OCEANSIDE — The “5 Big Moves” county transportation plan as proposed by the San Diego Association of Governments recently made its way to City Council chambers.
On Oct. 23, representatives from SANDAG including Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata presented the “bold new transportation vision” to council. SANDAG previously presented the plan to Carlsbad City Council in July.
According to Ikhrata, the 5 Big Moves plan is responding to the county’s need to meet state greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements as well as federal requirements.
Interim Land Use and Transportation Planning Director Coleen Clementson told council that even with the current plan in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, emissions are still rising far beyond the county’s set reduction goals. Counties must have plans in place to reduce greenhouse gasses in order to receive funding from the state.
The 5 Big Moves plan would bring high-speed rail, shuttles to major work centers, a large transportation hub and more to the region. More specifically, the five moves are Complete Corridors, Transit Leap, Mobility Hubs, Flexible Fleets and a Next OS (Operating System).
The Complete Corridors concept is considered the “backbone” of an entire transit system that repurposes how highways and local roads are used and managed.
This concept would include space for high-speed transit, pooled services, manage demand for transportation and maximize existing roadway usage. Local roads would be designed to accommodate all users (transit, cars, bikes, pedestrians) and provide connection to Mobility Hubs, another one of the five big moves.
Clementson said this Complete Corridors concept would look like a figure 8 for the region.
A Transit Leap is a network of transit services that are fast, frequent and can handle a high capacity of travelers. This portion of the plan could include above or underground high-speed rail services — Clementson said as high as 80 to 100 miles per hour — that connect to Mobility Hubs and get people where they need to go faster than current transit options.
Mobility Hubs are where the region’s multiple travel options are connected. These hubs surround high-seed transit in the Transit Leap helps manage the Complete Corridor concept.
Flexible Fleets would install shared, electric and “ultimately autonomous” vehicles in communities that help people living within a closer distance to their jobs get there without having to use their own cars. These fleets would also meet at Mobility Hubs to take travelers coming from a farther distance to their places of work, which would ideally be located close to Mobility Hubs.
Finally, the Next OS part of the plan would implement an operating system that essentially makes all of the other strategies work.
SANDAG staff has been examining data that shows where people are traveling to work and where they live in relation to their jobs to determine what kind of relief can be brought to those roadways.
For example, Chief Economist Ray Major noted that of the 129,000 people who work in Sorrento Valley, about 20,000 live within a 5-mile radius. For those people, the Flex Fleet strategy might be the way to go.
“In a 5-mile radius that might actually work,” Major said.
For the rest, high-speed transit might be a better option.
Those who work along the state Route 78 corridor tend to live a little closer to work than those commuting to Sorrento Valley, according to Major. Tying high-speed transit from the south to the north could help, as well as making flexible fleets more available in the region.
In August, Carlsbad implemented a similar strategy with its Carlsbad Connector shuttle service, which takes commuters to workplaces throughout the city from the Coaster.
SANDAG ultimately needs to get a tenth of the commuters off the roads to help alleviate traffic congestion throughout the region.
“We don’t need to have everybody move over to transit,” Major said. “We need to get 10% of the people to use transit in order to free up capacity for those who (drive) on a daily basis.”
Councilman Chris Rodriguez pointed out that county transit ridership is low, and the plan itself is going to be expensive. He also added that residents don’t want more taxes.
“Until we can create incentives, we need our roads repaired, we need our freeways upgraded and improved,” Rodriguez said.
Ikhrata said SANDAG couldn’t just expand capacity on the roads by adding lanes.
“The laws don’t allow us to keep adding lanes to freeways,” he said.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez highlighted issues using the Sprinter. She noted that the Sprinter misses the North County courthouse in Vista, which is a big employer in the North County region.
When Sanchez worked at the courthouse, she said many of her clients were late due to the delays in the bus and Sprinter schedules. She also noted that if a judge who lived in Escondido were to use the Sprinter, it would have taken them almost two hours to get to the courthouse.
Ikhrata agreed that travel time is a problem.
“Any trip that takes two hours for 20 miles is not going to work,” Ikhrata said.
Having shuttles taking riders from the Sprinter to work hotspots could maximize Sprinter usage.