Best Practices: RTP Performance Measures in San Diego

A Huge thanks to Move San Diego who provided these great notes, that I was able to copy and paste,  from their event a few weeks ago on RTP Performance Measures.  Sign up for their mailing list and stay informed of their great efforts.

Local Event Summary : “Measuring Sustainable Communities”
On 2/24, Move San Diego, along with Citizens Coordinate for Century Three, the San Diego Housing Federation and the San Diego Foundation hosted an educational breakfast event, “Measuring Sustainable Communities.” The topic for the morning hour was the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan Performance Measures. The goal was to provide a public forum to discuss how the region measures the success of transportation projects and whether SANDAG is measuring the right factors to encourage sustainability in the region.
The breakfast event was SOLD OUT with over 120 attendees, including Coronado Councilmember Mike Waiwoodie, and Congressman Bob Filner, a member of the House transportation committee.  Event presenters included SANDAG’s principal planner Elisa Arias, Barry Schultz, local attorney and social equity advocate, member of the Regional Transportation Plan Stakeholder Working Group, Executive Director Ann Tartre from the Equinox Center, and attorney Michael Fitts from Endangered Habitats League. Move San Diego’s Executive Director Elyse Lowe moderated the morning’s activities.

After SANDAG presented about how the Performance Metrics were created and are being used, the panel of experts shared their thoughts.

Michael Fitts provided very succinct recommendations on how to change the SANDAG performance metrics for better measurements in future RTPs:

  • Change 15 minute travel times for non-work transit trips to 45 minutes
  • Change 30 minute travel times for transit commutes to 45 minutes (includes a more accurate picture based on average transit trip time).
  • Measure the % reduction in inter-regional travel

Perform a constrained transit capacity analysis:

  • So we have enough buses to accommodate projected transit trips?
  • Do we have the operational dollars to support the capacity?
  • More fundamentally, we need to find a way to make the metrics relevant. Right now, performance measures are essentially irrelevant because 97% of our regional transportation dollars are already committed via TransNet and meeting matches for TransNet projects. Only 3% of the $110 billion in the RTP is discretionary.
  • These TransNet projects are automatically included in the Regional Transportation Plan no matter how badly they score on the metrics.

Michael offered two solutions to make the metrics more relevant to the currently programmed transportation projects:
1. Open up TransNet to amend it. There is a provision in the ordinance for this, but it will be very difficult to do, and is not scheduled to happen until 2016.
2. The more viable option is to incorporate the performance metrics into project phasing (ie determining which projects come first in the 40 year plan).

  • Lower scoring projects need to be pushed into the later years,
  • SANDAG needs to have a policy so stating as part of the RTP/SCS.

3. Most fundamentally, the metrics need to be applied to general plan (GP) updates. While SANDAG does not have land use authority, SANDAG should be performing these analyses on land use plan updates proposed by member jurisdictions and making these analyses public. This will document whether the updates move the Region away from the goals or toward them, and hold the local jurisdictions accountable. About 8 local governments are in the process of or about to begin comprehensive GP Updates. These new GPs will last a generation, and we can’t afford to lose these opportunities.

Former City of San Diego Planning Commission Chair, local attorney and equity advocate Barry Schultz offered perspective on the social equity side of the Regional Transportation Plan. Barry’s beginning comments were eye opening to all in the audience. Some of his main points are summarized here:

  • If you had a business and 30% of your workforce was either non-performing or under-performing wouldn’t you be concerned about your company’s long term economic sustainability?”
  • 30% of the San Diego region’s population lives below the poverty level or is experiencing severe economic distress due to in large part to the economic burden of housing, transportation and energy costs. (60-70% of our families’ incomes are devoted to these costs) This high cost burden threatens our region’s long term economic prosperity.

Note: SANDAG and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council released the 2005 Indicators of Sustainability Index which highlighted “equity” as the region’s most pressing issue.
Barry’s thoughts continued on how this can best be addressed in the RTP and Sustainable Communities Strategy:

  • The SANDAG 2050 RTP must include a Housing/Transportation Affordability index and incorporate policies and strategies which seek to reduce the housing and transportation burden on our low and moderate income families.
  • Our transportation network must be integrated with a land use network which fosters a jobs/housing fit. A range of housing affordable to our workers based upon their income must be accessible from our employment centers.
  • By reducing the transportation and housing cost burden on our region’s families we will create additional discretionary income that can in turn be invested in our region’s long term economic prosperity.

Move San Diego would also like to thank Ann Tartre of Equinox for presenting their Dashboard of performance metrics. Equinox’s info on transit ridership, and Vehicle Miles Traveled for the region can be found here.  MoveSD thanks all its great volunteers for helping out with set up, registration and more. A special shout out goes to Phillip Yellin, Move San Diego volunteer extraordinaire, for a smash up job coordinating this event.

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