Analyzing the Responses: Virtual Mayoral Forum—Transit and Walkable, Bikeable Communities

bike lane 11Civic leaders have a renewed focus on a bikeable city, but transit still falls woefully short of serving San Diego’s needs.

By SDFP Staff

Part 4:  Walkable/ Bikable Neighborhoods and Public Transit

Here’s our question to the candidates:

What is the importance of walkable/bikeable neighborhoods and public transit in San Diego? 

World class cities have world class transit.  In San Diego, we have a world class, and often overcrowded, freeway system and city streets that are often pocked by ruts and cracks, and sometimes suspension-bending potholes.  But we are a city that is dependent on our cars, so we continue to climb behind the wheel simply to get to the grocery store 3/4 of a mile away.  Our public transit system is almost entirely inadequate to act as a replacement for cars, leaving San Diegans who don’t live on the trolley line or on one of the major bus routes little choice but to drive to their destination in order to arrive in a timely fashion.

So in this regard, San Diego has a long way to go to be able to consider itself world class.

In 1981 the San Diego Trolley began service between the Mexican Border in San Ysidro and Downtown San Diego, later to be expanded with lines running to Santee and through Mission Valley.  But instead of serving core communities that were in the most desperate need of transit and would likely make the most use of the trolley system, designers focused on bringing rides to commercial centers.  Fare box receipts (revenues) instead of utility was of greater concern.

Meanwhile, bus service in the city continued to languish, with a complex web of routes that crawl through San Diego streets, with few (if any) express routes offered that could deliver riders to their destination in a timely fashion.

Work has begun on new express bus lines through University Heights, North Park, and into Downtown, and MTS is in the final planning stages for construction of a new trolley line reaching to UCSD and University Towne Center in La Jolla.  Positive steps, and certainly better than the status quo, but it’s not nearly enough.

With San Diego’s temperate weather, biking should always be a viable option, but it needs to be a safe option.

“We need to re-create neighborhoods through urban infill where residents can easily walk or bike to work.  We need communities with access to essential services, like public transporation, parks, libraries, and grocery stores,” wrote Mike Aguirre.

“We know that bikeable, walkable neighborhoods are shown to improve local economies, so bike initiatives aren’t just for quality of life and air pollution reduction, they make business sense as well,” wrote David Alvarez.

“The great cities of the future will be those with sustainable infrastructure built around urban cores where people can live, work, and play in the same community and travel between communities with ease,” wrote Nathan Fletcher.  “I also believe we need to get serious about improving our public transit system, which is not useful for many people who would use it because it’s not ‘competitive’ with cars.  When it takes several times longer to get somewhere via transit than by car, those who –have a choice will chose to travel by car.”

As mayor, Alvarez says he will push SANDAG—an organization with which he would play a prominent role—to invest not just in widening our freeways, which has seemingly been the top priority, but to direct funding toward “active transportation and transit.”

Hud Collins:  “Favor walkable in neighborhoods.  Do not favor bikeable on public streets (alone).  Public transit important to all areas.”

It is encouraging that our major candidates seem to have woken up to the realities of transit in San Diego, and seem poised to take up the mantle of transforming transit in our city.  Our communities deserve better, and it’s about time the attitudes of our civic leaders reflected it.


  1. avatarGoatskull says

    Part of the problem is that a lot of the public transportation we have was not geared towards those without a car so much as it was geared as an alternative to parking. I’ve heard that the trolley originally came into existence so people would not have to deal with parking either downtown or down in TJ. The idea was to drive your car to a trolley stop, park there and then take the trolley to either downtown or down south and not deal with parking issues. Overtime it expanded but notice that many trolley stops have parking lots.

  2. avatarDana Levy says

    I am also encouraged by the responses. It remains to be seen if there are any resources that can be put forth to improve and expand the bicycle opportunities in San Diego. I do see some improvements even today in painted bike lanes, and with the new Calif. law coming into effect next year on the 3 feet automatic buffer zone, it may be possible to wish for more and actually get it. Gloria, with his dooms day prediction about future tax shortfalls doesn’t set a good tone, but there are lots of tax bases available for alternative transportation and part of all of them should be dedicated to the safety, increased dedicated bicycle lanes (and even bicycle only roads/paths), and exclusivity of bicycle transportation everywhere in the city. It is now just a matter of holding the feet of the new mayor to the fire and get bit done. I am optimistic that either of the Democratic candidates will take it seriously but I have doubts about the sincerity of Faulconer (on many issues).