Report: Traffic congestion lessening in San Diego region

Public transit numbers lagging behind

SAN DIEGO - New numbers obtained by Team 10 show the traffic outlook is improving in the region, but at the same time, the report details some less-than-impressive numbers when it comes to public transit.

Behind the wheel a lot for work, Henry Marquez sees his share of busy traffic.

"I get irritated; I definitely get irritated," said Marquez.

New numbers show the irritation has lessened a bit. According to the research group Equinox Center, the typical San Diegan now spends 37 hours a year stuck in traffic -- an hour less than the previous year.

One factor is believed to be an increase in gas prices and shorter trips.

County residents drive an average of 13.64 highway miles a day -- down slightly from the year before. The report looked at the latest released traffic data from 2011-2012.

Less time on the roads does not mean more time riding public transit, the report shows.

While San Diegans are trying out alternatives like carpooling -- a commuting option used by 10 percent of local residents -- only 2.79 percent of county residents commute to work by transit. That number actually fell slightly from the year before.

San Diego also ranks below other major counties like, Santa Clara and Los Angeles, at nearly 6 percent.

Team 10 investigator Michael Chen asked, "Are these numbers acceptable?"

"I think these numbers need to be put in context," replied Gary Gallegos.

Gallegos is the executive director of SANDAG, the public transit planners for the region. He said the public transit story is brighter in some areas.

"If we were to look at the downtown, that number would be closer to 20 percent," said Gallegos.

Gallegos points to new projects, including plans to extend trolley service from downtown to the UTC area expected to break ground next year.

Gallegos said it comes down to funding.

Though Los Angeles, considered the freeway capital, appears to be pulling ahead in terms of public transportation, voters there have directed significantly more of the area's sales tax revenues to transit.

Meanwhile, in recent months, Metropolitan Transit System officials say ridership of the trolley is trending higher.

The projected ridership for 2014 is 40.2 million, which would be a large leap from 29.7 million in 2013.

Officials cite higher gas prices, less unemployment and a new, automated passenger counter giving more accurate counts.

10News has partnered with the Equinox Center to look at quality of life issues leading up to the release of its annual dashboard report next Monday.

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