2022 State of the Commute

About this Report

The State of the Commute report is created each year to fulfill a mandate in the TransNet Ordinance. TransNet is the half-cent sales tax for local transportation projects that was first approved by voters in 1988 and extended in 2004 for another 40 years. TransNet funds numerous transit, highway, freight, bikeway, and walkway programs, in addition to an environmental conservation program, transit fare subsidies, and grants. The TransNet Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee (ITOC) is responsible for ensuring all voter mandates are carried out. In response to the FY 2018 TransNet Triennial Performance Audit, this report also captures performance outcome data related to safety metrics, pavement, and bridge conditions, local roadways, and bike and pedestrian modes. 
On an annual basis, review ongoing SANDAG system performance evaluations, including SANDAG’s “State of the Commute” report, and provide an independent analysis of information included in that report. This evaluation process is expected to include such factors as level of service measurements by roadway segment and by time of day, throughput in major travel corridors, and travel time comparisons by mode between major trip origins and destinations. Such information will be used as a tool in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) development process.

Key Findings for 2022

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) on the regional highways during peak periods rose 3% from 2021 to 2022, to just over 4.8 billion vehicle miles, as the region continues to recover from the pandemic in 2020 [1].
Travel times on the regional highways during the morning rush hour increased 19% from 2021 to 2022, to nearly 24 minutes on average, while the evening commute increased nearly 7% to over 26 minutes on average [2].
Average weekday transit ridership in the region increased on average nearly 49% from 2021 to 2022, to over 242,000 boardings on average weekdays [3].
The number of collisions reported to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) decreased from 2021 to 2022 by 8% according to preliminary data [4].

In this Report

This report provides a high-level summary of performance trends for the San Diego regional transportation system in calendar year 2022 including:
  • Highway Travel 
  • Transit
  • Specialized Transportation 
  • Bike
New for 2022, this report includes data on non-highway road traffic, as well as bridge and pavement conditions [5]. 
  • Local Roads 
  • Infrastructure Conditions 
This edition of the State of the Commute is the first to be published as an interactive dashboard, allowing users to download data and customize visualizations featured in the report. Future reports will explore more topics as commute patterns in the region continue to change.

Regional Transportation Performance

To better understand the data in this report, it is helpful to consider the context of how the region's population and economy have changed over the past ten years.
The San Diego region population declined by 2% since its peak in 2019. However, the population has grown by 5% since 2012.
The number of filled jobs in the region increased by 4% between 2020 and 2021, according to data from the State of California Economic Development Department (EDD). Employment increased by 12% between 2012 and 2021 [6].
The regional gross domestic product increased by 8% between 2020 and 2021, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). This number has grown by 26% since 2012.
Inflation in the region rose to a 40-year high in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Results from a gas survey by AAA indicate a national shift in driving habits due to the rising costs AAA report.

Highway Travel

Longer Commute Times and Heavier Traffic

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Performance Monitoring System (PeMS) monitors traffic conditions on all highways in the state. The following maps use data from PeMS to depict travel times and traffic volumes during peak periods between 2020 and 2022.
Peak periods are defined as:
  • Morning (AM): 6:00 a.m. - 9:59 a.m.
  • Evening (PM): 3:00 p.m. - 6:59 p.m.
Travel times are estimated with departure times of:
  • Morning (AM): depart at 8 a.m.
  • Evening (PM): depart at 5 p.m.
The first map shows weekday highway travel times along 12 commute corridors. Times reflect travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. 

The second map shows weekday traffic volumes in the region’s most congested locations [7]. 
More vehicles passed through the region's most congested locations in 2022 than in the previous year. Average Daily Traffic (ADT) at the highest volume location during the AM period increased from approximately 27,000 vehicles in 2021 to approximately 29,000 vehicles in 2022. ADT during the PM period remained relatively consistent at about 22,000 vehicles.

Safer Roads

SANDAG committed to the national Vision Zero campaign as part of the 2021 Regional Plan [8]. The goal of this campaign, in partnership with Caltrans, regional tribal governments, and other regional partners, is to eliminate deaths and severe injuries on our streets. 
In preliminary 2022 data, the San Diego region experienced 21,962 collisions, 8% fewer than in 2021. For fatal and severe injury collisions, the primary factors are unsafe speed, improper turning, and impairment.
Collision figures come from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Reporting System (SWITRS), which reports data from the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Analyzing crash data helps SANDAG and local jurisdictions evaluate the appropriate safety measures to support Vision Zero.

Transit

Although ridership hasn’t caught up to pre-pandemic levels, boardings have increased significantly from their historic lows in 2020 [9]. Over 242,000 riders boarded transit on average weekdays in 2022, a 49% increase from 163,000 boardings in 2021.

Changes in Passenger and Revenue Miles

Transit passengers traveled nearly 1,400,000 miles in 2022, a 68% increase from 836,000 miles in 2021. Average weekday service levels (in revenue miles) [10] decreased in 2022, although average weekday transit productivity increased from 1.57 to 2.34 passengers per revenue mile in 2022.

