Rebuttal Rewrite – TristanB50

Highway Robbery: San Diego’s Public Transport Plan

As car prices and highway upkeep costs skyrocket in price, public transport options are gaining traction. Opposition to public transport has long been argued by legislators, mostly conservatives in congress. They hold the belief that public transport is too costly to maintain, and serves very few people. Despite this, public transport is highly favored by the American public, as seen in a study conducted by YouGov. “66 percent of voters believe their own communities would benefit from expanding public transit while about 77 percent of voters believe the US overall would benefit from expanding public transit.” As such, there aren’t many articles or studies that detract public transport, at least without offering suggestions to better implement it. 

However, there do exist some large news sources that desperately try to tear down public transport, as seen in Fox News’ opinion piece, “San Diego wants to tax people out of their cars and into public transportation.” It covers SANDAG’s (or San Diego County’s Regional Driving Agency) new taxes that will fund their $165 billion plan to expand San Diego’s public transit system over the next 30 years. The article raises 3 main concerns: First, the tax will hit low-income earners the hardest. Second, the government is abusing it’s power to alter public behavior. Finally, this issue is at risk of spreading to other cities around the country. This article ultimately falls flat when it overexaggerates the plans simplicity to make it seem more imposing. This is aligned with a trend among public transports detractors: to routinely underfund the asset, to then use its indigence against it.

The article begins by stating SANDAG’s plan will impose a mileage tax costing drivers 4¢ for every mile driven, new tolls placement on 800 miles of highways, and adding an additional 1.5% to the counties sales tax. Fox criticizes these for disproportionately affecting lower income workers. However many of the assertions they make about these taxes have been groomed to seem more intimidating than they actually are. The mileage tax, the most controversial of the costs, was removed from the plan months prior to this article due to its unpopularity. Many are still concerned about the tax, and rightly so seeing as some news outlets are still reporting on it as if it’s current. Additionally, the expansion of toll highways is brushed over, and ultimately is oversimplified. Tolls will be applied to solo drivers in the I-15 express lane and SR 125, which was already a toll road. They do not need to be paid by carpoolers, public transport passengers, tour vans, electric cars, hybrid cars, veterans (on SR 125 only) and even motorcycles. Carpooling has long been utilized for lower income workers, and as an MIT study found, is much more common for people in lower income levels. Ultimately, the only fee that has a real chance of disproportionately affecting low-income earners is the sales tax increase. However, that alone won’t result in the government, “taxing us into fixed-rail trains and buses.”

Interestingly, the article uses a populist argument against public transit, claiming the fees will impact low-income drivers the most. However what it leaves out, is how it will benefit the low-income residents who are dependant on public transit. Given San Diego’s staggeringly low public service ridership of under 3%, it is likely the people who utilize the service are those who have no other options for transportation. 

Fox News however, is not actually interested in protecting the needs of low-income earners, and we see this in their attempt to demonize the public service. It completely negates the necessity for the project, and the taxes are presented as if the tax revenue is just being buried in the ground. It doesn’t actually make any claims about the projects contents itself, positive or negative. The whole idea is thrown out based on the price, opting to rather urge the government to push for the vague goal of, “technology and innovation.” 

The aim of the public transit project is obviously to give more people other transportation options, however the article uses a static statistic to frame the project as a widespread tax for something only a handful of people use. “It’s a bait and switch — freeway dollars, gas tax dollars, and registration fees promised for road improvements instead pay for costly public mass transit projects that less than 3% of the public uses.” This statistic actually makes a decent case for better public transport in San Diego, showing how absurdly low the ridership amount it. Compare this to San Francisco’s 30% number, or even Los Angeles’ 6%, and San Diego’s < 3% highlights how much the city really needs it. 

To accurately measure the possible success of a new public transit system for San Diego, it should be compared to a similar city, Los Angeles. Both cities started as sprawled out, low density developments. In the 1990s, Los Angeles’ government began rethinking their transport strategy and invested in public transport, as well as walkable infrastructure. Cityscape, a journal published by the U.S Department of Housing Urban Development, found that both economic activity and land values increase in areas with higher access to public transport. This is in agreement SANDAG’s plan, as much of the project is dedicated to ridesharing services to get people to public transport.

Despite the worries that the government is trying to change the publics behavior, it should me remembered that in order for these changes to be implemented, the municipal government needs a voting majority to usher them in. Ultimately, if public transport is treated as a service for the poor, it will operate as a service for the poor. If it’s budget is slashed to operate as a last resort for people for people who can’t afford cars, thats who will ride it. It will be inconvenient, it will come off as dangerous, it will alienate most of the public. The bottom line is, maintaining and owning cars is becoming more expensive regardless of whose in office. Fossil fuels are a finite resource, and if we don’t curb our dependance on them, we won’t have the money down the line to pay for a new transport system.


MIT “real-time” Rideshare research. MIT “Real-Time” Rideshare Research ” Blog Archive ” Personal Income and Carpool Mode Share. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2023, from 

Quality of Life Dashboard. Transportation Choices – School of Leadership and Education Sciences – University of San Diego. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from

Ramirez, A. J. (2023, February 21). Sandag’s proposed mileage tax raising some concerns. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from 

Sandag Fastrak. SANDAG. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

Schuetz, J., Giuliano, G., & Jin Shin, E. (2018). Can A Car-Centric City Become Transit Oriented? Evidence from Los Angeles . In City Scape (Vol. 20, pp. 167–190). essay, US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

Voters want and need more transportation options. Transportation For America. (2020, March 17). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from 

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3 Responses to Rebuttal Rewrite – TristanB50

  1. davidbdale says:

    Tristan, we do Feedback and Revisions on the Rewrite posts, so I changed the name of this publication to Rebuttal Rewrite—Tristan50. That means that before you make any revisions to this post, you should copy and paste the contents into a new post called Rebuttal—Tristan50 so you’ll have an UN-improved copy to pair with when both go into your Portfolio. I’ll come back for feedback when I can. You can improve your spot in the queue by making a specific feedback request.


  2. tristanb50 says:

    Got it.
    I would like feedback on the tone of my paper, I wanted to focus on completely disproving the article, but I want to make sure I didn’t come off as biased. I also didn’t go super in depth on public transport solutions in this essay, because I talked about it so much in the previous essays. I’m wondering if you think I should’ve backed up my claims more.


    • davidbdale says:

      Your tone is ideal to this ear, Tristan, and you get off some exceptionally good lines. You’re right to expose the argument as “blaming the orphan for dressing in rags,” if I may invent one of my own.

      It’s not QUITE true, though almost, that none of the revenue-raising efforts will unequally “cost” the poor. Every cost unequally costs the poor as a percentage of their income.

      You make another iffy claim that can be fixed: that San Diego’s low ridership is actually evidence that the system needs improving or expanding. It’s probably entirely true of San Diego but wouldn’t be true of all cities. Which points up the other weakness: that you haven’t described San Diego well enough to indicate why it needs public transportation so much. Those are tough assignments, but you’ve proved yourself very capable so far. I wouldn’t ask otherwise.


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