New stuff: Stone Brewing is opening another growler-fill-and-retail spot, in the former Rainwaters on Kettner (SD magazine). With new Italian/Japanese restaurant Sora around the corner (old Crescent Heights spot on Broadway) and Tender Greens (Eater) coming to first and Broadway maybe this part of downtown will be worth the trek from Little Italy. Don’t forget that the Old Police Headquarters opens in October next year too, according to their website.
Grocery shuffle: The fate of Fresh and Easy in North Park (and elsewhere) is up in the air after parent company Tesco finally pulls the plug. As one commenter points out, in the land of “wannabe upscale”, you don’t impress the other wannabes by proclaiming you shop at Fresh and Easy. Meanwhile, Whole Foods is adding bar/restaurants to their stores, including the Hillcrest location (Eater). Trader Joe’s new store in the former Borders in Mission Valley opens Jan 25th. And Northgate Gonzalez market has opened at the new Mercado in Barrio Logan (KPBS).
Alzheimer’s department: Amy Granite’s glowing review of Plumeria in City Beat a while back made me realize I had forgotten to mention this among our new favorite places a couple posts ago. Penalty was two hours spent struggling through the Google “My Places” train wreck to update the sd urban favorite places map that lives there.
Transit: San Diego’s transportation future might be changing with the San Diego Superior Court rejection of the environmental impact report for SANDAG’s auto-focused regional transportation plan. While it took balls for SANDAG to present a plan in defiance of state law limiting future greenhouse gas emissions, hopefully the court’s smackdown, and the new presence of environmentally-minded Mayor Bob Filner on SANDAG’s board (with a heavily-weighted vote) will make a difference. Filner is certainly an improvement over former mayor Jerry Sanders on the board – Sanders’ acceptance of the CEO position with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce (whose parent organization is a fiercely anti-environmental organization) nearly made me spit out my Jerry’s Farewell brew. The Chamber’s strong rightward tilt in recent decades is decidedly out of step with where San Diego and the nation appear to be headed, but pretty consistent with “Sanders endorses DeMaio“.
(Warning – long-winded transit/political discussion up ahead…)
I’m hoping that SANDAG will go back to the drawing board and push public transit projects to the front of the line, following the approach that Los Angeles is taking with their 30/10 initiative. The SANDAG approach of ever-widening freeways only encourages additional sprawl – and at some point there’s no more room to widen. Frankly, San Diego already has an amazing freeway system that moves hundreds of thousands of vehicles each rush hour at some of its highest capacity stretches. Why not augment it with public transit that provides commuters with additional options, especially when weather, accidents and volume can all reduce flow? Every driver that you get out of a car and onto a bus (or even better, separated light rail) makes the freeways run better for those who are unable or unwilling to use those public transit.
Having spent way too much free time thinking about alternative transportation, I keep coming back to one concept: rewarding its riders. Here’s how:
1) (In)Convenience: For the most part, it’s going to take you longer to get to work by public transit than by driving. Why not reward bus riders by giving buses priority on freeways? Make the fast lane car-pool and bus-only during rush hour like in the Bay Area. And install green light technology in MTS buses, similar to what’s used in ambulances.
The Old Town Transit Center parking lot is full at 7:30 AM. Let’s invest in additional parking at transit locations where it’s needed (currently there are “no plans” to increase parking at the transit center in SANDAG’s $214 billion dollar plan, according to MTS). And when that trolley line gets built to UCSD, mix in limited-stop express runs from transit centers.
2) Financial incentives: People only drive less when gas prices go up, right? Money is a clear motivator, and Minneapolis/St Paul’s Ride to Rewards program lets riders earn rewards points per boarding, and at participating retailers. Points can be redeemed for transit discounts or Visa gift cards, with more options coming.
In San Diego, we reward shoppers for signing up with the Reader. Can’t we reward them for reducing freeway traffic, air pollution and CO2 emissions too?
It doesn’t have to be limited to just public transit either – you can earn points by cycling in London and Minneapolis, for example. Conceivably, you could aggregate all of the methods that reduce your transit carbon footprint – from car2go, to hybrid vehicle purchases, to even walking to neighborhood businesses instead of driving. Then put the aggregator algorithm into a miles/points-tracking smartphone app that appeals to younger riders.
While some of that’s probably a bit far-fetched (what’s the incentive for retailers?), there’s also a health component involved. Obesity costs $190 billion dollars in the US annually, and there’s a strong relationship between obesity and number of miles driven. Obesity rates are significantly higher in rural areas. Since we all pay for the higher health care costs resulting from this epidemic, shouldn’t we be investing in ways to reduce this cost? If so, why is SANDAG’s short-term priority to continue widening freeways? Papa Doug’s paper had a much better quote in its series on obesity:
“Taxpayers are responsible for the health care costs of self-interested individual behavior, so taxpayers have a vested interest in keeping people healthy.”
Personally, I think this can be explained by SANDAG’s largely suburban and rural makeup. If you look at SANDAG’s board of directors, you’ve got the County Board of Supervisors (nearly unanimously Republican) and a lot of sprawl-city mayors, and they’re mostly baby-boomer age. These people, and many of their constituents, simply aren’t interested in mass transit. Even in 2012 they want to continue expanding freeways endlessly, and drill baby drill – because that’s what’s in their interest. Never mind that this method doesn’t work after a certain point, or that it may be partly to blame for a massive health epidemic. (And since we’re on the topic of self-interest again: the “I’m going to eat whatever I want because it’s my right” folks strangely have no problem voting to take away marriage rights from others.)
Unfortunately the debate over public transportation is a perfect example of the liberal urban vs. conservative rural political divide in the country now. And as long as SANDAG is weighted toward the latter, that’s what San Diego’s transportation options will reflect.