Monday, March 10, 2008 | Of the five things San Diego needs the most, I suggest the number one is a viable public transit system.

I think we can all agree that our public transit system is not working. There are trolley lines so desperately in need of repair that they represent a real health and safety risk. Bus routes and service are continually being cut, and the fares are increasing as the service falls. State law has given the responsibility of planning, and providing for the transit needs of the region to the SANDAG Transportation Committee which has scorned transit and funneled billions into freeways that have done nothing to reduce congestion.

CCDC is making plans to decimate the trolley service through downtown San Diego by removing the tracks along C Street. The plan for the upgrade of the San Ysidro border crossing is set to make taking the trolley to the border more dangerous and inconvenient.

There is a discussion going on about a new cent sales tax increase that SANDAG calls the quality of life initiative. Would you support such a tax? You may get a chance to vote on the issue in 2010. I would suggest that such an increase should only be approved if a substantial part of it goes to our public transit system.

Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote to SANDAG and requested that the Board not approve the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which they consequently approved November 30, 2007. He stated that the plan will significantly increase GHG (green house gas) emissions. The RTP forsakes public transit, instead spending $58 billion on widening freeways, adding miles of concrete and planning for diesel-spewing mega trucks to travel through our densest neighborhoods.

If Los Angeles has taught us anything, it is that adding freeway lanes simply leads to more construction, more congestion, and much more pollution. That pollution is affecting our children more than anyone else. We have one of the highest rates of juvenile asthma in the State.

We can cut that pollution.

Anyone who has spent time in other cities with quality public transit systems understand that people really do use transit when it is a viable option. In a properly funded public transit system, the number of cars on the road can be significantly reduced. That means a healthier environment for our children.

Much of the excuse given by our decision-makers is that Californians have a love affair with their cars. How many people love to write that monthly car payment check? How many love it when their insurance goes up because of the increasing number of uninsured motorists? How many love their automobile when stranded in one traffic jam after another? How many love to fill their gas tank and watch precious dollars consumed by the never-ending upward spin?

In reality, we have a love affair with the simple convenience a car can offer that the current public transit does not. For the sake of the future health of our economy, our environment, our safety and our very quality of life it is now time to make public transit a priority in the San Diego region.

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