Top Routes Got Busier

Average weekday ridership increased on the ten busiest bus routes in the region and all five major rail routes in 2022.

Rail Ridership Up

Average weekday ridership increased on all five major rail routes in 2022.
  • 59% increase on UC San Diego Blue Line
  • 21% increase on Green Line
  • 35% increase on Orange Line
  • 11% increase on SPRINTER
  • 111% increase on COASTER
One factor contributing to these increases is the Mid-Coast extension to the Blue Line Trolley. This $2.17 billion project opened to the public in November 2021, extending the light rail transit service from downtown San Diego to University Town Center. By the year 2030, the population in the Mid-Coast Corridor is forecasted to increase by 19 percent, and employment is expected to increase 12 percent. The Mid-Coast Trolley Extension expands transportation capacity in the corridor to accommodate existing and future travel demand.

Increase in Rapid Ridership

In 2022, Rapid bus routes throughout the region experienced increases in overall ridership, passengers per hour, and percentage of seats filled (load factor).

Specialized Transportation

TransNet funds specialized transportation services for adults age 60 and over through the Senior Mini-Grant Program. In 2022, SANDAG provided approximately $1.45 million in grant funding to support nearly 252,000 one-way passenger trips through this program. These trips have helped passengers with limited mobility access necessities like food and medication.

Increases in trip volumes and grant applications indicate high demand for specialized transportation funding. Local and national forecasts suggest this demand will continue to rise as the regional population ages.

Bike

More Bikeways Built

TransNet funded key segments of the San Diego Regional Bike Network to make biking safer and more inviting environments for everyone. The SANDAG Board of Directors approved the Regional Bike Plan in 2010 to help improve accessibility of active transportation throughout the region.
Three new SANDAG bikeways opened to the public in 2022: Georgia-Meade, Landis, and Fourth & Fifth Avenue. SANDAG, Caltrans and local agency partners have built more than 400 miles of bikeway since 2010.
There are four main bikeway types or “classes” in the San Diego region, as described in the Caltrans Highway Design Manual:
  • Class I – Bike Paths: bikeways that are physically separated from vehicle traffic to accommodate bike, pedestrian, and other non-motorized traffic.
  • Class II – Bike Lanes: roadway lanes defined by pavement markings which provide a restricted right-of-way for bicycle travel.
  • Class III – Bike Routes: routes located on shared roadways that accommodate vehicles and bicycles in the same travel lane.
  • Class IV – Cycle Tracks: a bikeway for the exclusive use of bicycles which requires a vertical separation between the separated bikeway and vehicle lanes.

Biking Increased

In 2022, a fifth class of bikeway, Bike Boulevards, were installed: local roads or residential streets that have been enhanced with traffic calming and other treatments to facilitate safe and convenient bicycle travel.
Bike activity across eight corridors increased by 4% between 2021 and 2022. However, activity is still down 10% from the historic “bike boom” of 2020 [11]. The most significant increases are on newly protected bikeways which were upgraded to Class IV Cycle Tracks - 30th Street and Fourth & Fifth Avenues.

Local Roads

As commuters change their travel behaviors, in part due to flexible work location arrangements, local roads may serve as alternative routes to avoid highway traffic.
The map below features data from Replica (ReplicaHQ) [12] highlighting traffic condition on local roads with the highest vehicle volumes, measured in annual average daily traffic (AADT). The colors indicate average peak period speeds, measured in miles per hour (MPH).

Infrastructure Conditions

The Caltrans California Transportation Asset Management Plan reports the conditions of locally owned National Highway System (NHS) highways in the San Diego region. This does not include the region's entire highway system or local roads. Pavement and bridge conditions are rated as Good, Fair, or Poor. 
In 2021, over 82% of bridges and over 85% of pavements were rated Good or Fair. 

Endnotes

[1] Peak periods are defined as: Morning (AM): 6:00 a.m. - 9:59 a.m. Evening (PM): 3:00 p.m. - 6:59 p.m.
[2] Travel times are estimated with departure times of: Morning (AM): depart at 8 a.m. Evening (PM): depart at 5 p.m.
[3] Average weekday transit ridership calculated over spring/summer service periods for MTS and NCTD.
[4] SWITRS data from 2021 and 2022 is preliminary and may change once finalized by CHP. Data coverage includes highways and local roads.
[5] Data for bridges and pavement conditions covers the portions of the region's highway system that are owned by local jurisdictions (cities and the County of San Diego).
[6] Employment and gross domestic product figures were not available for 2022 at the time of this report.
[7] PeMS defines a congestion location as “a persistent and significant drop in speed between two locations on a freeway.”
[8] The SANDAG Board of Directors adopted the Vision Zero Resolution on July 22, 2022.
[9] Rail and bus transit in the San Diego region are operated by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD).
[10] The National Transit Database defines revenue miles as miles traveled during which the vehicle is in service and passengers either pay fares directly or through subsidies or other arrangements.
[11] Bike count data comes from the SANDAG-owned and maintained Eco-Counters, a subset of the San Diego Regional Bike and Pedestrian Counter Network.
[12] Replica is an urban planning tool that provides data on city movement patterns.