SANDAG frees up $800M for more green transportation projects… to be built 30 years from now

By choosing a less ambitious expansion of Interstate-5, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) just got $800 million dollars to spend on other projects. In recent years, the agency has ranked transportation projects by need. So when money falls into their lap, they know just what to do with it.

The funds will be used to move up two project by 10 years, although that just means they’ll be started in 30 years instead of 40.  The first of these projects involves adding connector ramps between State Route 78 and the express lanes that are included in the previously mentioned expansion of I-5. The other changes the contentious Mid-City Rapid Bus into a Trolley line connecting City Heights and Downtown.

By moving those two projects up, three more projects can be added.

  • $300 million will be added to the $1.31 billion already allocated for rail grade separation. The money could fund three additional separations of the COASTER at road intersections or seven grade separations of the Orange and Blue Trolley lines.
  • $200 million would be added to the $500 million Safe Routes to Transit program which seeks bus, bike and pedestrian solutions for that “last mile” between major transit stations and final destinations of riders.
  • $300 million would be added to the $299 million Smart growth Incentive Program which funds the integration of residential and commercial growth with public transit.

SignOn has the full story.

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Del Mar opening day breaks attendance records, and my patience

Yesterday, in case you missed it, was opening day at the Del Mar Race Track. I enjoy going to the races. It’s generally fun. According to the Daily Racing form, yesterday had an “all-time record crowd of 46,588.” It also resulted in 15 arrests for drunk driving and the least enjoyable day I have ever had at the races.

The scenic view on the Coaster

The scenic view on the Coaster

Eric and I got out of driving by taking the Coaster from Old Town to Solana Beach where shuttles would take us over to the track. This sounded fantastic in theory. Getting on the train was easy and the ride gave us a beautiful view of the San Diego coastline. The frustrations began once we got to Solana Beach.

I’ve looked at several news articles about opening day. They all fail to mention the way that those record breaking crowds were handled. It was one of the worst examples of crowd management I have ever seen. Getting off the train and onto a shuttle took 30-45 minutes. Once we were on the shuttle (which was actually a double-decker bus), we had to sit in the same traffic getting to the track that we were all avoiding by taking the shuttle in the first place. The shuttle we were on actually went around the back, past all the horses. A little off-roading in a double decker bus never hurt anyone.

Once we got to the actual entrance, people started getting angry. Eric and I already had tickets. There was no gate for people who already had tickets. We had to stand in the same “line” as everyone else. Rumor had it that there had been a gate for people who already had tickets but it had been closed when the races started. I was also told that there had been another entrance but it was closed at the same time, even though there were long lines trying to get through there.

As several people in that giant mass of humanity that was supposed to pass for a line said, “This is a some what formal event. Why can’t they put up lines?” It was a fantastic question that I asked myself over and over again. They put up barriers that make nice organized lines for the fair. Why couldn’t they do that for the races?

The "line" to get in

The "line" to get in was more of an amorphous blob.

Because there were no set lines, people tried to push their way to the turnstile from the sides. Those who had tried to form a straight line behind the turnstile considered this cutting. Fights ensued. I agree with the sentiment on both parts (believe me, I was ready to punch someone), all it did was make it the line move even slower. Eventually, Eric set a timer for ten minutes. If we weren’t inside by the time those ten minutes were up, we were leaving. We made it in with only one minute to spare.

We had left our North Park apartment at 12:15 and we got into the track at 3:00, two hours and forty-five minutes later. The last Coaster heading south from Solana Beach leaves at 6:03 on Monday-Thursday. We figured to make it we would have to leave the track by 5:00. That would give us two hours at the track for over four and a half hours in transit. We decided to skip the train and take a cab home.

We had a great time at the races. I actually won about $20. Eric and I enjoyed ourselves in those few hours with friends and we decided we would go back to the races next Wednesday. And then it was time for us to leave.

There was a taxi stand just West of the main gate. We walked over and stood there for a moment before realizing there were no taxis. There were plenty of limos and party buses. There just weren’t any taxis at the taxi stand. With all the light heartedness that winning brings slowly slipping away, Eric and I walked over to the shuttle pick up spot and stood in line for another fifteen to twenty minutes (no thanks to all the people who cut) before getting on the Spanx Booty Bus and riding back to Solona Beach. We caught a cab and made it back down to Old Town.

