freeway smallThe San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) recently voted to expand our freeways by adding carpool lanes and bus-only lanes. Research shows that even coupling freeway expansion with carpooling and transit is not an effective way to relieve traffic congestion. As transportation justice advocates we know the solution to our meeting our transportation needs in a clean and healthy way means increased public transit, bicycling and walking paths before we resort to freeway expansion.

Freeway expansion doesn’t relieve traffic congestion.

Expanded freeways lead to more driving, more pollution and more greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Freeway expansion does not lead to less traffic. Repeat: Freeway expansion does not lead to less traffic. A study at UC Berkley covering thirty California counties between 1973 and 1990 found that for every ten percent increase in roadway capacity, traffic increased nine percent with a four years’ time. If we build the roads, cars will fill them.

Freeway expansion doesn’t support our economy.

Did you know expanding only one to two miles of state route 94 costs a whopping $500-600 million? Alternatively, this money could go to significant public transit upgrades that would stimulate our economy much more than freeway expansion. Research affirms that for every $10 million invested in public transit...freeway small2

  • Over 570 jobs are created in transit operation
  • Business sees a $30 million increase in sales
  • $15 million is saved by both highway and transit users

Freeway expansion worsens air quality and the effects of climate change.

Adding lanes to a freeway (even carpool lanes) still increases the amount of pollution each freeway emits. More lanes mean more cases of asthma, heart disease and cancer for communities near freeways who are already overburdened with poor air quality.

Why building new roads doesn't ease congestion (An excerpt from Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream). By. Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. North Point Press, 2000, pp. 88-94. 

Litman, Todd. Generated Traffic and Induced Travel Implications for Transport Planning. 24 April 2014. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. 

Snyder, Tanya . Study: Building Roads to Cure Congestion Is an Exercise in Futility. May 31, 2011. 

Downs, Anthony. Why Traffic Congestion Is Here to Stay... and Will Get Worse. Access. NUMBER 25, FALL 2004

Public Transportation and the Nation’s Economy: A Quantitative Analysis of Public Transportation’s Economic Impact; Prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. with Economic Development Research Group


Do you believe all neighborhoods should have equal access to alternative transportation and no communities should be overburdened with the pollution from cars on neighborhood streets or freeways?20140912 104004 small

Welcome to the team of transportation justice advocates. We need your help. 

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) plays a critical role in transportation justice because it determines what our streets look like. It decides where we get trolley stops, how much public transit costs and where bicycling and walking paths go, to name a few.

As transportation justice advocates, we demand to see transit and active transportation (biking/walking infrastructure) prioritized before we begin building more roads and expanding our freeways. We need what we're calling a transit first plan. Read below to learn more about how you can make your voice heard for your community.

recortada smallWhat does the transportation justice community want?

We want SANDAG to:

  • Adopt a plan for San Diego that prioritizes transit projects that specifically benefit overburdened communities
  • Postpone freeway projects to the end of the plan because they will most negatively impact overburdened communities
  • Put the transit first plan through the same review process as the other plans to ensure it's considered an equal option.

The good news:

SANDAG is developing a plan in response to the commnunity's demand for transit and active transportation (biking/walking infrastructure) projects in the early stages of the plan. This is a good thing and what the community has asked for. However, this plan hasn't completely reflected what the community needs.

The not-so-good news:

This plan falls short by scheduling freeway projects to be built at the same time as transit and active transportation options. 

This is a big problem.

Building freeways before transit and active transportation systems are fully functional is problematic for a variety of reasons.

It will deter people from using transit, negatively impact air quality and further contribute to climate change in our communities which already suffer from high air pollution and asthma rates. We want to see transit projects implemented before building freeways. This way, we can see the full the effect of our new transit systems and then evaluate if we need to expand freeways at all. 

Additionally, every plan has to undergo a thorough review process. If the transit first plan doesn't go through this, it cannot be an option for SANDAG to implement when the time comes. As of right now, only the freeway-heavy plans are being reviewed; meaning only the freeway-heavy are viable options.

We can't let the transit first plan become just another planning document that sits on the shelf. We demand it be reviewed and proposed as a real option for SANDAG to consider.

Want to get involved? 

We hope you do. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to join the transportation justice movement: (619) 474 0220 x 130.



SANDAG 5 1What is going on with transportation justice?

