to justify it. Many meetings and months later, SANDAG’s “Our Way or the Highway” approach led to an impasse with the environment-labor-community coalition. 

Before the creation of SANDAG, San Diego was the first city/county in modern times to build a light rail transit system. However, since then and since the creation of SANDAG, San Diego has lagged almost every other city in the state in reducing traffic and increasing transit ridership. Now it is proposing a half cent sales tax increase with promises to fund transit, bike lanes, and other environmentally friendly transportation options.  Baxamusa drills down into the ballot measure, transportation funding, as well as SANDAG itself, to explain why voters should not be tempted by the measure and why: "most environmental organizations, like Sierra ClubBikeSD, and Climate Action Campaign, whose future funding is not contingent on it, are opposed to Measure A."

For a wealth of information on transportation funding and regulations, especially in San Diego, read the source article. 

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Published on Sunday, October 23, 2016 in UrbDeZine
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