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US transit ridership is down: Can San Diego’s speedy commuter rail plan buck the trend?

Published on October 24, 2019

Metropolitan Transit System MTS - San Diego, California.
Metropolitan Transit System MTS - San Diego, California. Image Credit: Tomás Del Coro, February 2012. CC BY-SA 2.0

Elected officials are preparing to ask San Diegans to approve not one but two tax increases to fund billions of dollars in bus and rail investments, including a San Diego Grand Central Station to connect riders to the airport.

The ask comes at a time when many cities around the country — from Atlanta to Houston to Los Angeles — have invested heavily in public transit only to lose riders. Seattle is the only major metropolitan region in the U.S. that has seen ridership increase in recent years.

Those who hope to see San Diego follow Seattle’s example say it will take more than spending massive amounts of taxpayer dollars. It’s going to take something politicians in Southern California and beyond have been reluctant to do: Make it harder to drive.

Transforming the region would likely take decades of dedication by local leaders and policies likely to upset many homeowners, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center (housed under the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Senior Data Science Fellow at the eScience Institute at the University of Washington.

“I won’t say it’s an insurmountable problem, but it’s really hard to change it,” Hallenbeck said.

“The heart of whether this will be successful or not is how much stuff are you going to build within walking distance of these stations,” he added. “Can you stop growth from going out to Santee and Poway?”


Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times.

Originally written by Joshua Emerson Smith for the Los Angeles Times.
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