SANDAG is in the process of composing the Regional Transportation Plan which determines how, when and which transportation projects will get funding for the next 35 years. Currently, they're considering scenarios that prioritize freeway expansion while our community residents have prioritized bicycling, walking and public transit instead.

On Friday, September 12, nearly 50 community residents supported a transportation justice network scenario that puts people first by investing in transit, bicycling, and walking projects prior to freeway expansion. Despite great opposition, the SANDAG Board voted to move forward with a scenario focusing heavily on freeway expansion.

SANDAG 6As a result of the residents who protested the freeway-focused scenarios, SANDAG is considering developing a network scenario that puts bicycling, walking and public transit first, but it wouldn't be on the table for consideration to be implemented for at least another four years. For decades, Los Angeles invested in freeway expansion as a means of traffic congestion relief, yet this type of planning and investment only yielded more traffic, gridlock and air pollution. Let's not have the San Diego region learn the same hard lesson that our northern neighbor did. Let's be proactive and implement a plan that puts transit, bicycling and walking first.

A community resident from City Heights said it best, "Freeways can wait, but the community can't." Freeway expansion is hazardous to our region's health, safety, quality of life, economy and future. We need a Regional Transportation Plan that puts people first, not cars.

What can we do about it?
SANDAG 8Become engaged in developing a transportation justice network scenario, which puts transit, bicycling and walking investments first. We need you to join us in demanding San Diego prioritize public transit, bicycling and walking before freeway expansion. You can speak up today by sending the below email to advocate for transportation justice. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Suggested Text:

As a resident of San Diego, I support a network scenario that includes development of public transit, bicycling and walking projects first over the next ten-year period, halting any freeway expansion until the transit system is fully built and operational. I hope to see these initiatives focused first on the San Diego urban core and overburdened communities most effected by the lack of affordable and efficient transit options.


(Your name)


  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – General comment to be submitted to entire board
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – Project manager for the RTP
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – Transportation Committee Chair
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – Regional Planning Committee Chair
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – SANDAG Board President

For more information, contact Monique Lopez This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone: 619-474-0220 x 130.

Thank you for supporting transportation justice!


Nearly two-thirds of San Diegans surveyed prefer to invest in public transit, bicycling and walking paths before freeway expansion, yet SANDAG has prioritized freeway expansion. At a press conference last week, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), 15 supporting organizations and residents asked SANDAG to consider a third transportation scenario that deprioritizes freeway expansion.

Transportation justice SANDAG 5

Speakers, including Monique Lopez of EHC, Bruce Reznik of San Diego Housing Federation and Alicia Sebastian of the MAAC Project, specified what a third scenario includes and explained why public transit, bicycling and walking paths are the first step toward transportation that works for all community members.

Transportation justice SANDAG 2

Transportation justice SANDAG 3

Transportation justice SANDAG 4The third scenario represents an opportunity to improve air quality and quality of life for residents of underserved neighborhoods who can't afford public transit, struggle with hours of daily commuting and can't safely walk or bike on existing streets.

It's time for the City of San Diego to secure a healthy future in the face of environmental changes. Tell the Mayor and City Council to prepare our communities for the effects of climate changeand read more information below.

Here's the not so good news:

Low-income communities of color have long been on the front lines of pollution from dirty energy, transportation and more, and now we're being hit first and worst by climate change. With a lack of financial resources and access to affordable healthcare, our community is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This includes:Solar installs

Here's the good news:

We can take action now to reduce pollution and the effects of climate change in San Diego with simple changes in our daily lives. The choices we make today—like biking and walking more, using less water and energy and choosing environmentally sustainable products— are little things that have a large impact on our community's health.

We also need strong and immediate government leadership. EHC has worked for years with the City of San Diego on a Climate Action Plan that reduces pollution and protects us from the harmful effects of climate change. In February 2014, the City released a draft plan with strong potential to protect a healthy future for San Diego.

Transit photoNow we need your help to finalize the plan. Sign our letter and ask the city to prepare us for the environmental effects of climate change by approving an enforceable Climate Action Plan that: 

  • Gives San Diegans a clean energy choice
  • Puts solar in all communities
  • Makes our homes green, healthy and efficient
  • Ensures safe, clean, convenient and affordable public transit
  • Provides walkable and bikeable neighborhoods for all by investing in communities most overburdened by air pollution, transportation inequity and climate impacts
  • Creates good-paying, local jobs for residents

What will your community look like in 50 years? 100 years? Join other San Diegans in supporting a sustainable city- sign our letter today.