It was one of those experiences that makes you wonder who was being paid to handle the huge number of people. Whoever it was should not be given that responsibility again. My day was pretty much ruined before I even got in the gate. By the time we got home, Eric was significantly less enthusiastic to go back.

Opening day is supposed to be fun. Yesterday was many things. Fun was not one of them.

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Comic-Con. Meh.

I’m not going to Comic-Con this weekend, and I do not regret this decision.

I used to love it.  Nerds from all over America flocked to the San Diego Convention Center for an extra-long weekend of panels about new movies, booths selling plastic junk, and people in ill-fitting costumes.  Seeing the full rabble of geeks at the Con reminded me that I was not alone in my geekdom, and that there were quite a few others who were much more geeky. But even then, I could only tolerate going for a single day.  Too many people, and too much opportunity to blow my minimal levels of cash on useless pop culture ephemera. Friends who went for multiple days usually wound up with several hundred dollars worth of Spiderman action figures and video game soundtracks.

I’ll never forgot those times at the Con where I came face-to-face with legends.

The highlight of my first Comic Con, all the way back in 1999, was an autograph session at the WB Studio Store (remember those?) near the Con.  I waited in line for at least an hour to see “Mark Hamill, voice of the Joker.”  Star Wars Episode I had just come out, and the last thing WB wanted to do was associate with rival studio Fox’s film (in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t associated with it either).  So Luke Skywalker couldn’t sign any Luke Skywalker stuff.  But I still met the dude.  Man, was he short.

By contrast, the highlight of my final Comic Con in 2006 was meeting Maddox, of The Best Page In The Universe fame.  I was hoping to get a hold of new book “The Alphabet of Manliness,” but it was late enough in the day that all the copies of the book had run out. Nevertheless, he had managed to provide years of hilarity with just a Sharpie marker and an impromptu defacement of the badass samurai on the cover of that year’s program.

Maddox at Comic Con

"I, uh, drew some titties on the samurai." - Maddox

In the 7 years between Hamill and Maddox, I did everything from listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger pitch Terminator 3, to buying t-shirts that expressed just how much I liked Nintendo, to watching two dudes with dragon shirts face off in an epic game of Warhammer.

It was always a great time.  But somehow, I just can’t do it anymore.

Maybe I’ve (gasp!) grown up.  Maybe I’m too cheap to blow my money on this stuff anymore.  Maybe I’ve finally gotten to the point where I see Comic Con for what it is – a celebration of the frivolous crap in the world that keeps so many of us distracted from the slew of problems beginning to chase us down faster than computer science majors chasing down the only kinda-cute girl in their C# class.

This weekend will be an experiment in seeing how close I can get to this Golden Horde of nerd culture without getting sucked back in.  I’ll probably stay in my neighborhood and avoid touching downtown for fear of catching the geek fever, but I’m almost expecting to bump into a Con geek who somehow wandered off of the beaten path and into Bar Pink. He’ll wave his lightsaber at me, demand I pay the price for not showing proper respect to a Super Saiyan Level 3, and then continue to drink his 64-oz Mountain Dew the second I threaten him with physical force.

I just hope he doesn’t call in his friends for reinforcements.

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Military represented for the first time in San Diego Gay Pride Parade

This past weekend, for the first time ever, active duty military personnel marched in a gay pride parade without fear of losing their jobs. According to Reuters about 250 people, both active duty and veteran, marched in the parade. I’m sad I wasn’t able to see it, but I am very happy for everyone who was able to march.

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Where will I get books now that Borders is going away?

Borders recently announced that it was unable to find a buyer and will liquidate their remaining assets.  Along with archnemesis Barnes and Noble, Borders will always bring back good memories of wandering around the magazine department, spending too much on seasons of The Simpsons on DVD, and wasting time looking at books before my movie started (I’d say I was a super intellectual kid, but clearly I’d be lying).

I guess it’s a sign of the times that a place that was so quintessentially ’90s that it had a Starbucks inside has fallen victim to the Great Seriously-This-Is-A-Depression-Not-A-Recession of 2011.  I’d go to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, but they seem to have mysteriously vanished as well.  Strip malls all over San Diego and beyond are quickly becoming dying wastelands, devoid of anything interesting to gawk at.  What is a child of the ’90s to do when he can’t even go waste time at an overpriced bookstore?

