- The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) released a request for information (RFI) for concepts to boost mobility in and around San Diego International Airport (SDIA). SANDAG is looking for a way to connect the airport with the city's public transit infrastructure.
- SANDAG is seeking proposals for three potential projects: an automated people mover; development of a San Diego Grand Central Station; and transportation system and demand management technologies and pricing strategies.
- Concept submissions will be accepted until Feb. 13 and they will be discussed at a mobility workshop in early March.
A lot of airport talk swirled through San Diego last year because of its $3 billion plan to renovate and redevelop portions of the property. Leaders are taking the opportunity for change at the airport to advance an idea that has been floated for years: connecting the airport to public transit. "SDIA is the only major airport in the country without a substantial connection to the region’s public transportation network," the RFI reads.
Well-operated airports provide a lot of economic opportunity for the regions they serve. Some focus on bringing in business travelers, others cater to tourists and some work hard to accommodate both; but what they all have in common is they bring outsiders to an area to boost a local economy.
But if visitors don't have ample ways to get around they're more likely to stay put and not contribute to a local economy. Renting vehicles usually is an option but many travelers prefer not to drive for a variety of reasons like expense and difficulty navigating in an unknown town. Public transit and other mobility options make it easier and more financially feasible for travelers to reach points of interest, commercial centers and entertainment within a city.
San Diego has public transit infrastructure including a light rail system, the San Diego Trolley, but it doesn't reach the airport. Travelers are forced to use vehicle-centric means of transportation to get away from the airport property.
The RFI says that San Diego's leaders have wanted to connect the airport to public transportation for decades and even have launched numerous studies related to the idea, but "financial and institutional barriers have inhibited these plans from moving towards implementation — until now." A number of regional planning initiatives, including the airport redevelopment, now are in alignment and the time is right to collaborate on connecting the airport to public transportation.
One concept is to create a major transit hub, preliminarily dubbed "San Diego Grand Central Station." The station would connect the trolley, transit buses and passenger railroad such as Amtrak. Earlier this month, leaders revealed a plan to ask permission from the U.S. Navy to redevelop the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) center into a transit hub that would connect via rail to the airport, as reported by Voice of San Diego. The idea is in the early stages and would involve a lot of work — including upgrades to the SPAWAR facility — and likely multiple revamps to the plan.
Once leaders receive the responses, they intend to choose the best concepts and innovative services or products and incorporate them into the airport connectivity plan.