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The Oceanside Transit Center / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

In his short time at SANDAG, Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata has shaken up regional transportation conversations. Expect more of that in 2020.

He dropped another controversial idea at Metropolitan Transit System board meeting last month. Ikhrata thinks MTS and the North County Transit District, which operate their own bus and rail lines, should merge with the goal of better serving the county with projects including the planned Purple Line extension. And Ikhrata says he’s been pushing the idea since his initial weeks on the job.

As Kayla Jimenez reports, those agencies aren’t embracing Ikhrata’s suggestion.

NCTD Board Chairman Tony Kranz told Jimenez that North County mayors have expressed concerns about the idea while an MTS spokesman declined to comment.

Ikhrata has said that projects like the planned Purple Line trolley extension, which he would like to see run from the U.S.-Mexico border to Oceanside, could benefit from having one unified agency operating them.

And he’s not planning to change his tune despite the tension that suggestion has already inspired.

Ikhrata told Jimenez he plans to discuss consolidating the two agencies at SANDAG’s March board meeting when the planning agency unveils its plan for the upcoming year.

Lime Leaves San Diego

Another scooter company has bailed on San Diego.

Lime announced Thursday it was leaving San Diego and 11 other cities, a decision the company made just weeks after the City Council’s December vote to ban scooters on bustling beach boardwalks.

Lime officials told KPBS that ridership in the city had declined after new regulations that went into effect last year and expressed frustration about an apparent lack of transparency about city decisions to impound scooters.

For example, KPBS reported that the city’s decision to impound more than 700 Lime scooters during last year’s Comic-Con cost the company $46,000.

The Union-Tribune noted  that Lime, the first electric scooter company to launch in San Diego, was not the first to leave. Uber’s Jump and San Francisco-based Skip also recently pulled their scooters off San Diego sidewalks amid complaints about city regulations.

Bird, Lyft and Spin are among the scooter companies that remain in San Diego.

City Councilman Scott Sherman, who is running for mayor, criticized the regulations. He wrote in a statement that they chipped away at San Diego’s reputation as an innovation hub and flew in the face of the city’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce San Diegans’ reliance on cars.

“Either we pursue our goals in the Climate Action Plan by embracing new and clean technology or we stifle these innovations and revise our Plan to less ambitious objectives,” Sherman wrote. “You cannot have both.”

Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who’s also running for mayor, struck a similar tone.

“San Diegans deserve more transportation choices and our legally enforceable Climate Action Plan demands it,” Gloria tweeted.

Around the time the news broke on Thursday, Councilwoman Barbara Bry, another mayoral candidate who championed the ban on scooters on beach boardwalks, highlighted a 2018 bill that Gloria co-wrote allowing adults to ride scooters without helmets. She did not comment on Lime’s decision to leave San Diego.

Airport Takes Big Step on Once-Controversial Terminal 1 Expansion

More than a year after the San Diego County Airport Authority’s plans to expand Terminal 1 erupted into outright turmoil between just about every public agency in town, the Airport Authority took a major step toward approving a revamped version of the project Thursday, with unified support from the same agencies that flipped their lids in 2018.

The Airport Authority’s board approved its environmental review for the $3 billion plan to expand and modernize Terminal 1. Airlines that operate from the terminal will pay for the brunt of the project, including their announcement this summer that they’d offer up to $500 million for transportation improvements in and around the airport.

The biggest change between the airport’s initial proposal and the one approved Thursday is the incorporation of space for a new transit terminal between Terminal 2 and the rebuilt Terminal 1. SANDAG and MTS will need to decide how, exactly, they want to connect the transit system to the airport, but they’ll now have space for whatever they decide. The project will also more immediately include a new airport shuttle from the Old Town transit station, and MTS’s 992 bus that already serves the airport will be able to use a new roadway on airport property meant to alleviate traffic on Harbor Drive from people coming to the airport.

“We asked them to plan for transit and they planned for transit,” said Colin Parent, director of transit advocacy group Circulate San Diego, which was among those unhappy with the initial proposal. “They made an important effort and are at the table, and now it’s up to SANDAG or MTS to make a more meaningful transit connection.”

April Boling, the Airport Authority’s chair, praised the airlines for their willingness to fund the transportation projects now included in the project as part of its required environmental mitigation.

“It took a while for our airline partners to understand that we really were going to need to accommodate the needs of the public to get to the airport, not just build a building with airside improvements. There really was a lot more to building a regional asset like this,” she said.

The other significant decision between the major public controversy and Thursday’s relatively quiet vote came last year when the Airport Authority agreed to a so-called project labor agreement for the new Terminal 1. That deal benefits construction unions by stipulating wage and labor standards and requiring that hiring goes through union halls.

News Roundup

  • Matt Strabone interviewed the two sides of the Measure A debate: Cody Petterson an environmentalist and activist within the Democratic Party spoke for Measure A. Tanya Castaneda, a PR professional, represented the opposition. Here’s background on Measure A.
  • Residents of a City Heights affordable housing project have sued the city for allowing a more than 40 percent rent hike they say has hampered their ability to pay for basic needs. (Union-Tribune)
  • A report released Thursday concluded it’s cheaper to rent than buy a home in San Diego. (10 News)
  • Chula Vista voters approved a tax hike in 2018 to hire more police and firefighters but the city attorney wants to use some of the new cash to hire a paralegal and investigator. (Union-Tribune)
  • County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Nathan Fletcher teamed Thursday to put the spotlight on their proposals to restrict vaping. (CBS 8)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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