2018 County Supervisor District 4 Questionnaire: Omar Passons
Do you have memorable experiences or memories while riding a bike?
Riding with friends and colleagues in both BikeSD’s Beachside Bike Ride immediately springs to mind! As does the time a group of friends and I rode from North Park down through Golden Hill and over to Liberty Station for Voice of San Diego’s Politifest. The “Politi-ride to Politifest” was a lot of fun. It also revealed that certain parts of our route – often neglected neighborhoods – get far less attention when it comes to traveling surfaces than others. The County has an important role here. Besides joining in specific community-building events, my bicycle is my primary mode of transportation (along with Lyft), so it’s rare that I don’t enjoy even small memorable experiences on a daily basis. It also reminds me of how much work we have left to do to make San Diego a truly world-class bicycling community. Recently I rode to a meeting in Mission Hills from North Park, and between the Georgia Street Bridge mess, as well as the woefully ill- repaired roads – and the cars who have a significant disregard for people not in cars – it was a pretty harrowing ride. On a more positive note, my campaign has made creating and sharing memorable experiences a part of our campaign, having organized bike rides in various communities to showcase our neighborhoods outside of a car. We did one last Saturday through North Park, Normal Heights and South Park, and it was a great way to experience the community.
SANDAG’s failed Measure A and its reform under AB805 have put transportation issues at the forefront of San Diego politics. What is your vision for transportation in San Diego County, and how does active transportation fit into it?
We are all well aware of how active transportation projects in both the City and County of San Diego are delayed time and time again. Even in neighborhoods that enjoy city focus and investment, we see delays. There is a fantastic plan Downtown called the Downtown Mobility Plan. It should be funded immediately. And just as importantly, we have to create plans with similar robustness and enthusiasm for every neighborhood in San Diego.
I opposed Measure A publicly, in part because it failed to sufficiently move forward alternatives to personal car transportation. I supported AB 805 once the four amendments went through and can see a window for much greater transportation justice and increased attention to increasing mode share.
In terms of our vision for transportation in San Diego County, we have several pillars, and are looking forward to releasing our campaign’s policy paper soon, which will lay our focuses out in much greater detail. I can tell you that real, meaningful Bus Rapid Transit will be in our plan – by which I mean not losing the “rapid” part by bending to demands with regard to parking on public streets along the path. We also believe implementing SANDAG’s Early Action Projects are a step in the right direction, though I do not think they go far enough. For example, we are examining ways to get targeted bike infrastructure at the international grade standard of not more than 3% incline so that more people will ride. We are also exploring full electrification of MTS buses. On a simpler note, we want to encourage a monthly version of the CicloSDias event that just closes a major boulevard to cars for one day, similar to communities like Mexico City.
As county supervisor, you may have the opportunity to serve on the boards of MTS or SANDAG. (How) would you advocate for SANDAG’s bicycle early action program, which has experienced significant delays? Would you support MTS ballot measures that include funding for bicycle infrastructure?
Thanks to AB805, the MTS Board has an opportunity seek its own funding sources for transportation infrastructure within its geographical purview. This is potentially a huge boost to both transit and active transportation options in San Diego, because the opportunity to recreate our thoroughfares for transit means we’ll have the opportunity to transform them into Complete Streets with the addition of active transportation infrastructure. I would support an MTS ballot measure that included funding for bicycle infrastructure, and would prefer it be bundled for other environmental justice initiatives like major electrification upgrades.
Unfortunately, improved safety conditions for bicyclists have been opposed by segments of the community. Politicians often seek a “consensus” solution, but these are not always possible. How would you work with all sides to ensure safety improvements occur?
I have not made any secret on the campaign trail about being a bicycle advocate and I do not plan to start now. I will be up front with people that we have economic, public safety, and environmental imperatives to take serious steps now to improve bicycle infrastructure. Naturally, working with residents and small business owners is ideal and I understand that right now many people still drive their personal vehicles to shop. But the point is to help those segments understand that there are ways to maintain – and even increase – their customer pool and access to their homes even while transforming to a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community that may have less taxpayer subsidized on street parking.
My view is that we must present credible alternatives that allow for a transition period but ultimately move us towards greater mode share and safer bicycle and pedestrian access. I am not running for office to offer milquetoast half-solutions to these issues. Voting for me means voting for the same values I have had with regard to bicycles since I first moved back to San Diego in 2004, while commuting daily from North Park to Linda Vista.