In order to survive, you have to change with the times.

Thankfully, I’ve found an interesting business down the street that just loans you stuff for free.  All you have to do is get a membership, borrow stuff for a pre-determined amount of time, and then turn it in promptly, and they don’t even make you pay a dime.  Books, DVDs, CDs, anything.  They even let you use the internet.  For free.  It’s like Blockbuster and Borders combined!

When I asked the stern-looking goober who ran the business what he called it, he said it was a “library.”  Apparently they’ve existed for thousands of years, and are all over both San Diego and America.  Technically, he said, they’re not “free”. They’re paid for with taxes.

Taxes?  Naturally, this confused me.  I’ve heard from TV, radio, economics professors, government officials, and just about everybody in San Diego that taxes are extremely evil. Like Osama Bin Laden evil.  They cripple businesses, ruin families, and keep nice rich folk from owning that second yacht that they deserve for all of their hard work.  How could such an evil thing like a tax be used to get free books and movies for everybody?

Sounds like the head honchos in San Diego have gotten wise to this loophole, and have been trying to get rid of the library free ride.  We almost just got rid of several, but a loose group of insurgents led by a shadowy group called “Friends of the San Diego Public Library” managed to put a stop to it.  Such a shame.  The last thing we need are people mooching off of the labor of others to obtain free information and education.

One reader at Voice of San Diego even made the astute observation such behavior is hostile to liberty, and went so far as to call libraries “Charger stadiums for an effete crowd of better-dressed, well-coiffed people with fewer tattoos than Charger fans,” and suggest that they are “just another special interest”.  Books, after all, are completely obsolete now that everything ever written is on the Internet.  Tell these stupid snobs and poor people to just start downloading all of this information onto their Kindles!

Thank God someone is looking out for me and my best interest.  I’d hate to be seduced by socialist education and tax-subsidized books and DVDs.

Seriously though, I just rediscovered my love of libraries, and have been reading more than I have in years without spending a dime.  Free books are awesome, and any yahoo who uses a libertarian framework to justify killing one of the world’s best public works programs is a simpleton.  Support your local library.

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Why would anyone go low car in San Diego?

I recently totaled my SUV. Technically, it wasn’t even mine. It was my parents. Due to strange/lucky timing on my part, my dad had just bought a new Nissan Leaf and so I now have my dad’s old car. I went from driving a gas guzzling SUV to a much more fuel efficient sedan. So then, why would I want to give it up?

I want to go on a low car diet. On a diet, you don’t give up food completely, you just eat less. I don’t want to give up my car completely. I just want to use it less. I’m not going car free. San Diego is a great city. But even after growing up here, I really don’t trust public transportation enough to try a car free existence (I realized a couple of days ago that the only time I can remember ever taking a public bus was in middle school).

What really put me over the edge was a piece on Marketplace about a woman who lives in LA but doesn’t have a car. If I think living in San Diego without a car would be hard, can you imagine doing it in LA? Suddenly, my fear of wasting time on the bus (my usual commute to work takes 15 minutes by car but an hour and 15 minutes by bus) seemed silly. If that woman does it, so can I! She reads on the bus! I can do that!

I can’t deny however that the timing does have something to do with the announcement of 300 fully electric vehicles with 1,500 charging stations around the county. Jumping into low car land is a lot less scary when you know there will soon be glorified golf carts to catch you.

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Green Flash Mira Mesa Brewery Expansion Opening to Public This Weekend

Green Flash is easily one of San Diego’s best breweries, and their growth has been as explosive as the industry as a whole (does anybody else love 30th St Pale Ale?).  They’ve been riding the recent brewing bubble just as well as anybody else, and have a massive, shiny new facility in Mira Mesa to show for it.

She ain't pretty, but she's got it where it counts, kid.Well guess what, hop heads and hop hoes? It’s open to the public as of having it’s Grand Opening ceremonies this Saturday! Here’s the facebook event.  Mayor Sanders will allegedly be there to tap the ceremonial first keg.

You have to wonder how sustainable all of this recent beer expansion is – does the San Diegan landscape really have room for this many booming breweries?  Could this just be a (no pun intended) beer bubble about to pop?

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