Combating Traffic Congestion in San Diego
Since 2010, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been encouraging transportation development regarding climate change. In 2012, the City formulated the Climate Action Plan with goals to reduce emissions by 2020. (The plan was overhauled earlier this year pursuant a court order following a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club that the original plan was inadequate.)
The new plan includes ambitious goals for biking, walking and public transit. Specifically, it aims for 22% of commuters in “transit priority areas” (i.e., streets within a half-mile of a major transit stop) to use alternative modes of transportation to get to work by 2020.
It’s not clear yet how many people in these areas have adopted alternative transportation modes. But in the meantime, there are other initiatives being implemented to reach these transportation goals.
Here’s a round-up.
- DecoBike signed a 10-year agreement with the City in 2013 with a plan for 180 stations and 1,800 bikes. Since they popped up in 2015, the 1,800 bikes have met mixed reviews from residents, including the system’s poor station-to-station design. It’s the fifth largest bike-share program of any American city, but ridership has lagged behind. In September, the city removed 15 stations and explained their intent to “focus on expanding the bike station locations by increasing the use of bike share for transit connectivity and short trips, which continues to support the City’s Climate Action Plan efforts and mobility hub plans.” However, another obstacle to the success of the bike usage is lack of protected road lanes for cyclists.
- The Mid-Coast Trolley extension – an 11-mile addition to the blue line – will follow Interstate 5 north from downtown before looping south through the heart of University Center. The line will be finished in 2021 and promises to ease commute time and boost economic growth, which in turn stands to increase car and pedestrian traffic.
- Last year, smart stoplights were installed across San Diego through a $600,000 state grant. This year, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the lights cut down over half of vehicle stops during rush hour, and travel time in these areas overall was reduced by almost 25%. In 2015, city officials created a $163 million, 10-year master plan to install modern stoplight timing systems and other advanced technologies to ease congestion.
- Now the city is leading the way in smart city development with a $30-million plan for what it says will be the world’s largest Smart City IoT platform – 3,200 “intelligent nodes” attached to the city’s street lighting infrastructure collecting real-time sensor data across San Diego. The data could be used via applications to direct drivers to available parking spaces, for example, or guide fire and police to accident or emergency scenes.
- This fall, construction began on a roundabout on State Route 76 at the dangerous intersection of Valley Center Road. The circulatory roadway will have four entrances, sidewalks, and a bus pull-out. It’s expected to dramatically reduce traffic accidents and subsequent roadblocks. In addition to safety, roundabouts propose benefits that include better traffic flow and reduced vehicle emissions. La Jolla’s Bird Rock community became the first in the county to feature a distinctive, linear set of traffic circles – a feat that transformed the busy boulevard to a pedestrian-friendly route. You might notice more roundabouts around town these days with more to come, including North County’s Shadowridge Drive.
- It was announced over a month ago that AT&T, Ford, Nokia, and Qualcomm Technologies are launching Cellular-V2X autonomous vehicle trials at the San Diego Regional Proving Ground later this year. The goal is to demonstrate the potential of C-V2X technologies, including improved automotive safety, automotive driving, and traffic efficiency. SANDAG, the California Department of Transportation, the City of Chula Vista, and intelligent transportation solutions provider McCain Inc. are supporting the trials.
- Earlier this year, the $400 million widening project of State Route 76 that began in the 1990s was finally completed. At the beginning of November, the much-used Park & Ride along the route just west of Interstate 15 reopened after several years. It now offers nearly twice as many parking spaces, as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
In November, construction began on a $65 million project by SANDAG that will create the region’s first freeway-level transit stations. The Mid-City Centerline Rapid bus stations will run along I-15 at El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue. Transit-only lanes are being added along the Route 15 median. Better performance between Rapid and local buses is one hoped-for outcome.